So we learned a lot about prayer from Hezekiah, last week. But I think there is more that we can still learn from Hezekiah about prayer. So today we are going to address what happens in the next chapter of his life. Let’s begin by look at Isaiah 38, verse 1: “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.”
So let’s try and put ourselves in Hezekiah’s shoes for just a moment. He is sick. We don’t know exactly what the illness is, just that it is bad enough that he is going to die. Remember, at this point, Hezekiah is still pretty young. He is probably only around 39 years old.
All of those reactions would be very normal. But, let’s also make sure that as we think about his context. In the chapters right before this, Hezekiah prayed to the Lord about the Assyrian situation and God delivered in a really big way. We don’t know exactly the time frame for all of this, but from what we know from 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles it seems like these two events were very close to one another, potentially even being in the same year.
I think that he had seen God work in a miraculous way already once, so he might have been more likely to have hope at this point, because of that. So he was probably still discouraged and anxious about his situation, but maybe he also had hope that God was going to do something?
Let’s take a look at how he responded in verses 2-3: “2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”
Okay, so first let me say that I think it is cool that Hezekiah’s first response after receiving bad news is to go to the Lord in prayer. We saw that last time as well. I have to admit that I am not sure what to think of his prayer. Some of the commentaries I read, really give him the benefit of the doubt. They talk about how facing the wall, was like an opportunity to just be alone with God and that his prayer is one of kind of just a thoughtful trust in God in the midst of what he is going through. But when, I read it, I’m not so sure that I agree. Let me explain this way. In part one, we took a look at his prayer and noticed a couple of things about it that were really great reminders for us for when we pray. I find this prayer to be a lot different than that prayer.
Let’s put them up side by side for us. In the first prayer he began by taking his eyes off of his problem and remembering who God is. Taking our eyes off of our problems and praising God helps us get a right perspective, because no matter how big our problem is, God is bigger. And so we need to remember that.
But I don’t see him doing that here. Actually I see the opposite. Rather than talking about God, all that he does is talk about himself. Rather than reminding himself what God has done, it is like he is trying to remind God of what he has done.
He doesn’t really seem to ask God for anything. All he does is remind God about how well he has been following him and then he weeps bitterly. I could be wrong, but I see a very “woe is me” kind of attitude here. He seems to be more complaining to God, along the lines of “why did this happen to me, I have been trying to follow you, and now I get hit with this.” And that is very different than his previous prayer.
I don’t know his heart here and what he means with all of this, but based on these two prayers what I see on the left is very different from what I see on the right. This is a very different kind of prayer than last time. The prayer on the right seems much more self-focused and kind of whiny. There is no recognition of who God is, there is really no request for God to work, and there seems to be no realization of the bigger picture of how God could be glorified in the midst of all of this. It seems to be a very different kind of prayer.
Take a look at verses 4-6: “4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.”
Once again, God is going to step in and provide for Hezekiah. Even though his prayer was very different, God still steps in and gets involved in his life in a miraculous way.
God actually even gives Hezekiah a sign that his prayer will be answered. Look at verse 7-8: “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: 8 Behold, 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.”
That is an amazing miracle all by itself. You can read more about it in 2 Kings 20. So God actually did heal Hezekiah. And we know from the rest of the story that Hezekiah went on to live for 15 more years. Now that seems like great news right? He was miraculously healed. But the rest of his life took a turn for the worst.
Let me first point out that there were a lot of great things that Hezekiah did. He was a good king. We find out that during his reign he had the temple repaired and cleansed and then he restored the worship and sacrificing that should have been happening there all along, getting the Levites and priests back to work. We see him singing praises to God and leading the people to praise the Lord. He also reestablished the observance of the Passover celebration.
In 2 Kings 18:5-6, we read: “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. 6 For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses.”
In the first part of Hezekiah’s life, it seems like he really followed God. But there seems to be some kind of switch in the second half of his reign. And it starts with his response to this healing that he receives. In 2 Chronicles 32:25 this is what we find out about Hezekiah’s response after God healed him: “25 But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.”
Apparently after he was healed, Hezekiah was proud. It seems like maybe he didn’t give God the glory that He deserved. But there is also more. At some point there was an envoy that was sent by the prince of Babylon, who had heard that Hezekiah was sick and had been healed. The envoy showed up and Hezekiah took them around and showed them all his treasures. After Isaiah hears about it, he criticizes Hezekiah and tells him that Babylon will eventually come and carry off all of those riches. It is not expressly pointed out what the specific issue was, but one thing that jumps out at me is that this was a perfect opportunity for Hezekiah to give glory to God for his healing, and instead he focused on showing off.
Look at what it says in 2 Chronicles 32:31 about this event: “31 And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.”
God let him go through this to test, and Hezekiah didn’t do so well. Overall, it seems like the first part of Hezekiah’s reign was very different than the second part. And the critical point in the middle was the healing.
So think this through with me for a moment. Hezekiah was doing awesome. He was serving the Lord and leading the people of Judah in serving the Lord. Everything was going well. God even provided for them in a miraculous way in the case of the threat of the Assyrian empire.
But then we have this illness and Hezekiah’s prayer, which is very different than his previous prayer, but God still grants his request. He lives for another 15 years. But the problem is that in this 15 years, he doesn’t do so well. We see a very different side of Hezekiah. The question that comes to mind is, “Would it have been better if Hezekiah died?”
Everything in our culture screams, live the extra 15 years. But it seems to me that at the time of his illness, Hezekiah was on the mountain top in pretty much every way. And then after the healing, his life went in a different direction.
I think I would rather die on the mountain top than to live another 15 years in the valley. So my take away from this passage is this. When we pray, it’s fine for us to ask for God to work. Actually as we talked about last week, I think it is good for us to make sure that we take that step and invite God to intervene in our lives in specific ways. But I think we also should always make sure that ultimately our desire is for what God’s will is for us. God’s will may not be to take you out of the hard time you are going through. He may not want to save you from something you are going through, simply because He has something better in store for you.
I don’t think that it is a good thing when God gives us what we prayed for, if it is not what He really wants for us. I’d rather have God’s will for me, than my will.
Let me remind us of an extreme example. What if God had granted Jesus his prayer request rather than His will when Jesus was praying in the garden? Remember He prayed, father take this cup from me. He didn’t want to have to suffer through the experience of the cross, but then he said not my will but yours.
What if God had said okay, “You don’t have to go through the whole cross thing. I will take that cup from you.” We would still be in our sin and guilt.
This probably sounds stupid in the world’s eyes, but I would rather die on the mountaintop in my relationship with the Lord than to live 15 more years on this earth wandering away from Him in the valley.