10 Leadership Lessons for Hard Times from Hezekiah

Hezekiah's SealThe picture at the top of this post is a recently discovered seal from the reign of Hezekiah. Archaeology and history have confirmed the biblical description of Hezekiah and his reign over the southern kingdom of Judah. Hezekiah was a remarkable leader in many ways. This post is a reflection on 10 leadership lessons from Hezekiah’s reign over Judah. These lessons are particularly applicable for those leading in hard times.

  1. Sometimes you’re dealt a bad hand. Hezekiah didn’t have the privilege of leading a unified Israel, nor did he reign during the golden age of Judah. Rather, Hezekiah found himself leading God’s people on the tail end of their national history. Exile was right around the corner. Sometimes, as a leader, you inherit difficult circumstances.
  2. You don’t have to make the mistakes of your predecessor. Hezekiah’s father was a man named Ahaz. Ahaz is remembered as a king who deviated from the example of David by leading Israel into idolatry. When Hezekiah became king he didn’t follow his dad’s wicked example. Leaders don’t have to walk the foolish paths of their predecessors.
  3. You can’t ensure your successor follows your example. Hezekiah’s son was a man named Manasseh. Manasseh is remembered as a king who deviated from the example of his father by rebuilding the idols Hezekiah destroyed. Manasseh’s enthusiasm for idolatry is a reminder that a good leader cannot control the actions of his successor.
  4. Being misunderstood is part of leadership. Hezekiah tried to remove the high places where Israelites engaged in idolatrous worship. Later when Assyria invaded Judah, Hezekiah was mocked for removing the high places, and this mockery was based on a gross misunderstanding of Hebrew worship. Leaders always run the risk of being misunderstood.
  5. There are times when you have to make hard decisions. In Hezekiah’s 14th year, Assyria tried to invade Judah. In an attempt bribe the king of Assyria, Hezekiah stripped the gold from the temple doors to save his people. Surely this was not an easy decision, but Hezekiah knew he wouldn’t win an outright fight. Leaders make hard decisions.
  6. Sometimes traditions need to be challenged. For centuries, the Jews clung to the old bronze snake Moses made in the wilderness. They even named it and started worshiping it! Hezekiah ended that tradition by destroying the snake. He also brought back the Passover after decades of neglect. Leaders know some traditions must change.
  7. It is OK to be honest about your circumstances. When it looked like outright war with Assyria was going to happen, Hezekiah went to the temple to plead his case with the Lord. Part of that prayer involved presenting the “facts” to God and acknowledging the devastation Assyria had spread all over the earth. Honesty is ok if you’re a leader.
  8. It is essential to pray about your circumstances. A rant-styled-pity-party could have expressed Hezekiah’s honest assessment of his dire circumstances. However, Hezekiah did more than honestly assess the situation. He also turned to the Lord, the God of Israel for help, trusting God and asking for salvation. Good leaders are quick to pray.
  9. God can do miraculous things for his people. Hezekiah experienced the miraculous on more than one occasion. When God slaughtered an army of 185,00 Assyrians, it was a miracle. When God rolled back the sun dial and added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, it was a miracle. Godly leaders must always remember that God can do the impossible.
  10. Leaders must always give God the glory. At the end of his life, Hezekiah was put to the test. A group of Babylonians came to inquire about the miraculous tales they had heard about Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Hezekiah showed them his money and his military, but he did not show them his God. Leaders must always remember to give God the glory.

The story of Hezekiah can be found in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 29-32, and Isaiah 36-39.

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