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Wholehearted Devotion

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

      Thank you for listening to these Words of Life radio broadcasts. The title for the lesson is “Wholehearted Devotion”. And our primary text is taken from the Old Testament Second Kings chapter 20 verses 1 through 6. We will get to the text in the body of our lesson.

     Hannah Whitall Smith was the author of one of the most popular Christian devotional books of all time, entitled: “The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life,” It was published in 1875. By 1894 it had already sold ten million copies. The title of her book could lead an interested reader to believe that she, and her family had lived exceptional Christian lives. However, this was not the case as is often believed publicly but not true privately. Other than some of her errant false doctrine, her personal life was commendable, however, her family’s lifestyle was an abysmal disaster, Christian failure.

     One would think that in large measure due to her upright life and godly counsel to millions that her family would have been the ideal Christian model. Yet, in life there are so, so many ungodly allurements that sorely tempt even seemingly the most devoted Christians. Starting in Christ is vital but finishing in Christ is mandatory.

     Mrs. Smith’s husband was a famous preacher, who was involved in several adulterous scandals, sexual scandals, he suffered from bouts of depression, and finally abandoned the Christian faith. Her oldest daughter left her husband and two children for an extramarital affair, adultery. Another daughter married an outspokenly atheistic and hedonistic philosopher and abandoned the faith. Her son became a well-known writer who frequented those hostile to the Christian faith and had no place in his life for Jesus Christ. Of course, this set of circumstances is not inevitable; and godly example is often influential, but this family story nevertheless emphasizes the ultimate truth that we are all individually responsible and accountable for our own decisions.

     Moreover, the opposite spiritual circumstance can also happen. Consider the context of our study text in Second Kings chapter 20 verses 1 through 6. King Ahaz was the worst king to his time in Judah’s history, a man who “promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the LORD” according to Second Chronicles chapter 28 verse 19. Yet, his son Hezekiah was the most godly king since the time of David in Judah. King Hezekiah brought revival and reform to his nation. But sadly, again, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was even worse than his grandfather Ahaz, setting out to undo every one of his father Hezekiah’s reforms. Manasseh’s son Amon would continue in the evil ways of his father. However, Amon’s son Josiah rivaled Hezekiah for personal godliness and spiritual leadership as king. Which all goes to show that all families have unique aspects. They cannot be predicted accurately. Everyone has their own decisions to make regarding God and godliness.

     Our study text has a number of applications for Christians today which we’ll draw attention to. But let us not forget that as parents, as Christians, we do influence children and others, but we do not determine their character or faith ultimately. Each accountable human being makes personal decisions regarding faith; it’s not about an unbiblical victimization of one’s circumstances as an excuse.

     Let’s look closely at our text. Our text is actually a “flashback.” It tells us how the LORD had prepared Hezekiah for his great crisis, building within him the enhanced character and faith he needed.

     The year was 701 BC, before Christ, the cruel Assyrians had arrived at the gates of Jerusalem determined to annihilate the realm and the reign of King Hezekiah, the nation and the reign of King Hezekiah. Hezekiah found himself “shut up like a caged bird” facing extinction. Chapters 18 and 19 of Second Kings tells the story of God’s miraculous deliverance of His embattled people. Our text deals with their King prior to their deliverance.

     Second Kings chapter 20 and verse 1 “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz went to him and said, ‘This is what the LORD says, “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’” According to scholars, comparing other scriptures, Hezekiah would have been about forty years old, therefore normally somewhat still physically fit, rather young, forty years old. However, the prophet informed the king that his condition was terminal; you are going to die. His time was short. Notice that God’s prophet did not inform Hezekiah that there was any need for confession and repentance of sin. Hezekiah was certainly not perfect morally; yet his eminent death was strictly due to physical causes. God was not judging him because of his moral or godliness, or lack of godliness.

     Some people believe that premature death is related to God’s punishment; this is not necessarily true. Surely, in Hezekiah’s case, the prophet’s prophecy shocked him; so, his reaction was natural.

     Second Kings chapter 20 verses 2 and 3 “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, ‘Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”

     Notice his prayer was not regarding any confession of sin. His prayer did not even petition God to heal him, at least not spoken. Many might charge Hezekiah of haughtiness in spiritual pride parading his self-righteousness.

     Instead, however, it was an appeal to God based on his covenant faithfulness to his LORD, as a Davidic king. He also cried out as David had on many occasions in wholehearted lament. For example, listen to A prayer of David in: Psalm 17 verses 1 through 2 in comparison “Hear, O LORD, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer- it does not rise from deceitful lips. May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.”

     We should also understand the godly Old Testament mindset the expectation anchored in Mosaic law declared by Moses, for example, in Deuteronomy chapter 4 and verse 40 “Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time.” Therefore, Hezekiah simply cried out what he had done faithfully with wholehearted devotion. Obviously, Hezekiah’s lament was genuine.

     Second Kings chapter 20 verses 4 through 6 “Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, this is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add 15 years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

     It's significant here to know that God can change His mind especially due to the sincere prayer of a person who has lived faithfully with wholehearted devotion to the LORD. Of course, every case, every individual case is unique. And God is not required to change his mind at all, it’s his choice. And, of course, God being omniscient, all-knowing, already knew in advance of Hezekiah’s words and tears. So, this was for Hezekiah’s benefit as God’s answer went beyond vindication, beyond healing, to add 15 years to further fortify the king’s faith as he faced the Assyrians; moreover, his son Manasseh was not ready to rule as king, he was too young, and too inexperienced obviously.

     For all of us in the year of our Lord 2023 and forward, faithfulness, and wholeheartedness and devotion is incumbent, is required on each and every believer. Faithfulness, no matter what obstacle, is the most fundamental requirement in a relationship with the living God, whether an Old Testament believer or a New Testament believer and yes, a faithful life imparts faithfulness in others; Hezekiah inspired faithfulness in his time. Yet, Manasseh, the oldest son of Hezekiah, destined to be king of Judah, had a very hard way to go.

     Consider Second Chronicles chapter 33 and verses 1 and following. Listen to God’s indictment of Manasseh and the outcome eventually, ultimately: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking Him to anger.
     He took the carved image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything, I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and ordinances given through Moses.” But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.
     The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So, the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so, he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.
Afterward he built the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.
     He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.” All of this Manasseh did when he realized that the Lord, Yahweh, is God.

     Now, we may think Manasseh didn’t deserve to be forgiven. But dear listener remember that God’s thoughts and ways are not man’s thoughts nor ways. And always remember:

  1. God knows hearts. The sincerity of hearts toward him.
  2. God’s grace, never forget God’s grace, His undeserved favor usward to believers, God’s grace and to sinners, God’s grace knows no bounds for the truly whole heartedly devoted.

 

     David Johnson is Minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ in Sellersburg, IN.

 




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8