Faith and Action
One of the most transformative journeys for any Christian leader is learning to navigate well the relationship between faith and action. One leader who did so in a key moment of crisis was King Hezekiah of Judah. He was a leader who acted boldly while fully relying on God.
A Foundation of Faith
King Hezekiah prioritized his faith and relationship with God.
From the outset of his reign in the late 8th century BC, King Hezekiah prioritized his faith and relationship with God. “Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years… He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.” (2 Chron. 29:1-2)
As a new king, Hezekiah repaired the temple and had it consecrated. He charged the Levites to reject their forbears’ sins and to again serve God wholeheartedly. He had sacrifices made on the altar again, and restored worship to God: “King Hezekiah and his officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with gladness and bowed down and worshiped.” (2 Chron. 29:30)
Hezekiah also re-established key religious celebrations like Passover. “Hezekiah sent word to all Israel and Judah and also wrote letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, inviting them to come to the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (2 Chron. 30:1)
A Crisis of Faith
Hezekiah’s foundation of faith would soon be tested. “After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself.” (2 Chron. 32:1)
Judah was placed under siege by the most powerful leader and army of that time. King Sennacherib, and his ruthless Assyrian army, dominated wide swaths of the Mediterranean region. By the time this mighty army reached King Hezekiah’s threshold, it had laid waste fortified cities throughout Judah. In 2 Kings 18:13 we read: “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.”
Sennacherib sensed an easy victory. A stone prism cataloging Sennacherib's military campaigns has been preserved, and on it we read in part: “As for Hezekiah the Judahite, who did not submit to my yoke: forty-six of his strong, walled cities, as well as the small towns in their area, which were without number, by leveling with battering-rams and by bringing up siege-engines, and by attacking and storming on foot, by mines, tunnels, and breeches, I besieged and took them… (Hezekiah) himself, like a caged bird I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city.” (Bible History Online, bible-history.com)
To Sennacherib, Hezekiah was a “caged bird,” and he sent officers to deliver threats against Jerusalem’s citizens and their God: “This is what Sennacherib king of Assyria says: On what are you basing your confidence, that you remain in Jerusalem under siege? When Hezekiah says, ‘The Lord our God will save us from the hand of the king of Assyria,’ he is misleading you, to let you die of hunger and thirst… Do you not know what I and my predecessors have done to all the peoples of the other lands? Were the gods of those nations ever able to deliver their land from my hand?” (2 Chron. 32:10-11, 13)
Bold Action and Courage
Hezekiah didn’t shrink from Sennacherib’s threats, but instead took bold action.
Hezekiah didn’t shrink from Sennacherib’s threats, but instead took bold action. “He appointed military officers over the people and assembled them before him in the square at the city gate and encouraged them with these words: ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.’ And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.” (2 Chron. 32:6-8)
Hezekiah knew Assyria’s might. He heard the threats of Sennacherib, but he responded by urging faith in God. He took courageous action to rebuild old walls and construct new walls and towers. Hezekiah made weapons and shields. He also engineered an amazing tunnel through sheer stone deep beneath Jerusalem to channel a reliable source of water for the city.
We read about this water channel in 2 Chronicles 32:30: “It was Hezekiah who blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring and channeled the water down to the west side of the City of David. He succeeded in everything he undertook.”
In 2018, my wife Kristin and I visited Israel and navigated Hezekiah’s Tunnel. We were amazed water was still to be found there more than two and a half millennia since this engineering wonder was first constructed.
Humble Prayer and Deliverance
Hezekiah acted boldly to prepare, but he knew ultimately only God could bring victory against such a foe. He joined with the Prophet Isaiah to humbly seek God’s help. “King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz cried out in prayer to heaven about this.” (2 Chron. 32:20)
God responded with a profound miracle of deliverance that ultimately required none of Hezekiah’s new swords or shields: “And the Lord sent an angel, who annihilated all the fighting men and the commanders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace.” (2 Chron. 32:21)
We read an even more startling description of this event in 2 Kings 19:35 which says: “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies!”
What a profound difference in two leaders. Sennacherib made his military calculations without God in the equation, while Hezekiah made his defensive preparations fully dependent upon God’s intervention.
Faith and Action Today
What about us as leaders today?
What about us as leaders today? When should we act boldly? How do we prioritize faithfully depending on God?
Here’s what I appreciate about Hezekiah’s story. As a leader, King Hezekiah acted to prepare. He tunneled water. He built walls and towers. He forged new weapons. He organized troops, and encouraged them to depend on God. He was absolutely right to act and to prepare. Yet, as a leader who prioritized his relationship with God, he was also a man of prayer who humbly “cried out” to his heavenly Father for help. Hezekiah knew victory ultimately belonged to God.
I have certainly experienced this in my own life and leadership – prayerfully launching out to plan and create, but ultimately depending on God to guide my steps. It’s beautiful to see how God exceeds what we could ever do in our own strength. That brings God the glory. I think that’s the sweet spot for us as leaders. It means listening to God and humbly surrendering results to him, while actively and assertively engaging in the work.
My hope for us as Christian leaders is that we can learn from examples of leaders like Hezekiah who modeled both faith and action. Let’s continue to actively grow our skills and expertise. Let's build strategies, guide our teams and pursue kingdom missions; but let’s always do so prayerfully submissive to, and dependent upon, our loving heavenly Father.
We’re simply stewards. The work is the Lord’s. Such a transformational approach to leadership embraces both faith and action, perfectly intertwined.