The Chronicler is keen on Hezekiah! In 2 Kings 18 he’s mentioned favourably, but not much is spelled out about how he reformed and revived Israel’s worship. The Chronicler gives a lot more detail, and shows him as re-establishing right worship, with the cleansing of the Temple and the proper celebration of the Passover – or at least as ‘proper’ as it can be while the priesthood is still in a mess.
This gives extra weight to Hezekiah’s defiance of the Assyrians. It’s spelled out in 32:19 exactly what mistake king Sennacherib has made. ‘They spoke of the God of Jerusalem as if he were like the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of human hands.’ Sennacherib, ruler of the superpower Assyria, has believed his own publicity and assumes that as he has defeated the ‘other gods’ of the nations he has conquered, so the LORD will be unable to protect his people. Hezekiah trusts differently.
This is spelled out more than in 2 Kings, as it’s written with the wisdom of the returning exiles, looking back on history. Though they had been conquered and carried away from their own land, they had found that the LORD was with them in exile and defeat, not just in victory in Judah. They had learned something that we need to relearn again and again – the LORD is not like ‘other gods’ – whether the sacred gods of religion, the home-made gods of New Age spirituality or the secular gods of the market, choice, celebrity and so on. A clever atheist phrase says that atheists just disbelieve in one god more than Christians disbelieve in. After all, I don’t believe in Woden (even though my parish is named after him), Thor, Anubis, Ganesh or many more. But the LORD is not in the same category as all of these.
Remember, he is the God who names himself simply as ‘I AM WHO I AM’, the fundamental ground of reality and existence. And he also names himself as ‘The God of your ancestors’, the faithful one. faithful above all to his own promises.
Let’s not confuse the LORD with any other idea of what the word ‘god’ means. That was the mistake the Assyrians made – and it led to their defeat. As Hezekiah reminded his people, whatever strength may be ranged against us, if God is with us then we are secure.