Reading through Isaiah this month I stumbled on an insight into the fatal flaw of one of Israel’s most righteous and virtuous leaders. In a sea of wicked, wayward or at least cowardly kings, Hezekiah stands alone as a leader who, in his generation, made the way straight for his people to come back to God. Ironically, his son holds the notorious distinction of being one of Israel’s worst and most evil kings. What happened? The real tragedy of the story is that as Hezekiah is about to die he cries out to the God he has served faithfully and asks for a one last miracle. God agrees to his request, granting him the promise of 15 more years of life. When Hezekiah finally dies, 15 years later, his 12 year old son Manasseh succeeds him. His son is born and raised in that 15 year grace period. And something happens, or rather doesn’t happen, between them, that prevents the grace, virtue and integrity of the father from being passed on to the son.
I have always noted the failure on Hezekiah’s part, but never really known why. What was going on inside his head? Why didn’t he pass on his love for God, the renaissance of the word and law of God that had happened in his lifetime? Why did he take the gift that God gave, a final 15 years, and not invest in his legacy? Why not train his son?
The prophet Isaiah, in his telling gives us an insight so massive I can’t seem to shake it. He chronicles a moment in Hezekiah’s life Isaiah tells him the next generation would be lost, exiled in Babylon. It is a dark prophecy about the loss of faith and faithfulness that he had seen emerge in his lifetime, under his leadership,
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
Inexplicably, on hearing this word Hezekiah is actually pleased. Here is his enigmatic response, “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”
At least there will be peace in my lifetime. I am shocked by what I can only call the fatalistic shortsightedness of Hezekiah. His passion for the glory of God extended only to the end of his own life and reign and that, my beloved leaders, is not good enough. As good a leader as he was he fails in the final and perhaps most revealing test of a leader, the test of legacy.
The Underground continues to grow. We are empowering more leaders, more initiative, more church and mission expressions than ever. I am daily amazed and I feel a continual, profound respect for what our young elders and leaders have been able to accomplish.
As we have challenged each micro church to think about who they are developing, what sons and daughters they are investing in we have seen that our leaders are starting to understand the long view of legacy. We created a leadership class to offer to our elders and the leaders they see emerging in their micro churches. We launched the 12 month class this last month. One part classroom instruction, one part one on one mentoring, and one part ministry experience, this leadership class in an attempt to invest in the next generation. What a response. The result is the largest class we have ever offered, 70 participants in all.
No matter how good a leader we are in our time, the real test of our leadership is if we are investing in those that will follow us. I can’t wait to see what this new batch of leaders will do. I love you all.