As we drill into 7 different sins from parents in the Bible, I hope that these will serve as guard rails for us as we raise our children not to make us feel weighed down, but rather to free us to do what is right without caring what others think about our decisions because we are seeking to follow God’s leading in the way we raise our children.
The model king
Hezekiah was a great king.
He led the nation of Judah in very trying times and through all of this we read that he ‘did what was right in the sight of the Lord’ (2 Kings 18:3).
Indeed, God’s opinion of Hezekiah is great. He inspired the writers of 2 Kings 18 to say about him, ‘Hezekiah trusted the Lord God of Israel. No other king of Judah was like Hezekiah, either before or after him. 6 He was completely faithful to the Lord and obeyed the laws the Lord had given to Moses for the people. 7 The Lord helped Hezekiah, so he was successful in everything he did. He even rebelled against the king of Assyria, refusing to be his servant.’
Once again we find a man of God, who was trusted, loved and used by God. We could go so far as to say that Hezekiah was a model of faith and service to the Lord and his country. When Sennacherib, King of Assyria, attacked Jerusalem, Hezekiah’s instinct was to go to the temple to seek the Lord. He listened to the prophets and obeyed God. As a result, he saw God’s deliverance.
Fast forward in his life and we meet this king on his death bed. Hezekiah’s response is to turn to the Lord in prayer. He reminds the Lord of all he has done and how he has been faithful to God and wholehearted in his devotion.
If there was any doubt about the truth of Hezekiah’s claims, God’s response makes it clear that this is true: The Lord grants him healing, another 15 years of life and protection from Assyria for Hezekiah and the whole city of Jerusalem. He is a man faith living fully for God in his time. His ministry and the fulfilment of God’s call on his life is a model that we would all desire to live up to.
One failure – many consequences
And yet there is one blemish on his record - he failed to pass his faith and values on to his children.
Manasseh, his son, followed him as king. Manasseh’s reign began when he was 12 years old and he is known as one of the most evil kings of Judah who undid all of Hezekiah’s work in destroying the high places.
How could Hezekiah fail the next generation so dismally? How could a man with so much faith and knowledge of God fail to pass it on to his descendants? We find the answer hidden in one verse in 2 Kings 20:19.
King Hezekiah has shown an envoy from the far away land of Babylon around his palace. Indeed, he has shown them everything. The prophet Isaiah responds with the declaration that these people of Babylon will come and remove future generations from the throne of Judah to take them away to Babylon.
After this prophecy Hezekiah responds, ‘“The word of the Lord you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”’ 2 Kings 20:19.
This is Hezekiah’s sin. The consequences of this sin are very serious for the future of Judah.
In other crises Hezekiah has responded by putting on sackcloth and cried out to the Lord, but when hearing of the dangers his children may face as a result of his actions, he simply shrugs his shoulders and says, ‘Well I’ll be fine, so it’s okay!’
When his life is in danger, he prays with all his might and pursues the Lord until he gets an answer. But when his children will not enjoy the same blessings, he has he simply shrugs his shoulders and leaves it at that. This kind of selfish, one generational thinking is endemic in our society, even infiltrating the church.
We must walk with caution so that we do not end up with the same attitude as Hezekiah.
Hezekiah’s attitude seemed to be to care for the now, but not for the future beyond his lifetime – ‘When I’m not there to bother about it, it’s not my responsibility.’ This is similar to the attitude of Cain in the garden of Eden who stands before God, feigning innocence, and says, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The implicit answer is, ‘Yes!’
Yes, we are to be our brother’s keeper. Yes, we must care for generations beyond our lifetime. Yes, we are called to live in families and in community and to accept responsibility for one another. We are called to effect lives beyond our lifetime, to influence future generations. David’s future generations were blessed for centuries because of David’s heart after God. Indeed, Hezekiah’s faithfulness to God is a part of that blessing.
To put it another way, we must not take the shortcut of parenting, but rather sow for the long term, we may not see all the benefits in our lives but we will witness them through the window of eternity.
Practically I want to suggest a few ways that we need to be aware of so that we avoid the sin of Hezekiah.
Who is inputting their lives?
The first relates to who we allow to input our children’s lives. Accademically, socially and in their leisure.
Our children will spend much of their time in school. We must choose a school carefully (all parents I know do this). But we must also keep a close eye on our chidlren’s schools. Changes in leadership, changes in class teachers and changes in government policy mean that a school that was suitable when our children joined is now indoctrinating them against the things of God. Some parents will conside home education for their children, an option which involves great sacrifice, but also great rewards.
Socially we should get to know our children’s friends so that we can understand who they are mixing with and who may be influencing them.
Finally we must watch who is influencing them through the media we allow our children to have access to. Notice I have said who we allow – as parents we have the final say on what is permitted in our house. While we want to teach them discernment, there are times when it is right we simply say no to them watching something, even if ‘everyone else’ is watching it.
We cannot put our head in the sand and say, well it won’t really affect me. We must be discerning and consider carefully what they are consuming. Of course this takes time and effort. It means that we need to stop what we are doing to see what they are doing. It’s much easier to relax, confident that we have our foundations on God and so our lives will be fine and our children will probably turn out okay. It’s harder to get up and give our children the skills they need to be able to navigate the online world they are drawn into for much of their lives.
For example, we may understand the importance of marriage, but we must help our children to see how valuable marriage is to them as individuals and to society as a whole. The consequences of a lack of concern for marriage is becoming clear in our western societies. Show them examples of strong marriages in the community around them and discuss models of relationships that do not match God’s ideal when they are portrayed in movies and media. This is summed up in Colossians 2:8, ‘Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.’
Our enemy the devil is prowling around seeking whom he may devour. We must not allow our children to fall prey to his tricks and capture them with his empty philosphpies and nonsense.
What are you praying for your children?
The second area where we are at risk of imitating the sin of Hezekiah is to only think about our lifetime in our prayers. As we pray for our children it is easy and important to pray for their current felt needs and situations. Praying for the friends they make and the work they do. This ‘now’ thinking makes sure they are safe while we around.
We must go further and pray for their future spouses and our future grandchildren, paving the way in prayer for them to live and know God beyond our life here on earth.
How are you preparing your children for the future?
Finally, we must prepare our children from when they are young to take on the mantle of leadership. When our children are 12 years old we speak with them about the kings of Israel – how some were evil and some were good. The writers of Kings and Chronicles divide them into these two categories based on the actions they did. More than that it was based on how the Lord viewed these actions. So the Bible uses the phrase ‘they did what was evil in the Lord’s sight,’ or ‘they did what was right in the Lord’s sight.’ God is the ultimate judge of our lives.
Much of the decider was whether they acknowledged God and ruled for the benefit of themselves or for the benefit of the kingdom God had entrusted to them. So we must actively work to equip our children to be leaders and to stand for God in this world.
This is a discipline for us, sacrificing what we want at times so that our children can be prepared and thrive in the future. Sometimes the sacrifices can be great for our children, but more often it is the small sacrifices of getting up when we want to just sit and setting aside our phones and our problems to fight for our children’s futures.
I would suggest that part of our preparation is to prepare them for the return of Christ. By teaching them about the signs of Christ’s return they can see the changes in the world around them through the eyes of faith. This in turn will help them to make good decisions and stay strong in the Lord.
This is exactly the kind of self-sacrifice that Jesus calls us to – denying ourselves and our own selfish desires to take up our cross and follow the Lord.
If we do this, then we will avoid the sin of Hezekiah.