“And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.” – Isaiah 39:2
King Hezekiah had just recovered from an illness that had brought him near to the gates of death. Merodachbaladan, king of Babylon, sent a delegation with a letter and presents, congratulating him on his recovery. At least this was the reason set forth by Babylon. We know that we usually have more than one reason for every act, and that we do not always give the main one.
The truth was that Merodachbaladan cared little for Hezekiah’s recovery. He was, however, much interested in the resources of the kingdom of Judah, and the embassy sent to Hezekiah was really a band of spies sent to inspect the country and its treasures and its weaknesses, so that when Babylon should desire to invade Judah, it could be accomplished more intelligently. Espionage did not originate in Russia; it is a world feature both civil and spiritual.
Claiming to be solicitous concerning Hezekiah’s health, this Babylonian delegation came for the purpose of inspecting the arsenals and also the golden and silver treasures they hoped sometime to possess. In the story it is said that Hezekiah was “glad of them.” He was flattered by their apparent concern, and showed them all his treasures, even those of the Temple itself.
Then Isaiah the prophet appeared to Hezekiah and asked who these visitors were and what they wanted. And when Hezekiah told him, the prophet replied that the word of the Lord was that at some future day Babylon would prove to be a powerful enemy and would plunder the kingdom of Judah and the Temple.
Spiritually, our inner selves are this kingdom of Judah, rich in treasures stored up from the labors of many years. Our knowledges gained from the study of the Word, the ideals we have formed, our vision of what we should be are some of these treasures. Babylon is mentioned early in the Scripture. It first appears under the name Babel in the tenth chapter of Genesis, where it is said of Nimrod, “the beginning of his kingdom was Babel.” It appears many times in the Scriptures, especially in the prophets, and it is only in the last chapters of Revelation that Babylon is pictured as finally overthrown.
Babylon stands for the love of dominion from the love of self. We seldom realize the origin of this love or the many forms that it takes. It is found early in life in the desire to have our own way regardless of the rights or wishes or convenience of others. As we grow up, it appears in the feeling that we are necessarily right and those who differ with us wrong, and in the desire to be thought of as superior to others. We may be sure that it is always at work when we are tempted to respond to flattery and to exhibit our heavenly riches as if they were our own.
The Lord is our Example. To John He could reveal some of the deeper and more precious things of His kingdom, to other disciples more external ones. To Pilate He answered “never a word.”
Hezekiah was a good king. He meant to serve the Lord. But he yielded to flattery which disguised itself as friendship. Flattery can never be trusted. We must keep our outer defenses strong. Our story warns us against blind confidence in our own good motives and against the display of our virtues. Mere outer display such as that of clothing and jewels is, we know, not to be recommended, although in itself it is not a vital or hopeless evil. To be proud of external things is childish for we know that even the evil can obtain these things and that the things of outer adornment will pass away. But while it is merely puerile to think that the clothes make the man, it is disastrous to think that what is wise and good in us is our own and to feel proud about it. Hezekiah displayed the inner resources of his kingdom with pride, even those sacred things of the Temple dedicated to Jehovah. He displayed them as his. And we note also that when Isaiah told him what would come from Babylon, he was not concerned about the future of his family and his country, but only that he himself should live and die in peace.
The deadliest form of pride is pride in personal goodness. A display of goodness or wisdom as our own puts a blight upon it. The effort to show to others how righteous and commendable we are reveals weakness. When we try to call attention to our own superior qualities – even those we may actually possess – it weakens us even in the estimation of our friends. Though it is true that there are different levels of development and attainment in spiritual as well as in worldly matters – the Scriptures speak of angels and archangels in the heavens – self-praise is never a recommendation.
Within ourselves there is continuous conflict between the higher and the lower self. Babylon was a far country. It was small in its beginning, but grew to great power. Self-love, in its outward manifestation, is small at first, but it is dangerous to nurse it, for if not checked it will grow like a weed and some day, like Babylon, will plunder the treasures of the spirit. Self-love takes away the finer qualities of the soul, destroying one better quality after another, until almost nothing spiritual is left.
The act of Hezekiah in showing the treasures in his own house and the treasures of the Lord’s house to the messengers from the king of Babylon pictures the beginning of the destruction of everything heavenly and spiritual in the human soul. To show these things to the messengers of Babylon is to expose all the goods and truths of the Word and of the church to the influence of what is signified by Babylon, namely, the love of power and dominion from the love of self.
Much of modern thought looks to man himself as the controller of his destiny and as his own savior. We read in a recent article that man must face his tasks “unaided by outside help. In the evolutionary pattern of thought there is no longer either need or room for the supernatural… Evolutionary man can no longer take refuge from his loneliness in the arms of a divinized father-figure whom he has himself created, nor escape from the responsibility of making decisions by sheltering under the umbrella of Divine Authority, nor absolve himself from the hard task of meeting his present problems and planning his future by relying on the will of an omniscient but unfortunately inscrutable Providence.” This is, of course, an expression of the extreme humanistic position, but it is one of the end results of admitting the emissaries of Babylon into the mind and heart.
We read in the writings: “Without humiliation the Lord cannot be worshiped and adored, for the reason that the Divine of the Lord cannot flow into a proud heart, that is, into a heart full of the love of self.”
Hezekiah in his self-confidence had opened the door. Babylon ultimately invaded Judah, carried captive her people, and stripped the country bare. Let us all remember always that the Lord can work through us only as we look to Him and not to self for guidance and obey the commandments. It was of the Second Coming that the Lord said:
“For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.
“Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: “Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.
“And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”