“He 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. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered” (2 Kings 18:5).
We remember not only the story of God’s healing of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-6), but also numerous other details of the king's reign, such as his successful destruction of pagan idolatry and other figurative and literal enemies, including the story of how God defeated the Assyrians on Hezekiah’s behalf when they attacked Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:32-36). He even survived, at least temporarily, the enemy of death (2 Kings 20:1). All these events show a Hezekiah who was truly an individual who followed God and who was blessed in being able to overcome his enemies.
Yet there was one enemy which appears to have remained that even Hezekiah was apparently unable to overcome. A final undefeated enemy is evident in the record of Hezekiah’s last years. When the king of Babylon sent diplomatic messengers to Hezekiah, the king unwisely showed the Babylonians every part of his kingdom and its treasures. We do not know whether this was the result of pride or just lack of strategic wisdom, but as a result the prophet Isaiah warned Hezekiah that this foolish action would result in the Babylonians eventually attacking Judah and destroying Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:12-18).
It is in Hezekiah’s reply to this word of God that we see what was perhaps the king’s last undefeated enemy: “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, 'Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?'” (2 Kings 20:19). The king’s words seem humble and accepting on the surface, but his recorded thoughts reveal an incredible degree of selfishness: that despite the horrors he had been told he had brought upon his country, Hezekiah's attitude was “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” Unlike the incident in which the king turned to God in weeping supplication regarding a problem that applied to him directly, when he had unwittingly triggered disaster for others, Hezekiah’s reaction was one of selfish lack of concern – of “Why should I care?” – of “Whatever!”
It is clear that despite his many righteous deeds and the many enemies he overcame, Hezekiah’s last recorded enemy - the reality of his own unconquered selfishness - was one he did not overcome. The biblical record of this king’s reign essentially ends at this point, with Hezekiah’s thoughts recorded as a poignant lesson to us all. Whatever the victories we may have accomplished, they do not matter much in terms of the fulfillment of God’s purpose for us if we are not dedicated to overcoming the enemy of selfishness. Hezekiah’s story should remind us all not to let our lives – or even a single day – end in an attitude of “Whatever!”
*For many more lessons from the kings and other leaders recorded in the Old Testament, download a copy of our free e-book Lessons from Old Testament Leaders here.