So, round and around and around we go
Where the world’s headed, nobody knows
Just a ball of confusion . . .
that’s what the world is today. (The Temptations, 1970)
Good king, bad king, bad king, good king, round and around and around we go.
Hezekiah was a “good” king, one who did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but he still had his faults. And, Isaiah rightly rebukes him for showing all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses, to the Babylonian envoys (right).
Why did Hezekiah welcome these men and show them all his treasures? Was it pride, the desire to impress his visitors, never mentioning that his health and his wealth came from God? Was it arrogance, not seeking God’s counsel on how to treat these visitors? Was it fear, a need to find favor with man, knowing Babylon was a rising power? Was it foolishness, not considering the potential danger these men could be to future generations?
While Scripture does not tell us the intentions of Hezekiah’s heart, it does tell us that Isaiah pronounced judgment prophesying that the days are coming when all that is in Hezekiah’s house, even his sons, will be taken away and carried to Babylon.
After Hezekiah dies, we hope the next king, Manasseh, will be a better king; but no, he does what was evil in the eyes of the Lord and undoes all the good his father had done. Amon, the king who follows Manasseh, is no better. Our hopes rise with the next king, Josiah, who like Hezekiah does what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Josiah shows such promise, but his life is cut short, and sadly we read at the end of 2 Kings that the Babylonians sack Jerusalem and carry her treasures and her people into exile. And we are left with a wistful longing for a different story, a story of a truly good king who gets it all right.
It must have been with great joy that Isaiah heard the words “there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse . . . and the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might” (Isa. 11:1-2). What comfort in the news that this promised king’s reign would be marked not by human frailties but by righteousness and faithfulness.
Some 600 years later, Jesus came as promised, proclaiming, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus is the true King, who did nothing out of pride, arrogance, fear, or foolishness. He is the King who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
He is the true King, yet we rejected him—“we have no king but Caesar.” The remarkable thing is even when we nailed the King to the Cross, he looked down on us with forgiveness and compassion: “forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” For this rejection was part of God’s plan for our redemption and salvation. And his resurrection on the third day signified his triumph over sin and the grave.
Like the people of Israel some 600 to 700 years before Christ, today we see a parade of leaders, some of whom are better than others but none of whom are free from human frailties. It would be easy to lose heart or grow cynical and sing of a world that is a ball of confusion if we did not have Jesus’ sure and certain promise that he will return.
We don’t know when or exactly how these promised events will unfold, but we do know with absolute certainty that Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, reigns and will come again in glory. And in an increasingly unsteady world, that is good news indeed. And until that day dawns, we can sing the words of the ninety-sixth Psalm with renewed confidence: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song . . . tell of his salvation from day to day . . . Say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’”