Sermon 704. Hezekiah And The Ambassadors-Or, Vainglory Rebuked
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, AUGUST 5, 1866,
BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"At that time Berodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah, for he heardthat Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah was attentive to them, and showed them all the house of his treasures; the silverand gold, and the spices and precious ointment, andall his armory; all that was found among his treasures. There was nothingin his house or all his dominion that Hezekiahdid not show them." 2 Kings 20:12,13.
AND what of that? Was it not the most natural thing in all the world to do? Who among us would not have shown the strangersover our house, and our garden, and our library, and have pointed out to them any little treasures and curiosities which wemight happen to possess? And what if Hezekiah wassomewhat proud of his wealth? Was it not a most natural pride that he, who was a monarch of so small a territory, shouldnevertheless be able, by economy and good government, to accumulate so large and varied a treasure? Did it not show that hewas prudent and thrifty? And might henot commend himself as an example to the Babylonian ambassadors by showing what these virtues had done for him?
Exactly so. This is just as man sees. But God sees after another sort: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looksat the heart." Things are not to God as they seem to us. Actions which apparently, and upon the surface, and even so far ashuman judgment can go, may appear to be eitherindifferent or even laudable, may seem to God to be so hateful that His anger may burn against them! We look upon a needle,and to our naked eye it is as smooth as glass, but when we put it under the microscope it appears at once to be as rough asa raw bar of iron.
It is much after this manner with our actions. They may seem in our own judgments, and in the judgments of our fellow creaturesto be as bright and smooth as the needle for their excellence. But when they come under the inspection of the all-seeing Godthey are full of all manner of roughness ofsin. Our lilies may be the Lord's nettles, and our gardens nothing better than a wilderness in His sight.
Yet another reflection which strikes one at the very first blush of this affair, namely, that God has a different rule forjudging His children's doings from that which He applies to the actions of strangers. I can believe that if Hezekiah had senthis ambassadors to Berodach-Baladan, that heathenmonarch might have shown the Jewish ambassadors over all his treasures without any sort of sin. God would not have beenprovoked to anger, nor would a Prophet have uttered so much as a word of remonstrance or of threat-but Hezekiah is not likeBerodach-Baladan-he mustnot do as the Babylonians may do.
Baladan is but a serf in God's kingdom, and Hezekiah is a prince! The one is an alien, and the other is a dear and much-cherishedchild. We have all different modes of dealing with men according to their relation to us. If a stranger should speak againstyou in the street you would not feelit-you would scarcely be angry even though the statement might be libelous. But if it were the wife of your bosom it wouldsting you to the heart, or if your child should slander you it would cut you to the quick. When we admit persons into intimacyand reveal our hearts tothem, we expect them to act toward us with a tenderness and a delicacy which it were utterly unreasonable to expect in strangers.And we judge their actions by a peculiar standard-we weigh, as it were, the actions of ordinary men in the common rough scaleswhich would not turnwith an ounce or even a pound-but the doings of our friends we weigh in such sensitive balances that even though it werebut a feather from the wing of a fly the scale would turn.
It is a solemn thing to be a favorite of Heaven, for where another man may sin with impunity, the beloved of God will notoffend without grievous chastisement. If you lie in the bosom of Heaven you must take care that your soul is chaste towardsGod. If you are favored with the secret of the MostHigh you must peculiarly be among them that fear Him-for if not, He will say unto you as He said to His favored Israel-"Youonly have I known of all the nations of the earth, therefore will I punish you for your iniquities."
It might be treason in a courtier to speak of the king us a stranger might safely do. And he who is admitted into the cabinetmust not only be beyond fault in his loyalty, but even beyond suspicion. We remark, then, that the act of Hezekiah here recordedis not, upon the surface, a sinful one, butthat the sin is to be found, not so much in the action itself as in his motives of which we cannot be judges-but which Godvery accurately judged, and very strictly condemned. And again, we remark that this sin of Hezekiah might not have been sinin others at all. Even withthe same motive, if done by others, it might not have so provoked God.
But seeing that Hezekiah, above even most of the Scriptural saints, was favored with singular interpositions of Providence,and distinguished honors from God's hand, he should have been more careful. His sin, if little in others, became great inhim, because of his being so beloved of God. A manwith a worn and stained garment may walk without spoiling his robe where another clothed in white might not venture. A spotmight not show upon a filthy garment, but the cleaner the robe, the more readily is the spot discovered, and from the veryfact that Hezekiah was sosuperlatively a holy man, and a man favored of God, his sin showed itself, and God visited it at once with chastisement.
I. In order to bring out what Hezekiah's offense was, it will be best for me to begin by describing his CIRCUMSTANCES ANDSTATE AT THE TIME OF THE TRANSACTION. We shall need a rather lengthy description, and, in the first place, we may remark thathe had received very singular favors. Sennacheribhad invaded the land with a host reckoned to be invincible, and probably it was invincible by all the known means of warfareof that age. He had ravaged every State and taken away innumerable prisoners, besides despoiling every city to which he laidsiege.
But when he came near Jerusalem he was not able even so much as to cast a mound against it, or to shoot an arrow at it, forGod singularly interposed and the host of Sennacherib, struck by the sudden breath of pestilence, or by the deadly air ofthe simoom, fell dead upon the plain. This was amemorable deliverance from a foe so gigantic as to be compared to leviathan, into whose jaw the Lord thrust a hook, andled him back to the place from where he came.
Beside this, Hezekiah had been restored from a sickness pronounced to be mortal. He had been granted a singular escape fromthe gates of death. Where another man must have died, be was enabled, within three days, to go up to the house of the Lord.Added to all this, in connection with his recovery,God had seen fit to do for him what he had only done for Joshua before, namely, to interrupt the order of the heavens, andto make the sun go back ten degrees upon the dial of Ahaz as a token by which His servant's faith might be comforted.
This was no mean thing when death from below and Heaven from above were both stayed in their courses for the favored childof Heaven! When the shades of the grave and the brightness of the sun alike were moved for him to prove the loving kindnessof the Lord. In addition to all this the Lord gaveHezekiah an unusual run of prosperity. Everything prospered. If you read the statement given in the Chronicles, and alsothat in Isaiah, you will find that he was enriched both by presents from the neighboring kings, who were probably overawedby the fact that Sennacherib had beendestroyed in the country of Hezekiah. And he was probably also enriched by trading as Solomon had done before him.
Hezekiah, though but a little prince, suddenly found himself a wealthy man, having moreover one thing in his treasury whichcould not have been discovered among the riches of any other living man, namely, a writ from the Court of Heaven that he shouldlive fifteen years. What would not somemonarchs have given, if they had been sure that their lives would have been preserved from daily jeopardy during that lengthof time? No weight of coral or of pearl would have been considered too great a price for such a gift!
Hezekiah was, in all respects, a prosperous monarch! The man whom the King of kings delighted to honor. This great prosperitywas a great temptation, far more difficult to endure than Rabshakeh's letter, and all the ills which invasion brought uponthe land. Ah Friend, that is a much-needed prayer:"In all times of our wealth, good Lord deliver us." Many serpents lurk among the flowers of prosperity. High places aredangerous places. It is not easy to carry a full cup with a steady hand. A loaded wagon needs a strong axle, and a well-fedsteed requires a tight rein.
We must not forget that Hezekiah, at this time, had become singularly conspicuous. To be favored as he was might have beenendurable if he could have lived in retirement, but he was set as upon a pinnacle since all the nations round about must haveheard of the destruction of Sennacherib's host.Sennacherib was the common foe of all the smaller potentates, and even the great kings, like the king of Egypt, stood inmortal dread of the power of Assyria. It was, therefore, sure to be known far and wide that the tyrant's wings had been clippedin the land of Judah.
The going back of the sun must also have struck all nations with astonishment. It appears that the Babylonian ambassadorscame to enquire about this wonder, for they were a people much given to observe the heavenly bodies. The world's mouth wasfull of Hezekiah. Everybody heard of him. Everybodyspoke of him. His cure, his victory, and his wealth were common talk in every place where men met together. What a temptationis this! When many eyes are upon one, they may, unless Divine Grace prevent, act like the eyes of the fabled Basilisk whichfascinated their prey. To walkbefore the Lord in the land of the living is happy and safe walking-but to walk before men is full of peril.
To be saluted with applause. To bask in popularity is always dangerous. A full sail needs much ballast, or the vessel willbe overturned. Much Grace was needed in the case before us, but this the king did not seek as he should have done. Hezekiahhad remarkable opportunities for usefulness. Howmuch he might have done to honor the God of Israel! I scarcely know of a man, except he were an inspired Prophet, who hadso noble an opportunity of declaring the greatness and goodness of the Lord. For while everybody spoke of him, it was in connectionwith two wonders which Godhad worked-which should have brought to the Great Wonder-Working Jehovah a revenue of praise.
Why, Hezekiah, had you been in your right senses, and had Divine Grace kept your wits about you, what a sermon you might havepreached with death beneath you and Heaven above you for the text, and the eternal power and Godhead for the theme! Brethren,he ought to have made the courts of princesring with the name of Jehovah! He should have placed himself in the rear of the picture and have filled the earth with histestimony to the glory of his God. How well he might have exclaimed in the language of triumphant exultation, "Where are thegods of Hamath, and of Arpad? Whereare the gods of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah? Which of these delivered the nations from Sennacherib? Which of these couldraise up their votaries from mortal sickness? Which of these could say to the sun's shadow, 'Go back upon the dial of Ahaz'?But Jehovah rules over all! He is kingin Heaven above and in the earth beneath."
My brethren, it seems to me that if, like Moses, he had composed some triumphal ode. If he had made the people sing and bidthe women dance like Miriam, while the exultant shout went up to Heaven, "Oh, come let us sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphedgloriously!" it had been far better work forhim than to have been showing these ambassadors his treasury, and exalting his own name among men! He, above all men, wasunder obligation to have loved his God, and to have devoted himself wholly to Him.
All life is sacred to the Giver of Life and should be devoted to Him. But life supernaturally prolonged should have been ina special manner dedicated to God! Why should Hezekiah boast of himself? He whose breath has been given back into his nostrilsby miracle must not spend it in magnifyinghimself. Unto God be the glory of our life though it is but given to us once. But oh, with what emphasis should God haveall the glory of it if it is given to us twice! But it is written of Hezekiah in the Chronicles, that "he rendered not againaccording to the benefit done untohim for his heart was lifted up."
He enjoyed the blessings, but bowed not before the Giver. He remembered the fruit, but he forgot the tree. He drank of thestream, but did not enough regard the fountain. His fields were watered with dew, but he was not sufficiently grateful tothe Heaven from which the dew distils. He stole thefuel from the altar of Love and burned it upon the hearth of Pride. But, my Brothers and Sisters, we must not too hastilycondemn Hezekiah! It is for God to condemn-not for us-for I am persuaded had we been in Hezekiah's place we should have donethe same.
Observe now where his loftiness would find food. Here he might have said to himself, "Within my dominions the greatest ofarmies has been destroyed, and the mightiest of princes has been humbled. He whose name was a sound of terror in every landcame into my country and he melted away like the snowbefore the sun. Great are you, O Hezekiah! Great is your land, for your land has devoured Sennacherib, and put an end tothe havoc of the destroyer." Remember also that he had this to try him above everything else-he had the certainty of livingfifteen years. I have alreadygiven you a hint of the danger of such certainty.
Mortals as we are, in danger of dying at any moment, yet we grow secure! But give us fifteen years certain, and I know notthat Heaven above would be high enough for our heads, or whether the whole world would be large enough to contain the swellingsof our pride! We should be sure to growvain-gloriously great if the check of constant mortality were removed! The king might, in his self-complacent moments, havesaid to himself, "Not only am I thus immortal for fifteen years, but the very heavens have been disturbed for me. See whata favorite of Heaven I am!" He didnot say with David, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars which You have ordained,what is man, that You are mindful of him?"
Hezekiah heard a Satanic whisper in his soul, "How great are you that even the sun itself, light of the day, and eye of Heaven,must go back to do you pleasure!" Besides, it is not so easy to have life spared and yet to feel that we, ourselves, personallyare of little consequence. What are any ofus to God? He could do without us all! The greatest men in the world, if they were wiped out of creation, would involveno more loss to God than the loss of a fly to the owner of empires. And yet, if life is spared, we are very apt to supposethat we are necessary-at least tothe Church if not to the Divine purposes themselves!
Then when Hezekiah surveyed his stores, he would see much to puff him up, for worldly possessions are to men what gas is toa balloon. Ah, my dear Friends, those who know anything about possessions, about broad acres, gold and silver, and works ofart, and precious things, and so on know what atendency there is to puff up the owners of them! Hezekiah must have felt, as he walked through his armory, and his granaries,and his treasury, "I am a great man." Then all the ambassadors came in from the different countries, and cringing at his feetpaid him reverence because ofhis present fortune. It was too much for his poor head to stand, and as the heart was getting away from God, it is littlewonder if vainglory took possession of Hezekiah's mind.
To complete our description of the circumstances, it appears that at this time God left His servant in a measure, to try him."Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that wasdone in the land, God left him, to try him, thatHe might know all that was in his heart." It seems that through his being lifted up, the Grace of God was, for a time, inits more active operations withdrawn. Not that God left him in such a sense as that he ceased to be a saved soul-but he wasleft in a measure to tryhim-to let Him see what he was. He was getting so great, priding himself so much upon the favor of God, that self-righteousnessprobably had crept in, and he began to say to himself, "I am not as other men are. Surely I have walked before the Lord witha perfect heart."
Some degree of self-righteousness is, we think, manifest in his prayer when he turned his face to the wall. He was diseased,we fear at that time, with two diseases-not merely a swelling boil, but a swelling self-conceit-and God left him to let himsee that he was a poor silly sinnerafter all. Here, dear Friends, is quite enough to account for his folly, for if the Grace of God should leave the best ofus, only the all-knowing God could foretell what we would do. You who are warmest for Christ would become like Laodicea forlukewarmness. You who are sound inthe faith would become rotten with error. You who now walk before the Lord in excellency and integrity would be so weakthat the first temptation would remove you from your steadfastness. It would be said of us as it was said of that once bright,but now fallen star, "How are youfallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning."
Bright as we are when Divine Grace shines on us, we are nothing but darkness itself when the Lord withdraws Himself. It wassaid by the old makers of metaphors that in the soundest pomegranate there are always some rotten seeds, and the whitest swanhas a black bill. To which we may add that thereare worms under the greenest turf, and dead men's carcasses at the bottom of the calmest seas. In the best Christian thereis enough of sin to make him the worst of transgressors if God should leave him. One who knew himself but little wrote thathe was so full of Christ that therewas no room for the devil-but I thought I saw the cloven foot peeping out even in that boastful speech.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I hope we may not need to be taught our own emptiness in the same way as Hezekiah learned it. Iwould willingly know doctrinally that in me, that is in my flesh, there dwells no good thing! And I would know it, too, bythe teaching of God the Holy Spirit. But I pray foryou and for myself, my Brethren, that we may never know our depravity experimentally by being left to see it work itselfout. Perhaps there may be no way of teaching us so thoroughly the baseness of our heart as by leaving us to its devices. Perhapswe shall never know our follyunless suffered to play the fool, but oh prevent it, Lord! Prevent it by your Grace! Better to be taught by suffering thanto be taught by sin! Better to be in God's dungeon than to revel in the devil's palace!
You now see the circumstances clearly. Here is a prosperous man in a proud state of heart-with Divine Grace at a low ebb inhis spirit. He is now ready to be the prey of temptation.
II. We must now turn to consider THE OCCURRENCE ITSELF AND THE SIN WHICH AROSE OUT OF IT.
Babylon, a province of Assyria, had thrown off the Assyrian yoke, and Berodach-Baladan was naturally anxious to obtain alliesin order that his little kingdom might grow strong enough to preserve itself from the Assyrians. He had seen with great pleasurethat the Assyrian army had been destroyed inHezekiah's country, and very probably, not recognizing the miracle, he thought that Hezekiah had defeated the host, andso he sent his ambassadors with a view to make a treaty of alliance with so great a prince.
The ambassadors arrived. Now in this case the duty of Hezekiah was very clear. He ought to have received the ambassadors withdue courtesy as becomes their office, and he should have regarded their coming as an opportunity to bear testimony to theidolatrous Babylonians of the true God of Israel.He should have explained to them that the wonders which had been worked were worked by the only living and true God, andthen he might have said, in answer to Isaiah's question, "What have they seen in your house?" "I have told them of the mightyacts of Jehovah. I have publishedabroad His great fame, and I have sent them back to their country to tell abroad that the Lord God Omnipotent reigns."
He should have been very cautious with these men. They were idolaters, and therefore not fit company for the worshippers ofJehovah. When they came to him he should have felt, "I am in danger here," as we should do if we wandered among men strickenwith plague. He should, moreover, have taken careto make no boast about his own power, since it is clear that the wonders which had been worked were not to his honor, butto the glory of the Lord alone. He had not slain the host. He had not made the sun go back. He had not, by his skill, restoredhimself from sickness. It was untoGod and to God alone that he ought to have ascribed all the honor.
He should not have been vain of his riches, for this led him to show those thievish gentry where there was ample plunder toreward their exertions. His course of action was clear enough. He should have told them of Jehovah, should have proclaimedto them the true God, have treated them withcourtesy, and then dismissed them, thankful to be rid of such a temptation.
We may now perceive wherein his sin was found. I think it lay in five particulars. First, it is evident from the passage inIsaiah 39 that he was greatly delighted with their company. It is said, "Hezekiah was glad of them." In this chapter it is said, "Hehearkened unto them." He was very pleasedto see them. It is an ill sign when a Christian takes great solace in the company of the worldling, more especially whenthat worldling is profane. The Babylonians were wicked idolaters- it was not right for the lover of Jehovah to press themto his bosom. He should have felttowards them, "As for your gods I loathe them, for I worship the God that made Heaven and earth. Neither can I receive youinto close familiarity, because you are no lovers of the Lord my God."
Courtesy is due from the Christian to all men, but the unholy intimacy which allows a Believer to receive an unregenerateperson as his bosom friend is a sin. "Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" applies not only to marriage,but to all other intimate unions which amount to yokingtogether. I would not, as a Christian, link my name in the same firm with an ungodly man, because, whether I choose it ornot, however high my integrity may be, if my partner chooses to do doubtful actions I must be held responsible in a measurefor his sins both before God and men.
It is well when those who are yoked together both pull the same way-but what communion has Christ with Belial? Here was Hezekiah'sfirst sin-just the very same sin that Jehoshaphat fell into when he made ships, in connection with the idolatrous king ofIsrael, to go to Tarshish forgold. The ships were wrecked at Eziongeber, and very justly so, for when God's servants go into connection with God's enemies,what can they expect but a frown from their Master?
The next sin which he committed was that he evidently leaned to their alliance. Now Hezekiah was the king of a little territory,almost as insignificant as a German principality, and his true strength would have been to have leaned upon his God and tohave made no show whatever of military power.It was by God that he had been defended-why should he not still rest upon the invisible Jehovah? But no, he thinks, "IfI could associate with the Babylonians, they are a rising people, it will be well for me."
Mark this-God takes it hard of His people when they leave His arm for an arm offlesh. O lover of the Lord Jesus, if you leavethe arm of your Beloved, if you cease to lean on Him and begin to lean upon your own craft or policy, or upon your dearestand best friend, you will smart for it!"Cursed is the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be likethe heath in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a saltland and not inhabited. Blessedis the man that trusts in the
Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river,and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shallcease from yielding fruit."
It was this getting away from God, this ceasing to walk by faith, this wanting to depend in a carnal manner upon the kingof Babylon which provoked the Lord to anger. Hezekiah's next sin was his unholy silence concerning his God. He does not appearto have said a word to them about Jehovah. Wouldit have been polite? Etiquette, nowadays, often demands of a Christian that he should not intrude his religion upon company.Away with such etiquette! It is the etiquette of Hell! True courtesy to my fellow man's soul makes me speak to him if I believethat soul to be in danger.
Someone once complained of Mr. Rowland Hill that he was too earnest, and he told them in reply the following story. When walkingat Wootton-under-Edge he saw part of a chalk pit fall in upon some men. "So," he said, "I ran into the village, crying, Help!Help! Help! And nobody said, 'Dear me, howexcited the old gentleman is, he is much too earnest.' Why," he said, "and when I see a soul perishing, am I not to cryhelp, and be in earnest? Surely souls are yet more to be cared for than bodies."
But nowadays, if one cares about fashion, one must be gagged in all companies. You must not intrude, nor be positive in youropinions if you would have the good word of fashionable people. O Sirs, when disease is abroad in the land the physician isnever an intruder among dying men! And so you thathave Christ, the true Medicine, will never be intruders in God's eyes, if with prudence, but yet with boldness, you speakconcerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Shame on your dumb tongues! Shame on your silent lips if you speak not of Him! Oh,by the love which Jesus manifested onthe Cross, bear some such love to your fellow men-and as He broke through all things, even through the bonds of life anddeath that He might save you-break through some of these flimsy ties, if by any means you may save some!
Meanwhile, mark that Hezekiah sadly made up for his silence about his God by loudly boasting about himself. If he had littleto say of his God, he had much to say about his spices, his armor, and his gold and silver. And I dare say he took them tosee the conduit and the pool which he had made, andthe various other wonders of engineering which he had carried out. Ah, Brothers and Sisters, etiquette lets us talk of men,but about our God we must be silent! God forbid we should defer to such a rule! Hezekiah did as good as say, while he wasshowing them all his wealth, "Seewhat a great man I am!" He would not have said it in words, but that was the spirit of it-self-glorification-and self-glorification,too, before the very people who would take advantage of it.
Surely his sin also lay in his putting himself on a level with these Babylonians. Suppose he had gone to see them. What wouldthey have shown him? Why, they would have shown him their granaries, their armory, their gold and their silver. Now, theycome to see him-who is a worshipper of theinvisible God-and he glories in just the same treasures as those in which they also trusted! When a Christian man constantlyacts like a worldly man, can it be possible that he is acting rightly? When the two actions are precisely the same, and youdiscern no difference, isthere not grave cause to suspect that there is no difference? By the fruit must you know the tree. And if two trees bearprecisely the same fruit, is there not cause to suspect that they are the same sort of trees?
Dear Friends, may you and I shun this sin of Hezekiah, and not try to match ourselves with sinners as to the joys of thispresent life. If they say, "Here are my treasures," let us tell them about the "city which has foundations, whose builderand maker is God," and say, "Our treasure is above."Let us imitate the noble Roman lady, who, when her friend showed her all her trinkets, waited till her two fair boys camehome from school, and then pointed to them, and said, "These are my jewels."
Do you, when you hear the worldling vaunting his happiness, drop in a gentle word, and say, "I, too, have my earthly comforts,for which I am grateful. But my best delights are not here, they spring neither from corn, nor wine, nor oil, nor could spices,and gold, and music render them to me. Myheart is in Heaven. My heart is not here. I have set my soul upon things above. Jesus is my joy, and His love is my delight.You tell me of what you love, permit me to tell you of what I love. I have listened patiently to you, now listen to one ofthe songs of Zion. I have walkedwith you over your estate, now let me take you over mine. You have told me of all the good things which you enjoy, do lendme a few minutes of your attention while I tell you of still better things which make up my portion."
The Lord takes it hard on the part of His people if they are ashamed of the blessings which He gives them, and if they neverboast in the Cross of Christ they have good cause to be ashamed of themselves. This, then, we think to be
Hezekiah's sin. Putting it altogether it was: 1. A delight in worldly company. 2. Beginning to lean to an arm of flesh. 3.Saying little of his God. 4. Making much of himself, and 5. Putting himself on a level with worldly men by making his boastwhere they made theirs.
III. The third matter we will handle very briefly, namely, THE PUNISHMENT AND THE PARDON. We may generally find a man's sinwritten in his punishment. We sow the thorns, and then God flogs us with them. If Jesus loves you, my dear Brother or Sister-ifthere is anything in the world that keepsyou from Him-He will take it away. It may be a favorite child, it may be your health, it may be your wealth-God hates idols-andHe will never suffer anything to stand between our heart's love and Himself. It may be a very painful operation, but it willbe anecessary one for you that God should grind your idol in pieces and make you to drink of it with bitterness and sorrow.
Moreover, mark you, He threatened to make the same persons the means of Hezekiah's punishment who had been the means of hissin. "You were so pleased while you showed these Babylonians your treasures, these very men shall take them away." And so,Brethren, the things in which we confide shall beour disappointment! If we take our hearts away from God and give them to any earthly things, that earthly thing will bea curse to us. Our sins are the mothers of our sorrows. Judgments being therefore threatened, Hezekiah and the people humbledthemselves. If you and I would escapechastisement we must humble ourselves.
The child that bares his hack to the rod shall not be very harshly struck. Submission more easily averts blows from God'shand than anything else. Yet although God removed the punishment as far as Hezekiah was concerned, He did not remove the consequences.You see, the consequences of showing theBabylonians the treasures were just these: they would be sure to go back and tell their king, "That little prince has avast store of spice and armor, and all sorts of precious things-we must, before long, pick a quarrel with him and despoilhis rich hive. We must bring thesechoice treasures to Babylon-they will repay us for the toils of war."
That was the certain result of Hezekiah's folly. And though God did forget the sin and promise to remove the punishment fromHezekiah, yet He did not avert the consequences from another generation. So with us. Many a sin which the Believer has committedGod has pardoned, but the consequences comeall the same. You may have the guilt forgiven but you cannot undo the sin-there it remains-and our children and our children'schildren may have to smart for sins which God has forgiven us. A spendthrift may be forgiven for his profligacy, but he sendsa stream ofpoverty down to the next generation.
Some sins are peculiarly mischievous in this way. I doubt not but that all sin inevitably brings mischief upon the man committingit and upon all around him, in a measure, and that God who forgives the sin leaves the consequences to work themselves outaccording to His will. That is a very solemnmatter, is it not? You let loose the river, it will flow on forever. The action of today will affect all time-more or lessit will affect every coming age-for your actions affect another man, and that other man another, and even eternity itselfshall hear the echotrembling along its halls of your momentary action which you, perhaps, without thought, committed against the living God.This should make us very careful, surely, in our walk.
IV. I have now to conclude by asking you thoughtfully TO GATHER UP THE LESSONS OF THIS NARRATIVE, for I find I have not timeto do so except in hints. This narrative is very full of instruction. It needs half-a-dozen sermons instead of one. The lessons,however, which come uppermost are just these.See, then, what is in every man's heart. This was in Hezekiah's heart-he was one of the best of men-the same is in yourheart. You are humble today, you will be proud as Satan tomorrow if left by God's Grace.
You little know, my dear Brothers and Sisters, even though you are renewed creatures-you little know the villainy of yourold nature. Perhaps it is not possible for any one of us to know our full capacity for guilt. Only let the restraining handof Providence and Grace be taken away, and thewisest of us might become a very madman with the rage of sin. O God, teach us to know our hearts and help us, while we rememberhow filthy they are, never to be proud!
In the next place, tremble at anything that is likely to bring out this evil of your heart. Above all, be afraid of prosperity.Be thankful, but do not be overjoyed. Walk humbly with your God. Let there be a double guard set over your heart. A piratevery seldom attacks a ship that is going outunloaded-it is the vessel that is well stored that the buccaneer will seek to gain, and so with you-when God loads you withmercy the devil will try to take you if he can. Set a double watch, and keep your ship as far out of his course as may be.And when you must bethrust into temptation, and must mix with worldly men, be then watchful above all other times lest by any means you be takenin the net. Riches and worldly company are the two cankers that eat out the very life of godliness. Christian, be aware ofthem!
Should we not be taught by this narrative to cry out every day against vainglory? Ah, it is not those standing in prominentspheres who are alone in danger of it, but all others. I remember firing a shot once with much greater success than I knewof. A certain person had frequently said to me thatI had been the subject of her earnest prayers lest I should be exalted above measure, for she could see my danger, and afterhaving heard this so many times that I really knew it by heart, I just made the remark that I thought it would be my dutyto pray for her, too, lest sheshould be exalted above measure.
I was greatly amused when this answer came, "I have no temptation to be proud. My experience is such that I am in no dangerwhatever of being puffed up," not knowing that her little speech was about the proudest statement that could have been made,and that everybody else thought her to be the mostofficious and haughty person within ten miles! Why, do you not believe there may be as much pride in rags as in an alderman'sgown? Is it not just as possible for a man to be proud in a dust cart, as if he rode in Her Majesty's chariot? A man may bejust as proud with half a yard ofground as Alexander with all his kingdoms, and may be just as lifted up with a few pence as Croesus with all his treasure.
Pray against pride, dear Friends, wherever you may be. Pride will grow on a dunghill as well as in the king's garden. Prayagainst pride and vainglory, and God give you Grace to keep it under! And then supposing that you should have given way toit, see the sorrow which it will bring you, and ifyou would escape that sorrow imitate Hezekiah and humble yourself. Down, Man, down! "God resists the proud"-as long as youare up He resists you-"but He gives Grace to the humble." When God is wrestling with man's pride, let the man struggle ashe will, He will throwhim. But when the man is down, God lifts him up. None so ready to lift up a fallen foe as our God!
Bow yourself, then, Christian, and if you are not conscious of any particular pride, be humble because you are not so conscious,for pride is very likely there. It is when we think we are humble we are most proud, and perhaps when we bemoan our prideit may be then that we are truly humble. Let usgo unto God by Jesus Christ and ask Him to search out this pride if it is there, and to lay us low at the foot of the Cross.
Lastly, let us cry to God never to leave us. "Lord, take not Your Holy Spirit from us! Withdraw not from us Your restrainingGrace! Have You not said, 'I, the Lord will keep it, I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it, I will keep it nightand day'? Lord, keep me everywhere! Keep me in thevalley, that I murmur not of my low estate! Keep me on the mountain, that I wax not giddy through pride at my being liftedup so high! Keep me in my youth, when my passions are strong! Keep me in my old age, when I am conceited of my wisdom, andmay therefore be a greater fool thaneven the young! Keep me when I come to die, lest at the very last I should deny You! Keep me living, keep me dying, keepme laboring, keep me suffering, keep me fighting, keep me resting, keep me everywhere, for everywhere I need You, O my God."
The Lord keep us looking unto Jesus, and resting alone upon His finished work. If we have never trusted Christ at all, maythe Lord bring us to rest upon His dear Son now! O Sinner! There is but one door of hope for you, and it is open! Trust Jesusand live!