People tend to be selfish and self-centered. We all have that tendency. People always have had that tendency. Individually and collectively, we want what we want. We do not care about consequences if consequences occur further down life's road. We tend to focus on "right now," and as far as "right now" is concerned, we want what we want.

Let me illustrate my point. Illustration # 1: does a 16-year old who begins smoking consider a heart attack or lung cancer when he or she is in his or her fifties? No. When smoking begins, does the risk of heart attack and lung cancer immediately increase? Dramatically. But the 16-year old only considers "right now" and what he or she wants "right now." Have you ever heard a person in his or her 50s dying of lung cancer caused by smoking say, "I wish I had never picked up my first one!" Fifty-two is paying the consequences for the shortsighted decisions of sixteen.

Illustration # 2: The majority of the current marriages in our society either produced enormous misery or end in failure. Why? That simple question has many, many correct answers. One significant foundation cause is selfishness or self-centeredness. One or both of the spouses "wants what I want right now." Too commonly, one or both spouses do not consider consequences that are years ahead. Too commonly, one or both spouses do not consider what is best for everyone. "I am not allowed to have what I want, and I want it right now." "I am not allowed to do what I want, and I want to do it right now." "My life is about me, and my marriage is not focused on me. If everything cannot be about me right now, I will find a situation where it can be about me."

Illustration # 3: What common problems do governments everywhere face? There are many! One significant problem existing in government anywhere at any level is selfishness. Look at the biggest handicap to solving any problem situation. "My constituents will not like that." Why? "That is not what they want right now." Can you not do what is in their future best interest? "No. They are not concerned about the future. They are concerned about right now." Every government decision on any level must deal with some form of selfish focus on "right now."

  1. King Hezekiah was the 14th king of Judah.
    1. To understand his situation, you need to understand the context of his "right now."
      1. Ten of the tribes of the nation of Israel separated themselves from Judah and formed a distinct, separate nation.
        1. 2 Kings 17 documents how evil, corrupt, and ungodly this nation was and had been for almost 200 years.
        2. They were so idolatrous, so ungodly, so evil that the nation collapsed.
        3. The Assyrians conquered them, captured their king, and exiled the citizens.
      2. Judah shared a common border with Israel; Israel was not only blood relatives to Judah, but next door neighbors.
      3. Hezekiah's father, Ahaz, had been heavily into idol worship.
      4. The overall picture:
        1. The most powerful military in their world destroyed their next door neighbor.
        2. Their next door neighbor had been evil and ungodly for about 200 years.
        3. Judah had been very ungodly, and Hezekiah's father had lead them in ungodliness.
    2. Hezekiah was a true contrast to the situation all around him.
      1. He was a godly person who led a major reform and restoration movement in Judah.
        1. He did what was right in God's sight just as did his ancestor David (2 Kings 18:3).
        2. In major ways he destroyed idolatry in Judah (2 Kings 18:4).
        3. He destroyed the bronze snake that Moses made in the wilderness because it had become an idolatrous object (2 Kings 18:4).
        4. He clung to the Lord and kept the commandments of the law (2 Kings 18:6)
        5. God was with him and prospered him (2 Kings 18:7).
        6. He refused to serve the king of Assyria and led Judah to some significant military successes against their local enemies (2 Kings 18:7,8)
        7. He repaired and purified the temple as he revived temple worship and renewed Judah's covenant with God (2 Chronicles 29).
        8. He revived and renewed the observance of Passover in Judah (2 Chronicles 30).
      2. Hezekiah dared to be a godly ruler in a dangerous, ungodly world.
        1. He lived through some major, deadly crises.
        2. But crises never turned him away from God.

  2. Consider one major crisis that occurred. I am using the 2 Kings 18 and 19 account.
    1. The king of Assyria had defeated the nation of Israel next door and exiled them.
      1. That army was on the border.
      2. Hezekiah had refused to serve the king of Assyria, so the Assyrian army invaded Judah.
        1. The walled cities near the border were captured.
        2. Hezekiah tired to make peace with Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, by offering him a huge sum of silver and gold.
        3. As was commonly the case, the king of Assyria took the gift and proceeded with his plans to capture and destroy Judah.
      3. The king of Assyria sent two messengers to Jerusalem to ask everyone to surrender rather than pointlessly dying as they resisted the Assyrian army.
        1. The messengers spoke the language of Judah so everyone could understand what they said.
        2. Basically this was their message:
          1. "We will starve you until you surrender, and you know we can."
          2. "Your God cannot save you; not one else's god saved them."
          3. "Your king cannot save you; if Hezekiah says he can, he deceives you."
          4. "Surrender now and you will enjoy a very good life."
      4. When Hezekiah heard the message, he sent his servants to tell Isaiah what was said.
        1. They asked Isaiah to pray to God about the situation.
        2. Isaiah said, "Tell the king not to be afraid; God will cause the king of Assyria to go home, and there he will be killed."
      5. The messengers of the king of Assyria came back and said, "We will destroy you."
        1. The king of Assyria returned home to address a rebellion.
        2. At home in Ninevah two assassins killed him.

  3. Hezekiah was truly a godly person, and his great crisis with Assyria passed.
    1. However, there are two lessons we need to learn from him in 2 Kings 20.
      1. Hezekiah became critically ill.
        1. Isaiah the prophet came to him and said, "Get ready to die; this sickness will kill you."
        2. Hezekiah tearfully prayed that God would let him live.
        3. God was moved by his prayer, sent Isaiah back, and Isaiah told him that he would be well in three days and continue to reign for fifteen years.
      2. Hezekiah got what he wanted "right now."
    2. Later some officials from the king of Babylon brought Hezekiah a gift because that king heard Hezekiah was sick.
      1. The visit really stroked Hezekiah's ego; the fact that another king honored him made him feel important.
        1. As a result, Hezekiah showed these foreigners all his treasures.
        2. He wanted to impress them with his wealth and his kingdom.
      2. Later the prophet Isaiah came to him and asked some questions.
        1. "Who were those men?" They came from a far away country called Babylon.
        2. "What did they see?" I showed them all my treasures.
        3. "Hear the word of the Lord: the day is coming after your death that people from Babylon will come carry away every treasure to Babylon."
        4. "They will also take some of your sons to work in the king of Babylon's palace."
      3. Hezekiah's response should challenge us, move us to sober reflection.
        1. When he understood this would not happen in his lifetime, he said to Isaiah, "That is fine."
        2. His reasoning: "If I have peace and truth in my lifetime, it is okay." What happened to his sons after he died was not really important if he had peace in his lifetime.
      4. Hezekiah's prayer resulted in fifteen years of additional life "right now," but at what price?
        1. I am not trying to denounce Hezekiah: he demonstrated incredible faith and courage in extremely difficult times.
        2. I merely call your attention to the fact that godly people can be very short- sighted.

  4. We have far too much in common with Hezekiah.
    1. Truly godly people who direct others to God are a minority.
      1. We are surrounded by great wickedness.
      2. It takes a lot of courage and faith to be a godly man or woman today.
    2. Like Hezekiah, we want everything to be fine "right now;" we want peace and prosperity for ourselves in our lives "right now."
      1. As godly people, we want the good life right now.
      2. As Christians, we want security right now.
      3. We want the most enjoyable life people have experienced in the history of the world.
    3. What about the future?
      1. Spiritually, what will our grandchildren have?
      2. Spiritually, what kind of world will our grandchildren live in?
      3. Spiritually, will the church be a powerful help and encouragement as our grandchildren deal with forms of temptation we have never known?
      4. Or, spiritually, will we say, "I do not care what happens in the future. As long as things are just the way we like them right now, as long as we have peace right now, I will be happy."

Hezekiah was a very godly man in a very difficult time. Hezekiah was also a very shortsighted man. If everything was the way he wanted it "right now," that is all he was concerned about.

As a Christian, is that all you are concerned about? Is everything "okay" if it is just like you like it "right now?"

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 1 April 2001

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