In this post, I will be contrasting the legacies of two kings. I love these guys. They are both demonstrably human in their weakness and failures. At the same time, they each show amazing faith in the one true God. They are such an encouragement to me as someone who is just as flawed and imperfect. If they could trust God, so can I. But let’s get on with the story . . .
It’s impressive to read about the early years of king Hezekiah. He ascended the throne at the age of 25. Even though the kings before him had been deeply idolatrous, Hezekiah set a different course. 2 Kings 18 tells us that it was not just the leadership but the culture and the people of his day that had turned from God. The people burned incense to idols, worshiped at high places – even placed their trust in sacred stones. Hezekiah pushed back against all of this and gradually led his people back – away from the precipice of God’s impending wrath.
Scripture gives us this amazing commentary: “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” Wow! What an accolade. Things are going so well!
But then, Hezekiah died and his son Manasseh ascended the throne. We read the following chilling words:
“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 destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshipped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord . . . He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger.” (2 Kings 21:2-6)
What impact did his example have on his people? 2 Kings 21:9 tells us that “Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.”
Bottom line: In less than one generation, Manasseh undid EVERYTHING that his father Hezekiah had accomplished. In fact, Manasseh took them to an even darker place than when Hezekiah started out as king. What a tragic legacy.
Here, we might pause to ask ourselves a question: Would king Hezekiah have done anything differently could he have seen a few years into the future? Hmmm.
Many years before, another king in Jerusalem ascended the throne at a young age. His name was Solomon. You no doubt remember that God granted him a special gift – the option to choose whatever he wanted. His choice was to select wisdom to rule his people with justice. We might be tempted to think he deserves all the credit for his wise choice. However, it is really his father, king David, who deserves most of that credit. How did I come up with that? Let’s take a look.
In Prov 4:3-9, Solomon shares an account from his childhood. Solomon writes: “When I was a boy in my father’s [king David’s] house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he [king David] taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Esteem her and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor.’”
Did you get that? David taught his son Solomon that wisdom was the supreme gift. David showed him that real wisdom would help him acquire everything else that could bless his life. It’s now clear that Solomon remembered his father’s wise counsel. No wonder he did not hesitate to ask for wisdom!
Here’s the big take-away: In the midst of all his military campaigns, David took time to instruct his son and heir to the throne. David’s legacy continued and was extended by Solomon’s reign. Solomon built the glorious first temple in Jerusalem, constructed the royal palace and gardens, managed numerous other construction projects and continued supporting worship at the temple. Dignitaries from around the world arrived with rich gifts so they could see what Solomon had accomplished and hear his wisdom. He added to the legacy of his father, David.
Lessons to live by
No doubt there are a number of factors behind the directions these two young men charted for their lives and their people. One thing is evident: David had a long-range concern for his kingdom. Consequently, he took time away from all his military conquests to instill the truth into his young son and heir, Solomon.
What about Hezekiah? We start by recalling that his son Manasseh was born during the extra 15 years of life God had granted him when he was terminally ill. Based on his age when Manasseh ascended the throne, Hezekiah had 12 years to pour into his son’s life, yet there is no Biblical evidence that he did. Rather, there is clear evidence that Hezekiah had a selfish, short-term perspective regarding his children and his kingdom.
Hezekiah had foolishly shown all his kingdom’s accumulated wealth to emissaries from Babylon. When he was rebuked and judgement from God was pronounced by the prophet Isaiah, he responded with, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime.” (2 Kings 20:19) In other words, he did not care what would befall his children or grandchildren. He only cared that there would be peace during his lifetime. Ironically, he did not consider that the actions of his own children would reflect badly on him and would ultimately reshape his own legacy.
Those who have studied wealthy families all agree that great wealth seldom lasts more than 3 generations. One of the most difficult things to accomplish in this life, is to structure a lasting family legacy. The Bible is full of accounts of families that imploded in the second or third generation. Whether we are talking about physical (health and fitness) or the spiritual (righteousness) or the financial (wealth), at some point descendants fail to understand or fail to apply the very principles that led to their ancestor’s success. Inevitably, the chain breaks when one generation can no longer hold on to their great advantage. The legacy is squandered and lost to all future generations.
Now I am not suggesting that as parents, we can control the destiny of our children, much less our grandchildren. We are not responsible for the outcome, just the training – and that is hard enough. But we can certainly add prayer to our efforts, that at some strategic point in the future, our descendants will recall our words and our example and do the right thing.
My big take-away was this: It’s not just about me and my lifetime! We all need a selfless, long-term perspective that asks the question “What can I give, right now, that will leave a lasting legacy? May God grant us the wisdom to see those things and the skill to share them in a way that will never be forgotten. Amen? Amen!