It is an interesting fact of life that trouble seems to come in bundles. In the middle of a serious national crisis, the catastrophic Assyrian invasion, Hezekiah was hit with some kind of life-threatening, painful medical problem. A tragedy is bad enough, but now it was complicated with personal health issues.

Honestly, I have been there, where trouble just keeps finding me. I thought it could not get any worse … and then it did.

At Death’s Door 

So, at the age of thirty-nine, Hezekiah received the devastating news that he was going to die—and soon. What would happen to his country? Who would lead the people, especially through this Assyrian crisis? 

A good part of what made this illness so awful for Hezekiah, besides the fact that he was a young man, was that he had no son, no heir, so his line would be cut off. In ancient Israel, this was even worse than physically dying, for it meant one’s inheritance in the land would be lost forever. No Jubilee could ever recover it, for one’s name had gone to the grave as well.

Hezekiah’s first thought, as he lay in his bed, was to turn away from the world by turning his face to the wall. But in his heart he turned, towards God by praying. He did not ask God for anything. He just poured his heart out in sorrow, remembering how he had walked with God, and done what was right in God’s eyes.

Centuries later, Paul would describe what happens when we pray but cannot find words to describe what is happening within us.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words. And God, who searches hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Romans 8:26-27 (NRSV)

Hezekiah’s anguished elegy of himself before the Lord was enough for God.

Hezekiah on his erstwhile deathbed | By Wellcome Gallery: Wellcome Collection gallery (2018-03-30): CC BY 4.0

Death Where Is Thy Sting?

No sooner had Hezekiah sent up his prayer in tears,

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah:

“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria and defend this city.

God to Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:4-6 NRSV)

Then Isaiah applied a common remedy of his day, a poultice of figs, but God used it miraculously to heal. There are countless testimonies of how medical care and God’s divine intervention often work together.

Hezekiah’s recovery authenticated the Lord’s promise to deliver Judah from the Assyrians, but God also gave a miraculous sign

“This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.

God to Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:7-8 (NRSV)

This was an unmistakable and very public event that must have bolstered the faith of the whole palace, and royal troops, something they were going to need very soon.

Isaiah delivering God’s word to Hezekiah | By Gertrude C. Marks ?Internet Archive Book Images – book page: , No restrictions

By God’s Design?

It has been suggested that perhaps the king’s grave illness was by God’s design, to bring Hezekiah into repentance so that he would cry out to God. If that is true, it worked

Surely it was for my welfare
    that I had great bitterness,
but you have held back my life
    from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
    behind your back.
For Sheol cannot thank you;
    death cannot praise you;
those who go down to the Pit cannot hope
    for your faithfulness.

Hezekiah to God, 38:17-18 (NRSV)

Three years later Hezekiah’s son and heir, Manasseh was born

The living, the living, they thank you,
    as I do this day;
fathers make known to children
    your faithfulness.

Hezekiah to God, Isaiah 38:19 (NRSV)

Godliness is not the same as sinlessness. You and I sometimes make the mistake of thinking they are the same thing, but we know we are less than perfect. Then we feel inadequate, we are afraid other people are going to catch on that we are not perfect, and therefore not godly, so we try to hide what we see as our imperfections.

You and I can take heart from Hezekiah’s life story. Remember. God considered him a godly man, he did what was right in God’s eyes, he trusted God, and kept God’s word. The Lord was with Hezekiah, and Hezekiah held fast to the Lord. That does not mean he was perfect.

In the first crisis, Hezekiah tried to pay tribute to Sennacherib rather than trust the Lord. Hezekiah’s reliance on his own resources, his willingness to strip the temple for political purposes, his alliance with Egypt were all signs of a growing pride of self, and a fraying faith in God.

God’s test in the form of advancing Assyrian forces provided the opportunity for great faith. But Hezekiah failed the test by relying on himself rather than bringing his problem to God.

God sent another test, a more urgent test, and in desperation, Hezekiah remembered his faith in God. He prayed for the Lord’s mercy and deliverance.

Deliverance by Faith

There is a spiritual maxim, here. God will present us with the same kind of trouble again and again. We will try first this way, then that in our attempts to avoid the issue, tackle the trial, deal with it or push the responsibility onto someone else. But here it comes again, the very same thing we thought we had gotten away from.

As with Hezekiah, there is a chance this is by God’s design, giving us one opportunity after another to trust the Lord, to pray, to make godly choices.

Trusting God turns the deepest crisis into the highest praise

A musician and poet, Hezekiah’s song of praise in this chapter is divided into two major sections.

In the first division, Hezekiah described his heartbreak over God’s decree that he was going to die. In the second division, Hezekiah joyously reflected on the grace God had extended to him, and the lessons he learned during this emotionally wrenching ordeal.

There is something in that. Hezekiah wanted to remember what he had learned, so he recorded this powerful lesson when it was fresh. Surely, as he was about to face the Assyrian siege, he had this to bolster his courage and his faith. He also had a song of praise to help him remember God’s mercy, power, love, and faithfulness.

Untimely death, and debilitating illnesses can strike anyone. Sometimes God chooses to heal physically, and sometimes God chooses not to heal, depending on the Lord’s overarching plan not just for individual lives, but for eternity. Famous, godly people get sick, and sometimes they die as a result.  Everybody is going to die someday, as the writer of Hebrews so tersely reminds us,

Just as it is appointed for mortals to die once and after that the judgment.

Hebrews 9:27 (NRSV)

We just do not know when.

Hezekiah was given the gift of another fifteen years of life. But really, every day of our lives is a gift from God. May it be that we use this gift with wisdom and thanksgiving every new morning.

Hezekiah receiving God’s word to him through Isaiah … with a hint to what the next crisis will be, looking through the open door. By RijksmuseumCC0

Leave a Reply