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What Do People See in Your Palace?
[Hezekiah] succeeded in everything he undertook. But … God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.
2 Chronicles 32:30-31
The story of Hezekiah’s latter years cannot be ignored. It is as frightening as it is instructive. You can read the details not only here but in 2 Kings 18 and Isaiah 38-39.
The reign of Hezekiah was marked by two great moments: the spiritual renewal in Jerusalem and his amazing victory over Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. In the latter event, Hezekiah had shown extraordinary spiritual leadership before his frightened army: “Be strong and courageous,” he had said. “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria,…for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chr 7).
Some time after this victorious moment, Hezekiah fell ill. Isaiah the prophet came to tell him that he was going to die. Hezekiah’s prayer (Isaiah 38:10-20) is among the more powerful prayers of the Bible. The result? A return visit from Isaiah to tell him that God had heard his prayer and would extend his life. A miracle!
What followed next must be studied by every would-be generous giver. A revived Hezekiah went back to work as king. His reputation, his wealth, and his power increased to the extent that it attracted the attention of the king of Babylon, who sent envoys to establish contact between the two thrones.
When the envoys had left to return to Babylon, Isaiah came for another conversation. “Who were those people?” he asked. “Babylonians,” was the answer.
And then, “What did they see in your palace?”
“They saw everything in my palace. There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
Our text says of this moment, “God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.” Hezekiah failed the test. A man whose life was marked by supernatural deliverance in battle and supernatural healing during a fatal illness should have known better than to characterize the success of his life by his silver and his gold and his military power. Hezekiah manifests one of the great biblical examples of the ungrateful, forgetful heart.
There is a message here to the generous giver: When one is swimming in good fortune, it is easy to forget the source of one’s blessings. It is easy to represent life in terms of material things. Easy to forget that when a person is blessed, much, much more is expected of him or her than what Hezekiah produced. There are better answers to the question, “What did they see in your palace?”