He was king now and he would do what he wanted. That definitely meant not following in his father’s footsteps, for he was listening to a different drummer. The kingdom had slid downhill under his father’s rule, and he was determined to reform and restore it.
Some hinted he should take things slow the first year–not make any drastic changes. Let his subjects get used to him. At twenty-five he was young. There was plenty of time.
Nope. He wasn’t buying any of it. Time was of the essence. Immediate drastic action was necessary to stop the decadent descent.
Hezekiah had worked up the list of reforms long before he was crowned king, and now he had both opportunity and power to personally put them in place. He didn’t need to call in consultants or form a focus group or take a vote or read a self-help book or sleep on it. He had already sized up the basic problem.
His country was disobeying the foundational laws upon which it was built. And that’s where he would start the changes–at the top with the first two laws:
- You shall have no gods except the one true God.
- You shall not make or worship idols.
Sandwiched between two evil monarchs (his father Ahaz and his son Manasseh), King Hezekiah “trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:5-6 ESV).
In leading his nation to keep those commandments, King Hezekiah publicly “broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for the Israelites burned incense to it up to that time. He called it Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4 HCSB). This was the same bronze serpent that God had ordered Moses to forge and use per His instructions for healing (discussed in last week’s post, “A Close Look”). The snake was never ever to be worshiped in and of itself. Its purpose was solely symbolic: to point poisoned persons to God.
Somewhere in the intervening seven hundred years, the relic’s value diminished when it was appraised as being worthy of worship. Taking their eyes off God, the people willingly broke the nation’s first two rules of the Decalogue and relegated the heirloom to an idol, thus burning incense to a false god.
King Hezekiah, making his own appraisal, unabashedly called the thing what it really was, Nehushtan; in other words, nothing more than a piece of brass. Cold, lifeless, unresponsive.
And he would not compromise. There would be no “I’ll keep this part of our heritage in a safe place if you promise not to worship it again.” It must be demolished. First things first. And that meant the living God.
The better you know God, the better you feel,
For to learn and discover and know God is real
Can wholly, completely and miraculously change,
Reshape and remake and then rearrange
Your mixed-up, miserable and unhappy life
(Helen Steiner Rice)