What Have They Seen in Thy House?

Isaiah 39:4  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 9
One of the most solemn truths of the word of God is that the heart of man is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” It declares itself as such amongst the openly ungodly and profane; and but little trouble is taken to hide it. Revealed truth is opposed, and gracious manifestations are despised. But in the sphere of profession it is different, where dissimulation creeps in, and is adopted. It needs a divine revelation to make it manifest that, after the house is “swept and garnished,” it is more than ever suited for the dwelling-place of Satan, more ready to receive him and rebel against God than before. This is of course as to professors merely; but even where a real work of God is within, the flesh remains unchanged. In some cases of the O. as well as the N. T., the word of the Lord probes and enlightens the conscience, exposing hitherto unsuspected evil underlying the most irreproachable conduct outwardly. The results of such probing are surely set before us in God's word that we may be instructed, and humbled as to the presence of the flesh, although we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit; and accustom ourselves to make this use of the divine word so discerning ourselves that the Lord may have no occasion to judge or chasten us.
The sin of Hezekiah on this occasion was known only to God; it was not a moral breakdown but a sin of the heart, which God alone could see and judge. Had he been a less faithful man, it might not have been charged against him in such a solemn manner; for God's judgment is necessarily most searching in regard of such as are near to, and beloved by, Him. Besides it was only the special favor and goodness shown to him personally which made it possible for him to offend thus. By the subtlety of the enemy he was betrayed into glorying in a fleshly way in the blessing which should have drawn him nearer to God. How often it happens where one has made promises or resolutions as to conduct or service, and failure in regard to such has come in, that God is pleased to bring us up to our own proposal in the beginning! This is mortifying, but to the flesh only: the heart of the saint rejoices in all that is humbling to nature, and finds in the discomfiture of the flesh a way of return to God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:1313For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)). The Lord's dealing with Peter in John 21:15-1915So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 18Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. (John 21:15‑19) illustrates this.
But a few days before the visit of the Babylonian princes, Hezekiah had gone up to the house of Jehovah to pour out his soul in thanksgiving for the mercies received; he had said “I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.” No doubt at the time he meant it; but God put him to the proof as to this, and instead of “going softly” all his days, he rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him for his heart was lifted up. “Therefore was there wrath upon him and upon Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 32:2525But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. (2 Chronicles 32:25)). “God left him to try him that he might know all that was in his heart.” It was Israel in the wilderness over again (Deut. 8:22And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. (Deuteronomy 8:2)). All was known to God; but the object in His ways is to expose everything now, that we may clear ourselves morally, and humble ourselves in His presence. There may be much outward activity, and success too, that is, according to man's judgment; but He who searches the hearts may see that secretly working which, if not now manifested and judged, would lead to ultimate exposure and destruction at the judgment-seat of Christ of all that is built upon it.
It was characteristically the spirit of Babylon which Hezekiah had cherished and which must be cast out. “Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him” (Hab. 2:44Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)): words which God used of the Chaldean conqueror of Jerusalem in the day of Habakkuk, but how applicable now to the failing saint, who was not at the moment living by his faith! The spirit of Babylon had been entertained at Jerusalem, had been received in the house of the king of Judah, and had ensnared the heart of Jehovah's servant. Notice how quickly the proud heart ceases to be upright. Man is properly a weak dependent creature, and finds his strength only in constant reliance upon God. “My just one shall live by his faith,” so that he has nothing whatever in which to glory. “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” To appropriate the glory of another is unrighteous. God gave power to the king of Babylon, who misused it by casting God's servants into a burning furnace; but his action brought God amongst them as a Deliverer. The spirit of Babylon is far more to be dreaded than its power. It is proud and unrighteous; it flatters and ensnares the heart, and delights in moral confusion, for then its aims are not easily detected.
The spirit of Babylon was brought into the assembly at Corinth by those who reigned as kings without the apostles. That same spirit was brought in amongst the saints by “Hymenæus and Philetus, who concerning the truth erred, saying that the resurrection is passed already, overthrowing the faith of some.” And faith is the only thing that delivers from this present evil world; for it links us up with God and His beloved Son, and makes us overcomers in this deceived and defiled world. Resurrection is indeed accomplished in a great sense, i.e. for our standing and acceptance before God, as new creatures in Christ Jesus and as saints in our heavenly position and privileges. But as servants and good soldiers of Jesus Christ we must have the sentence of death in ourselves and qualify by suffering for the glorious position which yet awaits us in our resurrection. We must substantiate our title to the crown by bearing the cross and enduring hardness. Without risen life in Christ we should have neither spring nor object in heavenly glory; but it is the cross of Christ and not resurrection-life that determines and characterizes our position and circumstances in this world. Let us say with the devoted apostle, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.” The spirit of Babylon will not get hold of a heart satisfied with Christ, which holds the cross as an impassable barrier between itself and the world.
Hezekiah had been greatly used of God for cleansing His house and restoring His worship. In extraordinary energy of grace he had traveled beyond the narrow limits of his own kingdom of Judah, and had visited the crushed and scattered fragments of the larger kingdom of Israel, acting on their souls so as to come up to Jerusalem and keep the passover as God's redeemed people. God acknowledged his work of faith and labor of love with much blessing. It was all most acceptable; but God looked that the same character of holiness which had been restored to God's house should pervade the house, the family, and the heart of His servant. In the temple Hezekiah had been seen as a penitent, a suppliant, and a worshipper; but now the question he had to face was, “What have they seen in thy house?” Alas! for man; he had shown them everything, and certainly the display had been for his own glory and not for the glory of God. The wise men of Babylon had taken note of the wonder done in the land, they had come to connect it with God's people and with the son of David. Here was surely an opportunity of testimony to Jehovah. How great His power and His goodness on behalf of His afflicted servant! But the king of Babylon saw only the creature in it; and on the other hand, Hezekiah was glad to show it. Alas! how soon we respond to flattery. When the shadow of death had been upon him, he was cast upon God. Faith shone out brightly, and he confessed that “in all these [difficulties, pain and weakness] is the life of my spirit.” But brought up as it were from the grave, he forgot all the glory was due to God, and by his conduct gave occasion for the most solemn and precise announcement of judgment by the Chaldean that any king of Judah as yet had been required to bow to.
Has not all this a voice for us to-day? Outward reformation there may be. For many years saints have had the comfort and blessing of truth restored or received by the Spirit's ministry through the usual channels. “That which every joint supplieth” is truth which has to do with the body of Christ, the assembly, the house of God, etc. But God is interested in raising questions, which, if answered fairly and truly in His presence, may reveal strange and mournful inconsistencies as to our private life, our home life, and our business life.
“What have they seen in thy HOUSE?”