May 2, 2021

People over programs

People over programs

Babylon sends an envoy to Hezekiah in celebration of his recovery, Hezekiah responds by showing them the wealth of Judah. Why does this upset the prophet Isaiah? And what does it have to do with being a citizen of a city on a hill?

Greensburg Church of the Nazarene
31 Bluebird Lane, Greensburg, KY 42743

Christian Podcaster Association


**not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript**




Matthew 5:14 says, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.” This verse is the mission statement of the Greensburg Church of the Nazarene. Where God has placed this building, our church is not designed to be hidden. 


By professing faith in Jesus, His light dwells in you. That makes you and me citizens of this city on a hill. We are citizen-soldiers serving in this outpost of the Kingdom of heaven. And as such, we need to be brave. At least that is what I’ve been telling you for the last year.


Beginning this week and over this month, we are taking the next step in our understanding. We are going to talk about the core values connected with our mission statement. What are the things that are important to citizens of a city on a hill?


Isaiah 39:1-8


1 At that time King Merodach-baladan son of Baladan of Babylon sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. 2 Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them. 3 Then the prophet Isaiah came to King Hezekiah and said to him, “What did these men say? From where did they come to you?” Hezekiah answered, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.” 5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: 6 Days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which you have stored up until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord. 7 Some of your own sons who are born to you shall be taken away; they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you, have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.” (NRSV)


This is the Word of God, for the people of God, thanks be to God.


What does this passage have to do with being a citizen of a city on hill? What does it tell us about what is important to us? Before we can answer that, we need to grasp what the Bible is telling us in this passage, focusing on King Hezekiah.


IN THE TEXT: After me the flood

***[v1-2] SHOWING OFF***


You can find this story also in 2 King 20, which gives a little more of back story. Hezekiah falls gravely ill, and God tells him he is going to die. Not wanting to die, Hezekiah pleads with God to spare his life. God graciously answers Hezekiah, saying He is going to give Hezekiah fifteen more years.


Upon hearing of Hezekiah’s recovery, the King of Babylon sends him an envoy carrying letters and a present. There is more going in this act than meets the eye. King Merodach-baladan is not simply being nice, he is seeking to build an alliance with Hezekiah to help him stand against the Assyrians.


This explains Hezekiah’s actions. He goes around all over Jerusalem, showing off everything. Verse 2 says Hezekiah showed them, “his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses.” Hezekiah wanted Babylon to know that Judah was a powerful ally with plenty of resources they could contribute to an alliance.


***[v3-7] SOUNDING OFF***


It is not clear if King Hezekiah is alone or if the delegation was still present, but the prophet Isaiah did not care. Whether God came to Isaiah in a vision, or he seen Hezekiah showing off, Isaiah boldly enters uninvited. Isaiah was not a puppet of the king; he was God’s messenger. God’s presence with him gave Isaiah the boldness to confront Hezekiah.


Verse 3 in the NRSV read, “Isaiah came to King Hezekiah and said to him…”. The word “said” is not strong enough, which you can sense from the question Isaiah asks Hezekiah. Isaiah is demanding the king of Judah, “What are you doing?” 


Hezekiah confesses to the shameless self-promotion. He tells Isaiah that he showed the Babylonians everything! All treasure, all the wealth, and all the power. As king, Hezekiah was proud to put his nation on display to potential allies.


God was not pleased with Hezekiah’s pride, nor the king’s carelessness. These were not friends visiting, these were potential allies. There only common ground would be against the Assyrians, and Hezekiah showed off everything. And this is the reason Isaiah confronts him.


***[v8] SPOUTING OFF***


Isaiah passes on God’s sentence to Hezekiah. Everything is going to be carried off to Babylon. (verse 6) This is what Hezekiah hears from Isaiah: You are going to have sons (his line would continue on the throne) and the bad stuff will not happen in your lifetime. In verse 8, Hezekiah responds, “The word of the Lord that you have shared is good. There will be peace and security in my time.” He has no concern for the future, only himself.

FROM THE TEXT: Christ in me, after His treasure


What does this have to with being a citizen of a city on a hill? It begins with understanding that pride values accomplishment. God had blessed Judah and Hezekiah during his reign as king. Hezekiah paraded God’s blessing before the Babylonians, saying “Look how good I am, my God has blessed me with all this as proof.” The focus was on the stuff. When Hezekiah learns all the stuff is going to be taken away, the concern is not for the people who are impacted, but that Hezekiah himself will not have to deal with it.


There is someone in this passage who does deal with all these things be carried to Babylon. Isaiah, the prophet of God. He lives to see this prophecy play out. Hezekiah is long dead, but I bet the memory of this moment haunted Isaiah’s mind. Isaiah, as God’s messenger, put priority on the king and the people, but Hezekiah was more concerned about stuff and his own security. Pride values accomplishment, the Kingdom of Heaven values people.


Jesus Christ came to save people, not stuff. In Mark 10:45, Jesus says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (NET) He gave himself for the redemption of people. Hezekiah valued himself and stuff, but Isaiah as messenger for the same God who is Jesus, valued people.


BEYOND THE TEXT: People over programs


What does this have to with being a citizen of a city on a hill? Citizens of a city on a hill value people over programs. We have a beautiful building, with a gorgeous location. While that does have value, the building is meaningless without people. And we can fill this building will all kinds of Bible studies, prayer groups, kids’ ministries, teen ministries, outreach programs, and small groups, but these are tools for us in a much greater purpose. Our purpose is the redemption of people, so we value people and getting them to Jesus.


Our pride is not in ourselves, or the stuff we have. We are citizen-soldiers of this outpost of the Kingdom of heaven. Just as Jesus demonstrated to us by giving himself for our redemption, we value people being redeemed by giving up ourselves so Jesus can shine through us.




Paul writes about this in 2 Corinthians, “…in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people’s trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making his plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” (5:19-20, NET) Through the Holy Spirit, these words beckon you and me to put our pride, expectations, and value in things aside. Let’s place our value in the lives of people and them hearing the message of Jesus.