Friday, May 25, 2007

The Strength of His Hands

The Strength of His Hands by Lynn Austin, Book 3 in the Chronicles of the Kings series.

The Strength of His Hands by Lynn Austin documents the ups and downs of Hezekiah's later reign. In his early years, the king's intentions were good, his devotion was strong. It seemed he could do no wrong. He was intent on saving his country from the evils of idolatry, but while he still finds idolatry unacceptable, repulsive even. He is not as strong as he thinks he is. The book opens with Hezekiah and his barren wife, Hepzibah, still upset over the fact that it's been a dozen years (maybe a little more) and still no child has been born. Hepzibah, never a strong believer to begin with, has fallen into idolatry. When Hezekiah catches her worshipping Asherah, and even learns that his wife has vowed to sacrifice her firstborn child, he is appalled. But in his rashness to destroy his wife's idols, he's badly burned. Now, near death, Hezekiah must face some hard truths. When Isaiah prophesies that his death is near, Hezekiah refuses to submit to God's will. He cries out in fervant prayer begging God for a second chance. A chance to continue his godly reign. A chance to have an heir to inherit the kingdom. Granted an extra fifteen years, Hezekiah may thinks this extra time is a blessing. But it's a mixed blessing at best. His reign begins to crumble as his neighboring countries all prepare for war. Should Hezekiah listen to the Babylonian envoys whose flattering lips praise his wondrous power and might? Should he make an alliance with Babylon? With Egypt? Philistine? All of the neighboring countries who worship false gods? Of course, his closest advisor, Eliakim, and the Lord's chosen prophet, Isaiah, are warning Hezekiah of the dangers of pride and human wisdom. The dangers of making alliances against the expressed will of God, but Hezekiah has become a little hard of hearing lately. Pushing God away, he begins to rely on his wisdom, on his army, and on the armies of his allies. What will happen when the Assyrians begin to invade Judah and seige Jerusalem? Can Hezekiah find the courage to repent and the strength to trust in God once more?

While the other novels in the series have focused on Hezekiah's strengths, The Strength of His Hands takes us to the difficult portions of his reign. The uncomfortable places where we see a godly man making a series of mistakes that will lead him into a dangerous place. Pride. One of the most dangerous sins. One of the most tempting sins. Easy to fall into, not so easy to escape.
The novel also focuses on the importance of discernment. Eliakim has to make a hard decision. To go along with the king's decisions and pretend he agrees with them, to resign his commission altogether, or to speak out against the king and his decisions and perhaps risk his job and his life. He knows that someone needs to say something. He knows the will of God should be voiced. He just has to make up his mind to submit himself to God and trust in him.

I love this book, and I am loving this series.