As the president of Answers in Genesis, the ministry that produces this magazine, my mind constantly turns to the sad state of Christianity today and what Bible-believing Christians can do to turn things around. The task seems impossibly great, and the challenges overwhelming.
I was rereading our ministry’s mission statement, and the Lord brought something to my mind that should encourage and warn every believer who is burdened to reach this world with the gospel.
Our ministry’s official goal is “to support the church in fulfilling its commission.” To accomplish this goal, our vision statement says, “Answers in Genesis is a catalyst to bring reformation by reclaiming the foundations of our faith which are found in the Bible, from the very first verse.”
Note that our vision involves “bringing reformation.”1
If God's people want to impact the world around them, they need first to seek God and be obedient to His Word.
When we think of the word reformation, Christians usually think of the great reformer Martin Luther. However, there were reformers long before Martin Luther from whom we can learn many lessons. One of the most valuable examples comes from the Bible itself, the reformer King Hezekiah. God ensured that details about his life and reforms would be written down in His holy Word, so we could learn from what he did and be challenged in our own walk of faith.
God’s Word says about the magnitude of Hezekiah’s amazing reforms: “
So there was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26).
Hezekiah carried out reforms to destroy idol worship and restore temple worship. He reinstituted the Passover, and did whatever he could and needed to do to get people back to obeying God’s Word.
We certainly need that in our own culture. How we need reformation in our churches, because so many believers in this era have compromised God’s Word, beginning in Genesis! We are also seeing the sad consequences (abortion on demand, gay marriage, increasing violence, and so on) of a Western world that is becoming more anti-Christian and attempting to remove any vestiges of Christian influence and heritage.
So what are the lessons we can learn from Hezekiah?
1. Reformation Begins with Us
What was different about Hezekiah compared to so many of the other kings of Israel and Judah who came before him?
At the beginning of the Chronicles account of Hezekiah we read: “
And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done” (2 Chronicles 29:2).
And after Hezekiah instituted many of his reforms, we read more about his godly character:
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20–21)
The lesson? If we want to impact the world around us, God’s people first need to seek God and be obedient to His Word. Sadly, many Christians and Christian leaders today exalt man’s word by taking man’s religion of evolution and millions of years (an attempt to explain life without God) and adding it to God’s infallible Word. This is in reality no different from the efforts by the people of Judah and Israel to adopt the pagan religion of their age and mix it with what God had instructed.
Yes, we first need to return to God’s Word beginning in Genesis and give up the rampant compromise that has spread throughout the church and Christian institutions.
Reformation begins with a return to the authority of the Word of God and obeying God’s revelation to man.
2. Scoffers Attack Every Good Work
We read about some of Hezekiah’s specific initiatives in 2 Chronicles 30:1 and 30:5:
And Hezekiah sent to all Israel and Judah, and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel. . . . So they resolved to make a proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, that they should come to keep the Passover to the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem, since they had not done it for a long time in the prescribed manner.
Then later we find out about the negative response: “
So the runners passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, as far as Zebulun; but they laughed at them and mocked them” (2 Chronicles 30:10).
As Hezekiah was calling on people to “return to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 30:9), many scoffed.
This is a reminder to anyone who shares the Word faithfully that there will be scoffers. In fact, we should expect scoffers. In 2 Peter 3, we are warned that the most basic teachings of God’s Word—concerning creation, the Flood, and Christ’s second coming and judgment by fire—will be scoffed at:
Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. (2 Peter 3:3–6)
So many in our world today scoff at those who stand on God’s Word in Genesis and reject man’s beliefs concerning the supposed big bang, billions of years, and evolution. As Answers in Genesis moves forward with the construction of a life-size Ark, we have experienced this scoffing, too, and it has only increased with time.
Yes, if we are staying true to God’s Word and we “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3), we will have scoffers.
3. Religious Leaders Often Compromise
There is an interesting statement in 2 Chronicles 29:34 concerning the priests—that the common Levites were more diligent or conscientious than the priests, who were supposed to be the religious leaders:
But the priests were too few, so that they could not skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brethren the Levites helped them until the work was ended and until the other priests had sanctified themselves, for the Levites were more diligent in sanctifying themselves than the priests.
All through the Old and New Testaments we are warned of shepherds (religious leaders) who lead the people astray. This is certainly not true of all leaders—but even in our world today, we find that the majority of church leaders compromise God’s Word in Genesis or don’t want to preach the hard things (like sin, repentance, and hell) for fear of upsetting people.
In 2010, Answers in Genesis contracted with America’s Research Group to conduct research into the state of Christian colleges in the USA. The results were published in the book Already Compromised. One of the results of the research showed that by and large the science departments at Christian colleges were more likely to believe in a young earth and reject evolutionary ideas than the Bible (or theology) departments!
It confirmed one of the observations I have made over the past 30-plus years as I served in creation apologetics: even in the more conservative Christian colleges, the professors in the science departments are likely to be more vocal and diligent than Bible departments in dealing with the issues of origins and taking a stand on a literal Genesis!
Yes, we have the same problems with religious leaders today as has been the case down through the ages.
4. Pride Threatens Us All
Now here is a very serious warning for all of us! The problem of pride. Even as great a man of God as Hezekiah was, his pride let him down.
At first, he was humble, and God greatly blessed his faith. After the many reforms Hezekiah instituted, God allowed the king of Assyria to come against Judah, intent on war against Jerusalem. Hezekiah fortified the city, made weapons, and prepared for the battle. But most important, he encouraged the people to trust in God, who was on their side:
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chronicles 32:7–8)
When the king of Assyria sent people to taunt the Jews and mock their God, Hezekiah did what we should all do for every challenge, every day: “
Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven” (2 Chronicles 32:20).
And because of this God gave Hezekiah great victory, and I find it thrilling every time I read it:
Then the Lord sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there. Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. (2 Chronicles 32:21–22)
But now comes the lesson every one of us must learn. The Scripture warns us about pride. Because of our sin nature, this is a problem we all have. After the great victory God gave Hezekiah, we read this sad situation:
In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the Lord; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up [was proud]; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 32:24–25)
Because of the wonderful defeat of the Assyrian army, Hezekiah became proud! This should have been his downfall, but “
then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah” (2 Chronicles 32:26).
When we are involved in serving the Lord, no matter how great or small our role, we always need to remember to give God the glory and honor and to recognize it is easy for any of us to be lifted up in pride and set the wrong example for those looking at us.
A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor” (Proverbs 29:23).
5. A Lasting Legacy Requires Vigilance
There is one final lesson I want to bring to your attention. Hezekiah died, and we read that his son Manasseh became king in his place. But we are told: “
But he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel” (2 Chronicles 33:2).
It is hard to fathom how such a godly king as Hezekiah could end up with such an evil son as Manasseh to take his place. We don’t know the circumstances and why Manasseh ended up the way he did. But what a warning to us that we must always be vigilant and do the very best we can to raise up offspring who will carry on the spiritual legacy to the next generation and then the next and so on.
When we are involved in serving the Lord, we always need to remember to give God the glory and honor.
It’s sad to observe the fact that most Christian institutions in our Western world have lost the biblical stand of their founders as compromise creeps in. Many such institutions have now become leaders in indoctrinating generations against the authority of the Word of God.
Yes, we need Hezekiah-type reformers today. But we need to understand the sober lessons from Hezekiah’s life, which God put in His Word for our learning. Our focus needs to be on God’s infallible Word, and we must always remember that hope for true reform rests in God alone.