Finally, a good and upright king comes to the throne in Judah, Hezikiah. Unlike other kings of the southern kingdom, Hezikiah was completely devoted to the Lord and destroyed the high places none of the previous kings seemed inclined to do. In this context it says, “he “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.” I think the contrast is instructive. Why would previous kings of Judah follow the Lord, but not remove the high places? One example from chapter 15 is Azariah:
3 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. 4 The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.
What was the purpose of these “high places”? Remember that when Solomon started marrying all his foreign wives, for political reasons, he allowed high places to be set up in Israel so his wives and their people could appease their gods. He himself, as he grew old (1 kings 11), worshiped these other gods, these worthless idols. I guess we could see these other gods as insurance; in case the Lord didn’t come through, they thought they had a backup. The story in these two chapters shows us that Hezikiah had it right, that he could trust in God alone for deliverance.
The king of Assyria demands obeisance from the king or he will destroy Judah. What does Hezikiah do? He tears his clothes and put on sackcloth and goes into the temple of the Lord. He seeks God because he trusts in him. God can deliver even tiny Judah from the mighty empire of Assyria. Hezikiah completely gets it. We read in chapter 19:
15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim,you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.
17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands.19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”
The Lord is the sovereign creator of the universe, and these other so called gods are not gods at all; they are “fashioned by human hands.” I love this phrase because all idols are merely human constructs; they have no power to deliver any of the things they promise, as we read over and over again in the OT.
Then God sends Isaiah to Hezikiah and says, basically, don’t worry, I’ve got your back. He kills a hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrians! War over. And their king, Sennacherib, as God predicted, i.e. determined, was slain by his very own sons as he was worshiping in the temple of his own worthless God, who could not deliver him. The Contrast is a beautiful thing. If we would only trust in the Living God, he will ultimately deliver us completely from sin and death.