Guaranteed safety brought about a sense of apathy. He went soft.
He was comfortable now. Hey, I'm going to live for another 15 years. Babylon's coming? That's not my problem. We'll let them worry about it. We'll let the next generation handle that problem.
I have 15 years of guaranteed health and guaranteed safety. He evidently coasts. At that moment, ladies and gentlemen, Hezekiah lost the ability to communicate to the next generation what it would take to survive. King Hezekiah had a disease that would take his life. He didn't want to die, so he cried out to God and God granted him 15 more years to live. But what happened next in Hezekiah's life serves as a warning to all of us.
Hezekiah grew complacent. His final 15 years were not good years. We're going to explore his life and learn some valuable lessons today. This message is from our Vintage Wisdom Library here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Stephen Davey returns to his series entitled We Three Kings with this lesson that he's calling Terminal. Can you imagine having someone appear at your doorstep, let's say the prophet Isaiah himself, and tell you your future? In this proof of his authenticity, he turns the clocks on the walls back miraculously and extra hours are given to your day.
Well, this actually happened to someone. It was the king Hezekiah. Now as I reentered my study on the life of this man, it was surprising for me to learn that something else had been going on in his life.
During this time of national crisis, he was also experiencing a time of personal crisis. Would you look at chapter 20 where we'll pick our story up in 2 Kings chapter 20 and verse 1, and let's look just at the first few words before we get too much further into the text. In those days, Hezekiah became mortally ill. Well, the question is in what days? Well, if you put the clues together, you discover that Hezekiah was 39 years of age here, and it's the 14th year of his reign. Now 2 Kings chapter 18 informs us that it's during the 14th year of his reign that Sennacherib invades his homeland.
Can you imagine? He is terrorized from without by this warlord who is so brutal and his people so cruel that they've already developed a reputation for stacking skulls around the perimeter of the countries or the cities that they defeat in battle. According to this verse, Sennacherib, however, wasn't Hezekiah's only problem.
Have you ever thought, why does trouble come in pairs? Well, during the 14th year of Hezekiah, he is facing a different challenge, one that we might have missed. It's a personal crisis. It is a crisis that I am convinced Hezekiah would have given away his kingdom to solve. He was terminally ill. Look at verse 1 again. In those days, Hezekiah became mortally, you could render another translation in the margin of your text, terminally. In those days, Hezekiah became terminally ill. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amos, came to him and said to him, Thus says the Lord, set your house in order, for you shall die and not live. Imagine, the prophet of God appearing on your doorstep and announcing, Hezekiah, your illness will not be cured.
Make sure your insurance papers are all in order. Go ahead and pick out the grave plot. Have your dark blue robe pressed. Go ahead and pick out the hymns you want sung at your funeral. You're not going to live. You're going to die from this illness.
Some of you have heard the words terminal, haven't you? Some of you have heard the words incurable. Some of you today have a far greater appreciation for life because you've heard them than before you had heard them. Perhaps you've selected the hymns for a friend or a relative. You've arranged those last details after they've heard that grim report, you will not live much longer.
This sickness cannot be cured. Maybe you can identify with Hezekiah as he responds to Isaiah in verse 2. Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Thy sight. I think you could write underneath this prayer four words that summarize all his prayers and all his tears.
The words, I don't understand why. Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a whole heart. I don't understand this. You need to understand a couple of things as Bible students. First of all, in the Old Covenant, the promises of long life are given to the godly. That's why he makes reference to the way that he's walked. He's 39 years old here and yet he's saying, Lord, I've walked in truth. I've walked with a whole heart.
I've kept the law. Think of what he had restored in the land that would be a testimony to his integrity to the God of Israel. You also need to understand, I think, the view of death in the Old Testament saint's mind is far different from yours.
Mine with our New Covenant teaching in the New Testament. We know about the Father's house. We know about the streets of gold.
We know the name of the Savior. To the Old Testament saint Sheol was a grim, foreboding place, as we'll see in a moment. As he describes, it's a place where there isn't any praise or thanksgiving.
It was an eerie place that they would dread. But we can't fault them because even though we know what we know about death, when we get a report like this, we don't shout hallelujah. He's reeling from this report. I want you to hold your finger here and turn to the book of Isaiah.
Turn ahead a few books. To Isaiah chapter 38. This is the poem that he composes in light of his terminal illness, which is a good thing to do.
Right. He recovers and he's writing now in light of that. Verse 10, Hezekiah says, I said, you could just in the margin of your mind remember what he's saying here is this is how I felt, this is what I said to God after this report. Verse 10, in the middle of my life I am to enter the gates of Sheol. I am to be deprived of the rest of my years.
Can you hear the anguish there? Skip to verse 12. Like a shepherd's tent, my dwelling is pulled up and removed from me. In other words, he's saying, Lord, you've just ripped the stakes out of the ground. There once was a tent, that is, there once was activity in life, there was a home, and as quick as a shepherd can roll up his tent and pull up the stakes and leave with his flock, you have taken my life from me. It's happened so fast. Verse 14, Like a swallow, like a crane, so I twitter, I moan like a dove. My eyes look wistfully to the heights, that is, I find myself staring off into space with clouded eyes. O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security.
Isn't that good? Aren't you glad the Lord didn't take us to the home of a terminally ill man and only let us hear the words, Hallelujah, I'm on my way home. Look at verse 18, For she old cannot thank thee, death cannot praise thee, those who go down to the pit cannot hope for thy faithfulness, it is the living who give thanks to thee as I do today.
Now remember, Hezekiah doesn't know the future like we know the future from the Word. He has no idea of what glory he will be in store for. But he says what we say, Lord, why take the life of a godly person who can praise you with their life and their lips? Why take them out?
There isn't the sound of praise emanating from the graveyard. What good does that do? Maybe you've asked the same kind of question, I know I have. Why do you end the ministry of a man like Peter Marshall at a young age? Why do you take the life of a missionary like Jim Elliott?
By the way, Jim Elliott asked the same question of others before him and let me read you what he wrote. He said, I must not think it strange if God takes in youth those whom I would have kept on earth until they were older. God is populating eternity and I must not restrict him to old men and old women. Well, these are the thoughts, transparent and bold, of a man who's gotten from this prophet, this grim report. And I'm glad that God allowed us to read it. Now go back to 2 Kings, would you notice the last phrase of verse 3? Again, we're given the behind closed doors response of Hezekiah. And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Someone wrote, if tears were made of indelible ink instead of clear fluid, all of us would be stained for life early on. That's true, I thought about that.
You know, from the life of a little child it wouldn't be long before there would be long rivers of stain coming from the bottom of the eyes and cascading down the cheeks and little rivlets and dropping off the edge of each little face. Misfortunes, one wrote, never come singly and there are sometimes when all you can do is cry, like he did. What I appreciate about Hezekiah is that he had a relationship with the Lord from what we can put together and study that was refreshingly bold. You remember how in our last study he took the letter from Sennacherib and he went into the temple and he unfolded it before the Lord and with great boldness he implied, okay, you read it.
I know you're alive, you can see it, now act. Please, according to your will, he laid it out before the Lord. Now, on what he believes to be his deathbed, he prays again with boldness and frankness.
There's no pietism, there isn't any mysticism, there isn't any false spirituality. He's literally praying for his life and he has something to teach us, I think, about prayer, this Old Testament saint. First is this, the prayer motive is as important to God as the prayer request. In fact, motives make prayers.
Did you catch, as we didn't have time really to look very long at Isaiah 38, but did you catch the underlying theme of his motive? Lord, I can't praise you in death, like I can praise you in life. The implication is, Lord, I want to praise you with my life.
I want to give you glory with my life. When he laid that letter out before the Lord, he prayed, Lord, move against this warlord. But at the very end of his prayer he said, so that, here's the motive, so that all the nations may know that thou alone art God.
That's the motive. Why do we pray? What are the motives behind our prayers?
Crisis, invade your life, and you know the right thing to say as well. Would you pray about that? Let's pray.
Why? For him it was for the glory of God. The second thing we learn from this rather open and honest and kind of a no-holds-barred relationship with the Lord, his God, the God of Israel, is this, prayer is not just a transaction, it is an interaction. For most of us, most of the time our prayers are kind of like transactions.
We have this requisition form in our mind and we go to God and we have it all filled out. Lord, this is what I need. Okay, he's up there and he has his pencil behind his ear and he says, all right, I'll look over your requisition form and you've seemingly prayed long enough for it.
I'll sign off and fill it out and you can drive around to the back and pick it up. Lord, I need this. I want this. Give me this. Okay, you can have it if you're good. We miss the point that prayer is really interaction between us and our Father and it is that interaction that is more important than the transaction.
It itself is purifying. It makes us like him. I'm going to read you some rather interesting words from an author I enjoy reading, George MacDonald, who wrote this.
Listen carefully here. What if God knows prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God's idea of prayer is a supplying of our great and endless need, the need of himself? Hunger may drive the runaway child home.
He may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his parents more than he needs his dinner. Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need. Prayer is the beginning of that communion of talking with God, of coming to oneness with God. The truth of the matter is, ladies and gentlemen, when crises occur and we run to God, you've found it to be true, haven't you, that you find in him much more than an answer. Look at verse 4.
And it came about before Isaiah had gone out to the middle court that the word of the Lord came to him saying, Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of my people. Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, I have heard your prayer. Look at all these words.
You ought to underline them. I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you.
Do you wonder if God hears your prayer and sees your tears? Well, that's good. On the third day, you shall go up to the house of the Lord. That is, it will take you three days to recover. And I will, here is this future given to him in one capsule sentence. I will add 15 years to your life.
Imagine hearing that. I will deliver you in this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's sake. Then Isaiah said, Take a cake of figs, and they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. Evidently this disease that had manifested itself in this poisonous boil that would have taken his life with the additional use of medicine here. Medicine of this day is cured. Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me?
I love this man's openness here. I appreciate the fact you've said God will heal me. Now it's going to take three days.
What can you tell me now to let me know I'm going to live? Isaiah said, This will be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has spoken, and shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps? So Hezekiah answered, It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps. No, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps. And Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord, and he brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz. Right outside his window there's this obelisk, or some kind of form that had steps leading up to it upon which they could determine time. The shadow of the sun, its rays on these steps could indicate the time. Now I've read a half a dozen explanations on this miracle. The earth actually reversed on its axis. There was an earthquake that moved the steps.
Isaiah pulled a trick on Hezekiah. You know, he was sick and couldn't see well. There was a refraction of the sun's rays.
There was an eclipse which temporarily obscured the sun's rays. These are all profoundly exciting explanations, by the way, and did a lot for my devotional life. But anyway, I read them all, and I can tell you that this is one of those cases where we do not know. God chose to remain quiet on the subject, and when he is quiet it's a little dangerous for us to become vocal.
But what we do know is this. Isaiah prayed it, and God did it, and Hezekiah saw it. And the proof of that miracle is the later miracle, and that is that Hezekiah recovers, and he lives. Guess how long?
15 years. What a coincidence. Now I also read a lot of debate on should Hezekiah have ever prayed to live, which is always, well, it's kind of interesting to me, since all of us would have prayed the same thing. I've never met anybody in a hospital who asked me to pray that they wouldn't recover. He's praying what we would pray. Yet at the same time, I think we can learn from what will happen next in his life as we wrap his biography up, that it's best that we are not given insight into the future, because the same two problems that occurred in his life after this will more than likely occur in our lives. Let me give them to you.
Problem number one is the problem of, or the threat of self-sufficiency. Look at verse 12. At that time, Barodach, Baladin, the son of Baladin, king of Babylon, sent letters in a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick.
He sent him some get-well cards and things. Verse 13. And Hezekiah listened to them and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and the house of his armor and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them. Then Isaiah the prophet came to king Hezekiah and said to him, What did these men say, and from where have they come to you?
Hezekiah said, They've come from a far country, from Babylon. And he said, What have they seen in your house? So Hezekiah answered, They've seen all that is in my house. There's nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them. You notice the references to my house, me, my, my treasures? You won't find one reference in their conversations to God.
What a wonderful opportunity before these emissaries of the court of Babylon to represent the power of God that made this possible, and there's never a reference. It led me to think that there's a problem here. Guaranteed health, I think, brought a loss of perspective. When you're healthy, you tend to look at yourself. Oh, look at the way I'm eating. Oh, look at the miles I jog.
All those are good. Look at the things I'm doing. Yet when you're sick, you go to God with abandonment. Warren Wiersbe made the point that he felt that Hezekiah was safer on his deathbed spiritually than he was healthy on his throne.
I want to suggest a second problem. It's the threat of spiritual complacency. This is a little clearer. Verse 16, then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, hear the word of the Lord. Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your sons who shall issue from you whom you shall get shall be taken away, and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon. Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, the word of the Lord which you have spoken is good.
Now, let me stop here. It would have never occurred to the mind of Hezekiah that his enemy was Babylon, which at this point in time is nothing more than a glorified village. Oh, the problem on the scene of world affairs is Assyria. He had no idea that it would be Babylon who'd go back to their little kingdom with their notes and their snapshots and their journals and tell their king, look, if we ever get the chance, there's a kingdom we ought to overthrow. It's loaded with riches.
And it has discerning young men. And they will come in another generation and take young men, among them, Daniel and Meshach and Abednego, back with them to Babylon. Well, notice verse 19 again that Hezekiah said to Isaiah, this is sad here. The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good, for he fought.
Is it not so if there shall be peace and truth in my days? Guaranteed safety brought about a sense of apathy. He went soft.
He was comfortable now. Hey, I'm going to live for another 15 years. Babylon's coming? That's not my problem. We'll let them worry about it. We'll let the next generation handle that problem. I have 15 years of guaranteed health and guaranteed safety.
We'll let them worry about it. At that moment, ladies and gentlemen, Hezekiah lost the ability to communicate to the next generation what it would take to survive. For the next 15 years, he evidently coasts. I find it interesting that during that 15-year period, his son is born who will take the throne. And when his son mounts the throne, he has absolutely no spiritual vitality whatsoever. In fact, he goes down in history as Judah's most wicked king.
I'm not laying it all at Hezekiah's feet. But what did that son see? I'll tell you what he didn't see. He never saw his father agonizing over the will of God with an enemy besieging the city. He didn't see his father agonize over a personal crisis.
He saw a father coast. Now, a life devoid of the tension of sickness or danger might seem to us to be the kind of life to live. It would be the life for me if God could just send a prophet to my doorstep and say, look, you've got nothing to worry about for 15 more years. Wouldn't that be great?
I don't think it would be. In fact, I think the same apathy and loss of perspective would follow. We'd grow spiritually soft. Let me read you something that I pulled out of a book by Swindoll entitled Come Before Winter. You've probably put that book in your library. You ought to if you haven't. He wrote a chapter entitled Tension in the Tank. He said it takes tension to develop the right texture.
That sort of piqued my interest, and I read further. He said, in the northeastern United States, codfish are not only delectable, they are a big commercial business. There's a market for eastern cod all over, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline.
But the public demand poses a problem to the shippers. So at first, they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere. But the freeze took away much of the flavor, so they experimented with shipping them alive in tanks of seawater. But that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive, but the cod lost its flavor and in addition became mushy and soft. The texture was seriously affected.
Finally, some creative soul solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy, the catfish. From the time the cod left the east coast until it arrived at its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. As you guessed it, when the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as when they were first caught.
There was no loss of flavor, nor was the texture affected. A couple of questions seem worth asking. First, can you name some catfish swimming in your tank? Maybe you live with one of them.
Or it's somebody at work whose irritating presence drives you to your knees several times a week. Every church has a few catfish as well. They're there to keep all the cod from getting soft, mushy, and tasteless. Have you given thanks for them lately? Just think, it's that tension in the tank that helps the image of Christ emerge. With the right attitude, we can learn how to keep from resenting them as intruders as the chase continues. To do so, we'll need to put an end to pity parties and wine clubs and grape gatherings. When we do, it's nothing short of remarkable how closely the chase begins to resemble the race.
Isn't that good? What is the tension in your life that requires you to depend upon the strength of God? To Hezekiah, as I read this, I thought of this. Sennacherib was one huge catfish, and so was his illness. And it literally drove him to dependency upon God.
What better place to live? Look finally at verse 20. Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? So Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and Manasseh, his son, became king in his place.
And guess what? It was right on schedule. According to the promise of God, 15 years after his healing, Hezekiah's delayed funeral was finally held. Hezekiah was given the rare opportunity to see into the future. No hocus pocus, no crystal ball. He was given a piece of information that all of us would love to have. How much longer do we have to live?
How much time is left? We observe that Hezekiah, though, was closer to the Lord when he didn't know the answer than when he did. And the challenge to us is this. You don't get to choose how and when you're going to die. But you do get to choose how you are going to live. Let's choose to live. To the glory of the one we will one day see face to face. And that is guaranteed from God.
It's time to renew our commitment to remain faithful right up to the end. Thanks for joining us today. Your Bible teacher, Stephen Davey, is the president of Wisdom International. Today's lesson, entitled Terminal, comes from his vintage wisdom series he called We Three Kings. You can learn more about the ministry of Wisdom International at our website, wisdomonline.org. We're a listener-supported ministry, and if you're able to help us with a donation, we'd be grateful. Join us again here on Wisdom for the Heart. .
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