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.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 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.
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “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. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.
“This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: 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. Isaiah 38:1-8 (ESV)
If God can change His mind, is He really omniscient?
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:16 (ESV)
Was God testing Hezekiah? Did God know Hezekiah’s prayer before he prayed it?
The threat of imminent death has a profound effect on our perspective. When all is going well and we are young and in good health it’s easy for us to think that the status quo will always stay the status quo. We grow complacent in our abilities and in our circumstances…and that may not necessarily be where God wants us to be. When we trust in ourselves instead of having faith in God and trusting Him, we are setting ourselves up as our own gods, which never ends well.
Hezekiah was one of the few “good kings” of Israel. But even as a “good king,” Hezekiah was not a perfect man.
Perhaps Hezekiah’s “illness unto death” was God’s way of making Hezekiah come to terms with his mortality and to become aware of Who was the source of his power. None of us gets out of this life alive, but how would our perspectives and action plans change if we knew exactly how much time we had left? Would we sink into crass hedonism and go for the bucket list with gusto, or would we choose our activities and bequests carefully to leave a legacy for future generations? Maybe it is better not to know the hour of one’s death, and to live as if today is the last day? Maybe it is better to plan thoroughly and live as if life is going to go on forever?
Many of us have been in a similar place as Hezekiah- pleading and bargaining with God for one’s life, or the life of a loved one, or even for a major life event, only to be answered back with, “No, you are not getting more time,” or, “My plans are not your plans.”
Perhaps the purpose of prayer is not so much for us to get our way as it is to understand why Jesus taught us to pray, “thy will be done.” God had things planned for Hezekiah to do, and God’s will was done through him. For Hezekiah, God did see fit to say “yes” to his request, not because Hezekiah was so great, but because the God he trusted is so great.
Often we wonder where God’s will is being done when we look all over this groaning, broken creation. It’s not a satisfying answer to know that we inherited a broken creation, that some things will not be mended this side of eternity, and that God re-creates and redeems and heals in His own time and in His own way. We question God’s omnipotence and His control of all things when we think that our problems, our sins, our situations are beyond His power.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV)
God wants us to pray, whether His answer is, “yes,” “no,” or “some other way.”
The single most difficult task of fallen humanity is for us to realize we are creatures, not the Creator.
The lesson of Hezekiah’s “extra” fifteen years is that it is God Who numbers our days. God works in and through us according to His will as we live according to the vocations He has given us.
Hezekiah trusted God and made his desires known to God. Yes, God knows our hearts and minds better than we do, and His will is done regardless of our opinions on it, but He still commands us to pray.
Lord we pray for the faith You gave to Hezekiah, to be fervent and honest in our prayers regardless of what Your answers may be. We trust that even when we don’t get the answer we want, (and even when we do) that Your will is always best for us in the long run, whether we see it or not.