16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 19 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?” (2 Kings 20:16-19)
Hezekiah was good king, obedient in the ways of the Lord. But when God gave him extra time to the tune of 15 years (2 Kings 20:1-11), he made one critical error—an error that didn’t seem to concern him much. When, acting the proper host, he took the Babylonian envoys all over the palace and showed them everything (“all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses”—v. 13), Isaiah conveyed God’s displeasure. These Babylonians would carry that treasure off as their enemies and take all the people of Judah into exile for 70 years—even some of his own sons!
Hezekiah’s response? The Lord has spoken a good word. Hezekiah’s thought? At least it won’t be on my watch!
Everything we do, everything we put forward has a ripple effect—a consequence for the next generation. Carl Trueman wrote a thought-provoking article recently entitled T-t-t-talkin’ Bout My Generation (But Thinking About the One After Next) which delves into the issue of our legacy and the legacy of the churches and Christians institutions we would leave behind. He notes:
One cannot truly assess a Christian leader until one can see clearly what his legacy is. That is sobering to anyone who is a minister, from the pastor of a small church to the international statesman.
The basis of the article is that a pastor or church leader cannot simply be fixated upon the individual—although we must recognize that God does deal with us individually. The leader must have a wider scope than this. He reminds us of the downgrade of evangelical decline:
The first generation fights for orthodoxy;
The second generation assumes it;
The third generation abandons it.
In the account above, Hezekiah only thought about the effects of his administration and his actions in his own generation. This is wrong-headed thinking of the first order.
We as leaders must be thinking one or two generations ahead. We’ve seen it in academia: that which was taught in the classroom in the 1960s and 1970s is now being pushed as public policy and law now. The same is true in the church: what we preach in the pulpit and small groups now will have a trickle-down effect in the pew in the days and years ahead.