A missed opportunity

The ambassadors of the princes of Babylon came to see Hezekiah king of Judah for a specific reason. They wanted “to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land” (2 Chronicles 32:31). A wonder is a divine act or a special display of divine power” (4159). In Hezekiah’s case, it was the healing of a sickness that would eventually cause his death. In other words, Hezekiah had a terminal illness and God cured him of it. The men that came to visit heard of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery and brought an offering as an act of worship.

The visit from the ambassadors of Babylon, was an opportunity for Hezekiah to share his faith with them. Their awareness of Hezekiah’s healing and their act of worship demonstrated their belief that Hezekiah’s God was real and could do things that no other god was capable of. In this situation, it says of Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 32:31 “God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.” God had shown Hezekiah mercy by responding when he prayed, “I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (2 Kings 20:3). Hezekiah’s claim of having a perfect heart meant that he had been totally obedient to God’s word (8003).

God’s testing of Hezekiah’s heart was intended to show whether he believed God’s mercy was responsible for all the prosperity of his kingdom or whether Hezekiah believed he had earned everything God had given him through his good behavior. When 2 Chronicles 32:31 said, God left Hezekiah, it was saying that God let him handle the situation on his own (5800). God didn’t tell Hezekiah what to do. When the men from Babylon came to visit, “Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and showed them all the house of his precious things” (2 Kings 20:13). The Hebrew word translated hearkened, shama means that he gave the men his undivided attention (8085). Hezekiah was listening to what the men had to say, following their directions, rather than the other way around.

A clue to Hezekiah’s motivation is found in 2 Chronicles 32:25. It says, “But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up.” Seeing all of Hezekiah’s riches was not the purpose of the visit from the men from Babylon. They came because they had heard about the miracle God had done for him. Instead of taking them on a tour of his grand palace, Hezekiah should have been inviting the men to convert to Judaism.

Hezekiah didn’t understand that these men were not on his side. They were idolaters that needed to know how they could be saved. Hezekiah made it seem as if everything he had could be shared with the men from Babylon, but that wasn’t true. Only God’s people were under his protection and could share in the wealth of his kingdom. Because Hezekiah didn’t honor God and testify to his mercy toward his people, the men went away thinking God’s riches consisted only of silver and gold and it was theirs for the taking.

A fatal mistake

Ahab’s insistence  on going his own way is evident in his decision to attack Syria after entering into a peace treaty with king Ben-hadad (1 Kings 22:3). Ahab didn’t seem to understand that he was not free to do as he pleased. As God’s representative to the nation of Israel, Ahab was required to do God’s will, even if that meant staying at home and minding his own business.

The role of the  prophets was to inform the king of God’s will, but the prophets in Ahab’s kingdom were telling him what he wanted to hear rather than speaking God’s word to him. At the request of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, Ahab agreed to consult a prophet that was faithful to God, Micaiah, before attacking Syria.

And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak. (1 Kings 22:13-14)

At first, Micaiah told Ahab what he wanted to hear, that he should attack the Syrians and the LORD would deliver them into his hand, but Ahab knew he was lying. “And Ahab said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?” (1 Kings 22:16).

Ahab knew it was a mistake to attack the Syrians, but he did it anyway. Ahab believed he could beat the Syrian army in his own strength, without the LORD’s help. Under normal circumstances, Ahab’s army might have been able to beat the Syrians, but the covenant between Ahab and Ben-hadad prevented Ahab from attacking Syria. Therefore, “the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel” (1 Kings 22:31).

With Ben-hadad’s entire army coming after him, king Ahab didn’t stand a chance. Ultimately, it was the LORD’s divine judgment that sealed Ahab’s fate, but Ahab’s foolishness put him in harm’s way unnecessarily. If Ahab had listened to Micaiah, his life would have been spared.

You can never be too sure

Asking for someone’s advice doesn’t mean you don’t know what to do. One of the reasons it’s a good idea to ask someone for his opinion is so that you will know whether or not you are in agreement about what you are about to do. “David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you…let us bring again the ark of our God to us” (1 Chronicles 13:1,3).

When the Philistines came looking for David after he had been anointed king over all Israel, David could have gathered his troops and immediately went into battle, but instead, “David inquired of God” (1 Chronicles 14:10). David could have assumed that because the Philistines were Israel’s enemy and they were preparing for an attack that he needed to defend himself, but he asked the LORD, “Shall I go up against the Philistines?” (1 Chronicles 14:10).

Sometimes it seems so obvious what we need to do that we don’t want to take the time to ask for confirmation. David knew the Philistines would come after him one way or another. His instinct to fight was what the Philistines were hoping for. They wanted to catch him off guard and intimidate him into fighting on their terms. “And the LORD said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand” (1 Chronicles 14:10).

David achieved a great victory, but the Philistine army was able to mount a second attack. “Therefore David inquired again of God; and God said unto him, Go not up after them; turn away from them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees” (1 Chronicles 14:14). David demonstrated that he was depending on the LORD for guidance. No matter what he planned to do, David checked it out with the LORD first.

David’s second inquiry showed that his relationship with the LORD was more than superficial. David trusted in the LORD beyond what would normally have been expected. David knew that every action had a consequence and he did not want to risk making a mistake.

David therefore did as God commanded him; and they smote the host of the Philistines from Gibeon even to Gezer. And the fame of David  went out into all lands; and the LORD brought the fear of him upon all nations. (1 Chronicles 14:16-17)