Friday, March 6, 2009

A Dying Prayer a Living Answer- Isaiah 38

"In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill." (vs 1)

The LORD had delivered Hezekiah from a mighty enemy. Now another trial falls upon his plate. This time it is a severe sickness and the real possibility of death. We should not be surprised at what befalls us in this world. "Neither men's greatness nor their goodness will exempt them from the arrest of sickness and death." (Matthew Henry)

When faced with Sennacharib and the taunts of Rabshekah, Hezekiah fled to the LORD his God. What will he do when faced with this daunting physical trial? "Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD" (vs 2). Hezekiah responds in the exact same way. Oh Christian, our afflictions should cause us to fall to our knees.

Interestingly, it is not recorded that Hezekiah specifically prays for healing from his infirmity. He has been told he will die by Isaiah and instead of grumbling and complaining about the course laid out for him, he simply submits, turns to his God and asks that God would remember His covenant promises to him. "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart..."

Even though there is great assurance and awesome comfort in the eternal promises of God, Hezekiah does find himself weeping bitterly at the forboding possibility of his death. Don't we all find that strange tension - longing for heaven, fearing dying? Death, though common to all, is not a natural thing. Have you ever thought about that? Death did not occur until sin occurred. It is a result of the fall and therefore it is a grievous and distressing thing. We too should weep bitterly at death, yet we should not grieve as those without hope (1 Thes 4:13) because of the work of Christ on His people's behalf.

God in absolute abundant mercy is pleased to heal good king Hezekiah. God is not through with him in this life and therefore He spares him from death at this time. How does Hezekiah respond to this smiling twist of providence? Prayer! Hezekiah prays when he faces danger. He prays when the danger is diverted. He prays when he faces death. He prays when he is given life instead. Oh that we would be as quick to pray as this young king was!

His prayer if full and beautiful and several things particualrly jump out to me this morning.

  • Hezekiah realizes that this life is but a vapor and that this place is but a sojourning spot. It is the life we currently live and the place we momentarily lay our heads, but it is "like a shepherd's tent" (vs 12). We are not home. We are aliens and strangers passing through this land on our way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Therefore,"may it be more our care how we shall get safely to another world than how long we are likely to live in this world." May we be Godward and Heavenward in how we live our days, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness knowing that then all other things needful will be added unto us. (Mt 6:33)

  • Our times are in God's hands. "HE cuts me off from the loom; from day until night You do make an end of me" (vs 12). Our ways and our days are appointed by our sovereign God and we should find comfort in that place no matter what we face! And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment (He 9:27). The mind of a man plans his ways but the LORD ordains his steps (Pr 16:9). My times are in Your hands (Ps 31:15). Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Mt 6:27) "My times are in thy hand; why should I doubt or fear? My Father's hand will never cause his child a needless tear." (William Lloyd)

  • God, through Christ's proptiatory act, has saved the Christian from the just wages of sin. "It is Thou who hast kept my soul from the pit of destruction. For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back. (vs 17)." We should be moved to thanksgiving at even the passing thought of this. In Christ, God has scattered our sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12) and He will not hold them against us. "Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

  • If life is but a vapor, if God has given us this vapor in which to live, if Christ has saved us from our sin then we ought to live this vapor for Him. "What is man's chief end? Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever" (WSC Q1). I am not my own, I was bought at a price (1 Co 7:23) and therefore I should live for my good and gracious Master. "Thanksgiving is good, but thanksliving is better." (Matthew Henry)

  • We ought to teach these things to our children. "A father tells his sons about Thy faithfulness (vs 19). "We should not only praise Him all the days of our life, but the father to the children should make known His truth that the ages to come may give God the glory of His truth by trusting in Him" (Henry). These are the things which are most important in this life. These are the things of eternal significance. They give eternal meaning to this passing vapor. We should be diligent about both telling and living the truths of the gospel before our little ones. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all youru might. And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Dt 6:6-7). What lessons are Joshua and Elizabeth learning from my words and my actions?

God spared Hezekiah from this sickness and Hezekiah was given many more years to serve as king. He served His God all those days in "thanksliving". Hezekiah did not die from this particular malady, but he did die. So will I and every living creature. What will my response to its threatening hand be? Fear or prayer? Am I trusting my life to the hands of my faithful God and do my personal prayers reflect that as Hezekiah's did?

In His glorious grace,


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