King Hezekiah was a good man. He made a decision early on to follow the godly example of his forefather, David, and rejected the wicked practices of his father, Ahaz. It is written that, “He did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did” (2 Kings 18:3). He rebelled against Assyria and broke the alliance that had drawn Judah into paganism. But before Hezekiah made his final stand against Assyria, he nearly gave away the kingdom.
These early days of Hezekiah’s reign were glorious times in Judah, characterized by the king’s intolerance of evil, his faith in God, and his obedience to God’s Law. But it was also during these times that the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered and judged for their sins. Hezekiah had rebelled against the king of Assyria earlier; but now that the pagan kingdom had taken Israel, Hezekiah changed his attitude.
Faced with an invasion, Hezekiah apologized to Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Sennacherib demanded heavy tribute, which the king of Judah did pay by raiding the temple treasury as well as his own. His resistance to evil weakened with age. He was tired of fighting.
But evil is not appeased by compromise. Very soon, the armies that Hezekiah thought he had placated by bribery surrounded him in Jerusalem. His back was against the wall. The representatives of Sennacherib demanded that the inhabitants of the holy city surrender to them, turn themselves over to the invaders, and let them destroy the city. For many reasons, the king could not agree to these demands. Even a weakened character has limits as to how much it is willing to surrender. This is when he stood his ground, brought his troubles to the Lord, and saw God bring him a miraculous victory (see 2 Kings 19:15-19).
God is well able to meet any challenge that confronts the man who stands firm with Him for what is right. It is unbelief and the fear it generates which causes the man to yield when he ought to resist. It is weariness in well doing that puts into our mouths the language of defeat, apologizing for the boldness of our former days.
We Have Been There
The history of biblical Christianity reveals that great losses are preceded by defeatist language masked as progressive innovation. Believers have often talked about changing their ways in order to meet the challenges of “a new day.” Yet this king of talk has never ushered in a revival of spiritual Christianity. It has consistently preceded a period of tragedy and defeat for the cause of Christ.
Theological liberalism was introduced in the nineteenth century as a necessary adjustment for the preservation of Christianity. Christians were told that times were changing, and they would have to change their teachings to survive in a day of scientific advances and pragmatic thinking. The moral and ethical parts of the Bible would still be taught, they were told. Why quibble over historical and scientific accuracy when so many people needed the teachings of Jesus? Can we not save the core of Christianity by giving up teachings that offend the educated man? This was the language of liberal theology.
Yet liberalism in the churches did not save Christianity; it ate the heart out of it. The churches were not made stronger by the changes liberalism brought. They were weakened and nearly destroyed.
During the Second World War, evangelical youth ministries in America took the theme, “Anchored to the Rock: geared to the times.” The music of their evangelistic meetings was made more appealing to the “new generation.” Preachers talked more like radio personalities. Harsh denunciations of sin were replaced with more “positive” sermons (or “talks”). The old-time religion was going to be re-formatted for a new day, so that revival could be achieved in our time.
But the results were nothing like what was anticipated. The new spirit of the youth movements infected the fundamentalist movement as a whole, and changed it into the New Evangelicalism, which, in spite of its great influence and impressive achievements, has been a colossal failure. The hoped for revival never came.
The compromises with evil grew and spread. Ecumenical evangelism moved Bible-believers to endorse Bible-deniers, and churches adopted worldly ways which lead to carnality and shameless marketing methods. At its beginning, the great evangelical disaster was launched with words about “changing Christianity for a changing world.” They did not know it at the time, but it was the language of defeat.
The Time for Change
There are times and situations when Christian people and whole spiritual movements ought to repent of their ways, and make some real changes. Not every call to repentance represents the language of defeat. At the beginning of his reign, King Hezekiah made some big changes that needed to be made.
“He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4).
Legitimate adjustments in the policies, standards, teachings, and methods of God’s people are those mandated from Heaven. They are the changes necessary in our lives and ministries to gain the approval and blessing of the Lord.
Hezekiah made big changes in Judah in order to obey the Scriptures, and please God. That is exactly what we must do in these times of general defeat for our precious cause. The changes we ought to make are those that please God, not necessarily those that please men (Galatians 1:10).
What Shall We Do?
At a time when some of our brethren are calling for fundamentalists to make doubtful adjustments for “a changing world,” reason dictates that we do seven things.
We should consider exactly what proposals are being made.
We should distinguish between changes that involve conforming to the will of God expressed in the Bible, and those that involve conforming to the world in order (supposedly) to win men.
We should immediately recognize what things in our lives and ministries are shown by the light of Scripture to be displeasing to the Lord, and we should repent of them.
We should openly admit that any standards and policies we have followed in the past that violated scriptural principles were wrong then, just as they are now. When we are reluctant to call long-standing practices “wrong,” it may well be that they were not wrong, but that we are tempted to shed them for another reason.
We should be suspicious of proposed changes that move us in the direction of the world. Do we think that those who are dead in their sins can be resurrected if we learn to relate more fully to them? Is it our music that is keeping them from Christ, or our sins? Is it our holy living that is making our evangelism impotent, or is it the lack of God’s power in our lives? Do we need to revise fundamentalism, or do we need to be revived?
We should recognize the language of capitulation as the language of defeat, and stop using it! We live as we do, and sing as we sing, and witness as we witness, and preach what we preach, because this is what pleases God. We are not open to displeasing God in order to please men.
We should seek the face of the living God for the revival needed by His people everywhere.