Of all the Old Testament kings, Hezekiah of Judah won heaven's highest approval rating. Unlike his predecessors, who flirted with Baal and Moloch, Hezekiah tore down the idolatrous high places. According to the biblical account, he "trusted in the Lord ... so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him" (2 Kin. 18:5, NASB).
Hezekiah provided great leadership during most of his career. He prayed and witnessed a miraculous victory over the Assyrians. Yet things did not go well at the end of his term in office. He stumbled badly by inviting the son of the pagan king of Babylon to pay an official palace visit.
Hezekiah showed his new foreign friend everything that was hidden in the national treasury—from the silver and gold to the armor and precious oil (see 2 Kin. 20:13). He established a cozy, first-name-basis relationship with an enemy of God's people. He opened a deadly door.
The Bible does not say why Hezekiah acted so foolishly. We can only imagine that he listened to bad advisers, feared Babylon's power, craved its king's approval or came under the spell of his witchcraft. As soon as Hezekiah said goodbye to his guest, the prophet Isaiah showed up and issued the king a dire warning: "Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that is laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left" (v. 17).
Babylon's hostile takeover of Judah was not a sudden invasion. Captivity began with a leader's compromise. When Hezekiah rolled out the red carpet and allowed the Babylonian prince to shop around, he sold his nation's godly heritage just to buy some political security.
The first moral of this story: If you don't guard the holy things God has entrusted to you, you will end up serving a foreign master. The second lesson: We need leaders today who have moral backbone and real spiritual staying power.
I can't help but draw some parallels between ancient Hezekiah's story and modern America's. In case you haven't noticed, we are officially on the road to Babylon. Our sacred national treasure has been placed on the auction block for everyone to bid on.
When I travel internationally it becomes more and more obvious that America's stock is falling. The dollar is weak. Our economy has slowed while China's and India's are heating up. Foreign countries are buying us out.
Cities such as Beijing, Dubai and Singapore are outpacing us technologically. Meanwhile our moral influence, once a positive force in the world, is being negated by all the pornography and trashy music videos we export. (Is that really what we want to be famous for—degrading the world's morals?)
America, once unashamedly Christian, is evolving into something thoroughly secular. We've lost our moorings and forgotten what we were called to believe in and fight for. For a politician to win a race in a national election these days, it seems he must favor abortion, become an advocate of gay marriage and remove any hint of moral rigidity. Religion is OK in the public arena only if it reflects Oprah's squishy, define-God-for-yourself theology.
When I was recently in India—a nation where Christianity is growing rapidly and the economy expanded 9.4 percent last year—several church leaders expressed their concern to me about America's spiritual state. They will forever be grateful for the missionaries we sent to their country in past decades, but they wonder now if we are backsliding. One leader told me he prays regularly for America because he fears we are headed for another major terrorist attack.
So much is at stake in this pivotal election season. All the frontrunners in the 2008 campaign seem eager to exchange the biblical values of our past for a politically correct Babylonian agenda.
We must pray fervently for divine intervention, lest we end up in exile. May God mercifully turn our wayward nation back to the faith of our fathers. And may whoever wins the White House in November guard our values rather than selling us into captivity.
J. Lee Grady is the editor of Charisma. Check out his weekly online column at fireinmybones.com.