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(2 Kings 20) Terminal

(2 Kings 20) Terminal

by Stephen Davey Ref: 2 Kings 20

In this message Hezekiah asks God to grant him a wish and God accepts. But what happens next in Hezekiah's life is a warning to all of us. If the moral of this story could be summed up in a single phrase, it would be this: be careful what you wish for!



(2 Kings 20;  2 Chronicles 32)

In 1994, do you know who won the prestigious “Woman of the World” award.  She’s the same woman who won a similar, international award for three consecutive years.  If you guessed Margaret Thatcher or Sandra Day O’Conner you missed it by a mile.  The winner is the same woman who has authored 6 best-selling books.  She’s a syndicated columnist for more than 400 newspapers.  She has been the personal confidante to presidents and heads of state for years.  Her name is Jeanne Dixon, the worlds’ most well known astrologer and “voice of prophesy.”  Some time ago, the Franklin Mint issued an offer - you could purchase a replica of Jeanne Dixon’s crystal ball - “intricately sculptured and crafted with 24 karat gold and crystal.” The advertisement said the crystal ball was an heirloom work of art to enhance your home and your future.”  In Ms. Dixon’s own words, it would help you to, “Behold the revelation of your destiny.

What was once part hoax and part superstition and hocus-pocus is not big-time business - and physic lines are ringing up million dollar profits.

While the Bible seriously warns us and forbids us from soliciting the fortune tellers, can you imagine having someone come to your home, let’s say, Isaiah himself, representing God, and telling you your future?

And as proof of his authenticity, he supernaturally turns the clocks back a few hours and then doesn’t charge you a dime for it all.

Over these last few weeks, King Hezekiah has arrested our attention.  We’re going to complete our study of his life this morning.

He was the son of a wicked man, whose reputation was intertwined with child sacrifice and idolatry; yet, when 25 year old Hezekiah took the throne he brought the people of Judah back to God.

In our last discussion, we observed Hezekiah in anguish over the invasion of Syria - and he unfolded that intimidating letter before the Lord and prayed.

I made a special effort to point out to you that this invasion occurred in the life of Hezekiah after he had served God faithfully for 14 years - in fact, you may remember, Ezra writing his account in 2 Chronicles wrote, “After these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah.”

We discovered the truth that we’d rather not learn - and it’s this, “Faithfulness to God does not guarantee the absence of trouble . . . it may create trouble.”

We walked with Hezekiah into the temple during those difficult days as he poured his heart out to God.

God met him there.  Sometimes the Lord calms the storm; most often he lets the storm rage and calms His child.

In the case of Hezekiah, God intervened and Judah was miraculously spared.

As I re-entered my study on this man’s life, I was surprised to learn that something else had been going on - during the same time Hezekiah was struggling with a national crisis, he was also struggling with a personal crisis.

Look with me at 2 Kings 20:1

In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill.

In what days?  Well, if you put all the clues together, you discover that Hezekiah was 39 years of age here, and it’s the 14th year of his reign. 2 Kings chapter 18 informs us that it was also in his 14th year,  when Sennacherib marched against Hezekiah’s capital city - Jerusalem.

Can you imagine?  Terrorized from without by an enemy so brutal they were known for piling skulls around the borders of the cities they defeated in battle; archeologists discovered a mural of Sennacherib victorious over his enemies, having pierced their nostrils with rings and leather straps, the mural shows his soldiers leading their captives away.

Sennacherib, the terrible Ninevite warlord was in full battle array.

Have you ever thought, “Why does trouble always come in pairs” - that’s not an original thought; in fact, an author in my library wrote nearly 200 years ago the words, “Misfortunes never come singly.”

Sennacherib wasn’t the only problem.

During this 14th year, Hezekiah also faced a different challenge - a personal crisis - a crisis that Hezekiah would gladly give his kingdom away and his throne away in order to solve - a crises of life and death.

Notice verse 1 again.  In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill.  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 and not live.' " 

Imagine, the prophet of God coming to your doorstep and announcing, “Hezekiah, make sure your insurance papers are in order, pick out your grave plot and the hymns you want sung at your funeral - your going to die.

Some of you have heard the words, “Terminal. . .incurable”  Some of you today have a far greater appreciation of life than most in this auditorium because you’ve been given the grim prophecy - “It won’t be long.”

And maybe you can identify with Hezekiah as he responds to Isaiah - 2. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying,  3.  "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."

You could write under his prayer four words to summarize all his prayers and all his tears - “I don’t understand why??”

You need to understand the Old Covenant promises of long life if the Israelite obeyed God - Hezekiah is 39 years old here.  “Lord, I’ve walked in truth and with a whole heart.”

You also need to understand the lack of understanding in the Old Testament saints mind about life hereafter.  Sheol was a grim foreboding place to them - they knew nothing of what we know about heaven - death to us is still disturbing even though we know to be absent from the body is to present with the Lord.  Hezekiah was reeling from the report.

Look over to the book of Isaiah and read the poem he composes in light of his terminal illness and recovery - Isaiah 38:10 I said, (that is, “this is how I felt - this is what I said to God).  “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 here?)  skip to verse 12.  Like a shepherd’s tent my dwelling is pulled up and removed from me”  (Lord, you’ve just pulled up the stakes - it happened so fast - there was a tent - life - now it’s gone.) Notice vs. 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 misty eyes)  O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security.

Aren’t you glad the Lord doesn’t take us to the home of a terminally ill man and only let us hear the words, “Praise God; Hallelujah”  Look at verse 18, “For Sheol 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 - he has no idea what glory he’s in store for - but in spite of that - he says what we say - “Lord, why take the life of a godly person who can praise you with their life and lips and snuff them out . . . what good does that do?”

Why do end the pastorate of Peter Marshall when he was a shining life - you take the life of a missionary like Jim Elliott with so much promise and potential - before we go to far into despair, let me read you what Jim Elliott wrote, as he struggled with the same question, “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 peopling eternity, and I must not restrict Him to old men and women.”

Back in 2 Kings 20, did you notice the last phrase of verse 3?    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.”  It wouldn’t be long in life until every human being had little paths of stain that ran from their eyes, down their cheeks and off the edge of their faces.

Misfortunes never come singly.  There are times when all you can do cry.

What I appreciate about Hezekiah is the fact that he had a relationship with the Lord that was refreshingly bold and transparent - remember our last study how he took that letter from Sennacherib and went into the temple and unfolded it before the Lord and prayed.

Now, on what he believes to be his deathbed, he prays again with boldness and frankness - there’s no pietism or mysticism or false spirituality - he’s literally praying for his life.

And he has something to teach all of us about prayer.

At least two things:

1)  The prayer motive is as important to God as the prayer request.

Motives, for one thing, are critical. 

Did you catch the underlying thought from Isa. 38 - “Lord, I can’t praise you in death like I can praise you in life - let me live so that I can honor your name.”

His motive in praying as he unfolded the letter and asked for national protection - he prayed, “O Lord, deliver us so that all the nations might know that you alone art God.”

Why do we pray?

A couple of weeks ago a man in our church told me the funny story of a woman who owned a parrot.  Trouble was, the only thing her parrot would say were the words, “Let’s kiss, let’s kiss.”  It embarrassed this woman to no end - people would come over to her home and visit and as soon as the parrot saw them she’d say, “Let’s kiss, let’s kiss.”  Her church got a new pastor and she discovered that he also had a parrot - only his said the words, “Let’s pray, let’s pray.”  She thought, this is my answer - I’ll take my parrot over and let the pastor’s parrot influence mine into saying something more spiritual than “Let’s kiss.”  The pastor agreed.  She brought her parrot over, put her in the bird cage with the other parrot and, sure enough, her parrot immediately sidled over to the other one and said, “Let’s kiss, let’s kiss.”  The pastor’s parrot said, “My prayers have been answered.”

It may sound spiritual to say the words, “Let’s pray.”  Question is, “What are you really wanting from God - comfort, ease, prosperity, fame; or His glory to be revealed through your suffering; for His character to be developed in you through your crisis.

The second thing we can learn from the open, honest, no holds barred prayer life of Hezekiah is this:

2)  Prayer is not just a transaction - it is an interaction.

For most of us, and for most of the time, we view prayer as a transaction between us and God.  We go to Him with our needs - we have our requisition form filled out - Lord this is what we need and He looks it over and signs it and then hands us what we need.

Truth is, prayer is not a transaction alone - it is interaction.

And prayer interaction is communication on the deepest level - it itself is the most important part of praying.

George MacDonald wrote these fascinating words, “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, and he may or may not be fed at once, but he needs his parents more than 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 - when crisis occurs and we run to God - we find in Him far more than we knew existed.

Now notice verse 4.  And it came about before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying,  5.  “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, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you.”  On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.  6.  "And I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and 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.”   7.  Then Isaiah said, "Take a cake of figs." And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. 

Evidently this disease that would have taken his life is, with the additional use of medicine, cured.

8.  Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?"  9.  And Isaiah said, "This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?"  10.   So Hezekiah answered, "It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps."  11.  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. 

Now I’ve read a half a dozen explanations of this miracle:

            -the earth actually reversed on it’s axis

            -there was an earthquake that moved the steps of the sun dial

            -Isaiah pulled a slick trick on Hezekiah of some sort

            -there was a refraction of the sun’s rays

            -there was an eclipse which temporarily obscured the sun’s rays

These were profoundly exciting explanations - I was so glad to have read them.

God chose to remain quiet on the subject - no explanation is given - we’re not told how.

What we are told in v. 11 is that

            Isaiah prayed it -

                        God did it -

                                    and Hezekiah saw it.

I suppose the most validating thing about the miracle was the other miracle - Hezekiah recovered from his illness and lived 15 more years.

Now I also read a lot of debate on whether or not Hezekiah should have prayed to live.  Seems strange to me, since all of us would have prayed the same thing?!  I’ve never visited anyone in the hospital who asked me, “Pastor, would you pray that I don’t recover.”

There are, however, two things that are written about Hezekiah, after his recovery that teach the truth that it’s best we don’t know how much time we have left on planet earth.  It’s best we’re not given guarantees - these same two problems would probably invade our lives as well.

Problem #1 - The threat of self-sufficiency.

 [12] At that time Berodach-baladan a son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick.  [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.  [14] 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?" And Hezekiah said, "They have come from a far country, from Babylon."  [15] And he said, "What have they seen in your house?" So Hezekiah answered, "They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them."

Notice the references to himself, “My house, my treasures. . .”

“Guaranteed health brought a loss of perspective”

He lost that edge that comes from having to rely on the power of God.

“Look at my treasures - look at my house - look at my kingdom.”

You won’t find one reference to God in his conversations with Babylon - little did Hezekiah know that it would be Babylon who would overthrow Judah, not Assyria.  Little did Hezekiah know that Babylon would take their notes and snapshots back to their king and begin to plan for the day when they would grow strong enough to conquer Hezekiah’s land and lead the Jews into captivity, among those captives, a young man named Daniel.

Now notice the second problem:  The threat of spiritual complacency.

16.  Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD. 

17.  '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.  18. 'And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.' "  19. Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good." For he thought, "Is it not so, if there shall be peace and truth in my days?"

Hezekiah went soft - he got comfortable - “Hey, I’m going to live for another 15 years - even the worst news isn’t all that bad - I’ve got a guarantee on safety and protection - let the next generation deal with the problem.”

Guaranteed safety brought about a sense of apathy.

At that moment - Hezekiah lost his ability to communicate to the next generation what it takes to stand firm in the Lord.

For the next 15 years, Hezekiah coasted - I find it interesting that during this 15 year period, Hezekiah’s son was born - and when he later ascended his father’s throne, he had no spiritual vitality whatsoever. . .he never saw his father agonize over the will of God - he never saw his father wrestle with the suffering of life - the only thing he’d ever seen his father do was coast.

A life void of the tension of danger or death might sound like, “the life” - but in reality, it may not be much of a life, worth living.

We’ll grow spiritually mushy and soft.

Chuck Swindoll refers to the value of tension in his book, Come before Winter”.  Let me read it to you -

            READ FROM SWINDOLL page 335

Isn’t that great - what are the catfish in your tank?

Where’s the tension that requires you to depend on the strength of the Lord.

To Hezekiah, Sennacherib was one giant catfish; his personal illness was another - together, these two fish drove Hezekiah to God.

Finally, notice 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?  21.  So Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and Manasseh his son became king in his place. 

Right on schedule - according to the promise of God - 15 years after his miraculous healing, Hezekiah’s delayed funeral was finally held.

Hezekiah was given the rare opportunity to see into the future - he was given a piece of information that every human being craves - how long will I live, when will I die.  And we observed that Hezekiah was closer to the Lord when he didn’t know the answer, than when he did.

The challenge to us is this, “You don’t get to choose how you are going to die, or when - you do get to choose how you are going to live.

Ladies and Gentlemen, every one of us in this auditorium are terminal - we just don’t know when.

Let us choose today, we will live to honor and glorify the Lord, whom we will someday see face to face - and that my friends is guaranteed.

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