Why Was Hezekiah Given Fifteen More Years to Live?
Reading through the book of Second Kings recently, I noticed something I'd never seen before about King Hezekiah. In chapter 20 a story is told of his sickness, and of how the prophet Isaiah came to him and told him to set his "house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover."
In response to this, Hezekiah humbles himself. God in turn responds by giving him fifteen more years to live. In those fifteen years, two momentous events occurred. The inset picture is intended to give a sense of just how destructive these events were.
The first is recorded in chapter 20. Hezekiah receives visitors from Babylon who see all his treasures. Isaiah comes to him afterwards and asks him who came to him, and what they saw. When Hezekiah tells him, Isaiah responds by saying that "all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord."
Presumably the Babylonians liked what they saw, reported back to headquarters, and a plan was devised which would eventually result in invasion.
The second event occurs in chapter 21. Hezekiah's son Manasseh is born. Manasseh becomes king when he is twelve years old. Note that Manasseh, due to his young age, had to have been born in that fifteen-year interval of additional years Hezekiah was given in chapter 20.
I've already alluded to the momentousness of Event #1: The visit of the Babylonians eventually resulted in invasion and captivity for the Israelites.
Event #2 turned out to be just as momentous. King Manasseh was so evil, even to the point of sacrificing his own son, that the prophets are recorded to have said that, "Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations . . . I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. . . I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down."
In other words, what Manasseh did was so bad that his works alone were enough for God to destroy Jerusalem in consequence. Who did the destroying? The Babylonians, of course. So Events #1 and #2 above are connected.
You might wonder, if God with perfect knowledge knew that giving Hezekiah those fifteen additional years would result in all this carnage, why didn't he just kill Hezekiah when he had the chance? Why did he let him live?
Well, that, in a modified form, is the one of the oldest questions in the world. It's basically the question, why does God allow evil in the world?
So Why Did God Allow These Terrible Events?
I'm not going to provide a full-blown answer to this question, but I would like to point out three interesting things:
Interesting Thing #1
First of all, Manasseh was the grandfather of the greatest king of them all except for David himself: Josiah. Josiah's reign was prophesied many years before Hezekiah was even born. So if Manasseh hadn't ever lived, Josiah wouldn't have lived either.
Interesting Thing #2
Second of all, Josiah's greatness is partly seen against the backdrop of Manasseh's evil. We can see this in the life of Jesus as well. His goodness is more visible when seen against the backdrop of the evil that was in the world at the time.
Interesting Thing #3
Third, Paul in I Corinthians 10:6 wrote, "Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did."
So from the first interesting thing above, we can see that God puts up with a lot of evil so that good can somehow come out of it. From the second interesting thing above, we can see that evil provides a backdrop against which good can shine. And from the third interesting thing we can see that whatever evil people have done is meant to be an example so that we don't fall into the same sin.
There's More To This Question
As I said above, I'm not giving a full answer to the question of why God allows evil in the world. But hopefully the three interesting things can give you some ideas for what role evil is meant to play in the life of the believer.
The existence of good in the world is the punchline of a story where some bad things happened along the way. We, as part of that punchline as followers of Christ can shine against the backdrop of the evil that exists in the world. And in the meantime, we have examples of things to avoid.
(c) Copyright B.L. Jenkins