Isaiah 38: 1-22
We can all stop saying, “Wow I can’t believe how fast the year is passing and simply declare, that another year has come and gone”. Yes! 2019 has passed and 2020 has just begun. I find it a bit strange that the passing of an old year and the beginning of a New Year will cause people throughout the world to make what many refer to as “New Year Resolutions”. People promise to either start or stop something.
Then again there are a few people like myself that never make, “New Year Resolutions”. Rather or not we do or don’t make, “New Year Resolutions” really isn’t that important. However, I do believe that as we transition from the old year into the new year that we should at least pause long enough to consider what we’ve accomplished, dreamed, enjoyed, experienced, feared, felt, found, grieved, hoped, loss, promised, sought, suffered, surrendered, taught, touched, or won during the year 2019. In short we need to engage ourselves in the act of reflection.
A few year ago while serving as the Senior Pastor of The Community of Faith Christian Church, I shared through several sermons connected to the idea of our experiencing hardships, when we go through tests, as we evaluate our joy, wisdom and faith, it’s a good idea to spend time in retrospection. We should look back at past hardships and tests. However if we truly desire to grow spiritually, we need to spend time performing introspection, looking within ourselves. We need to spend time thinking about our actions, our emotions and our thoughts. Particularly, in light of the fact God has blessed us to witness the start of a new year.
I need you to understand the importance and significance of what I just said, “God has blessed us to witness the start of a new year”. There are a lot of people that started 2019 with us, but as we look around they’re no longer with us. We made it!
So the obvious question each of us needs to answer is WHAT NOW? What do we do with the precious gift of time, the gift of another second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year that God has given us? WHAT NOW?
I believe the WHAT NOW question can best be answered by examining the actions of a man named Hezekiah who served as one of the kings of ancient Israel.
Hezekiah reminds us that every WHAT NOW moment has to be dealt with through the use of three P(s). You see when Isaiah the servant of God is instructed by God to inform King Hezekiah of his death (v.1); Hezekiah immediately invokes the three P(s). First, Hezekiah prays to God (v.2). Secondly, Hezekiah believes and holds fast to the promise of God (vs.5-8) and finally Hezekiah praises God (vs. 9-21).
This thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah deals with King Hezekiah's illness, prayer, and healing. But its theological significance is contained within the prayer, God’s promise to heal Hezekiah and the gratitude of praise invoked by Hezekiah. There’s one verse I believe is often overlooked by some when reading and studying this chapter which is verse 6, it reads, “I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city”.
It’s important to keep verse six in view because it informs us that while King Hezekiah and the nation of Israel were being threatened by a dangerous enemy the king of Assyria and his mighty army, Hezekiah also became ill with what some scholars believe was a cancerous boil.
For believers in Jesus Christ being in a constant state of prayer is highly important because verse six reminds us that while we are yet facing one issue another issue may surface. While going through one storm another storm may emerge. While putting out one fire another fire may breaks out. While fighting one battle, a second battle may be waged. While climbing one mountain, we encounter another mountain over the horizon. Painfully, as my friend and fraternity brother retired US Naval Captain F. Holyfield and his family witnessed during 2019, while mourning the death of his mother, another family member, his eldest brother passed a week later.
Hezekiah’s deliverance from death must have been prior to the destruction of the Assyrian host. While the Assyrian siege was happening, God answered the king’s prayer. God promised to protect Israel and heal the king. Hezekiah reigned twenty-nine years. He reigned fifteen years after this event, so his sickness was in the fourteenth year of his reign, and we are told that Sennacherib came up against Jerusalem in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign (Isa. 36:1). All of this happened in the same year -- the sickness of Hezekiah and the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians.
The point being I’m certain all of us faced more than one challenge in 2019 and since we don’t know what lies ahead in 2020 the smartest things for us to do is to remain in a constant state of prayer.
Prayer of Hezekiah (38:1-3)
“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amos came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (Isa. 38:1).
It is interesting the way this chapter opens. The phrase "in that day" is a technical expression that typically speaks of the Tribulation and millennial days. This verse does not open by saying, "In that day," but by saying, "In those days." What "days" is Isaiah talking about?
He is talking about those days in which he and Hezekiah lived. As we learned earlier Hezekiah was sick unto death. He was having trouble with a boil that was about to kill him. On top of that he was having trouble with the Assyrians.
The sentence of death was delivered to Hezekiah by Isaiah. It is true that the physical sentence of death will once day affect each one of us, although we do not know the day or the hour. But the Bible declares, ". . . it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). Like it or not a person’s death date is divinely chosen. If each one of us knew the exact time of our death, our life-style would most certainly change.
The story is told of young minister who was told by his doctor that he had cancer and that his days were limited. The young minister sent out a letter to some of his friends. Permit me to share a brief quotation from his letter so you might know the thinking of a man under the shadow of death: "One thing I have discovered in the last few days. When a Christian is suddenly confronted with a sentence of death, he surely begins to give a proper evaluation of material things. My fishing gear and books and orchard are not nearly as valuable as they were a week ago."
It’s amazing how certain things, suddenly become less important when faced with the prospect of dying. Praise God, as it relates to believers, it’s not what we have that matters, but rather who has us and cares for us that matters. Nor is it important where we are now, but rather where we’re going that matters.
When Hezekiah was confronted with death, trust me the WHAT NOW question was raised and dealt with. How did Hezekiah deal with the WHAT NOW question, look at verse two.
“Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord” (v.2)
We have seen Hezekiah in prayer before when he spread Sennacherib's letter before the Lord.
“And said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore” (v. 3).
Trust me, if at no other time, the strongest man will cry when told he is about to die. I am sure the young preacher spoken of earlier wept when he heard the news of his pending death. I can personally testify I’ve been at the bedside of persons facing death and believe me when I say they wept. It’s normal to weep at a time like this. And no it doesn’t mean a person is weak or faithless.
But look closely once again at Hezekiah’s prayer and you’ll notice another reason why he prayed. He prayed on the basis of the kind of life he had lived and manner in which he lived. In other words he lifted his reputation before God. This king had a good reputation before God, and under the Mosaic Law this was the accurate thing to do.
II Kings chapter eighteen and verse five says concerning Hezekiah: "He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him." Hezekiah was an outstanding man. He was not boasting when he made that claim.
You can’t sincerely pray to God and expect God to entertain or answer your prayer if your reputation is shaky and your life is mess up from the floor up. A few of my former church members may recall the sermon I preached titled, “The Jabez Factor”? In that sermon I shared that the Word of God declares, “Jabez was more honorable than his brethren”, meaning he had more integrity, so as a result God not only listened to Jabez’s prayer request, God answered his prayer request. Jabez possessed a good reputation.
Additionally, we can lift up King David as an example. As you know God chose David to succeed King Saul, because David had a heart after God. David was in pursuit of God. David was in pursuit of God’s love, God’s favor, God’s righteousness, God’s holiness and God’s Word.
If not in 2019, then most certainly in 2020 you need to make certain God’s love, God’s favor, God’s righteousness, God’s holiness and God’s Word are at the top of your list as it relates to the things you decide to pursue.
God’s Promise to Hezekiah (38:4-8)
“Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years” (vs. 4-5).
God did hear and answer his prayer and extended his life by fifteen years. He did it, not for Hezekiah's sake, but for David's sake.
That is not the basis upon which our prayers are heard today. Our prayers are heard for the sake of David's greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 16:23-24 the Lord says, "In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full”.
In this New Year, 2020 keep ever before you, the knowledge that you and I can go to our Heavenly Father with our requests in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means that you are in Christ, and you are praying for His will to be done. God delights in our coming to Him using the name of Jesus as we pray. But also remember sometimes God will heal and sometimes He won't. He is the One to decide. Look back with me at verse 6.
“And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city” (v. 6).
God’s promise to Hezekiah is twofold. God promises to deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrian enemy and to deliver Hezekiah from death. God's answer to one request will encourage the believer's heart that He will answer the other requests.
Why is this so significant, because it assures us that while we are praying to God about our utility, rent, car or some other bill, God who knows everything, answers the unspoken and or forgotten thing that we fail to mention while we’re yet praying.
We see this clearly in Romans chapter 8 verses 26-28, “ Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”.
God gave Hezekiah a sign, which was an assurance that He would answer his prayer.
“And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken;
Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down (vs.7-8).
When your reputation and prayer life is right with God, God will not only answer your prayer, He’ll do so in the matter which you asked.
Hezekiah's Poem Of Praise (38:9-21)
“The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness” (v. 9).
The verses following are a fine thesis on death by one who was very near to it. Many believe that Hezekiah composed Psalm 116 at this time.
Now the question arises: Was Hezekiah right in asking God to extend his life?
“The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord” (v. 20).
At this time there was a great welling up of praise in the heart of Hezekiah. His song of praise to God was evidently set to music and sung.
Hezekiah's Pride (2 Chron 32:25)
However, after this experience Hezekiah became rather proud and arrogant. In the Book of Chronicles, we are told: "But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem" (2Chron. 32:25).
Some scholar conclude that it might have been best if Hezekiah had not prayed and asked God for an extension of life because it led to pride in his life!
The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, shared that when he was ill with cancer, he remembered the story of Hezekiah and prayed to the Lord and said, "If you will let me live, I will promise to do your will, and I will continue to get out your Word."
It’s widely known that Dr. McGee devoted his life to keeping the promise he made to God.
Seriously, after experiencing a miracle like the one granted to Hezekiah, there is a danger of withdrawing from the Lord. You would think that it would draw one closer to Him, but instead there is a grave danger of getting away from Him.
Was Hezekiah right in asking God to extend his life? Should he not have died when the time came? There is another reason some scholars believe that he should have died at the time of his illness, which is Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son. Manasseh was twelve years old when he became the king of Israel which means that he was born after Hezekiah's sickness.
Manasseh was the worst king who reigned in either kingdom, meaning Israel or Judah. Some consider Manasseh worse than Ahab and Jezebel put together. Some scholars believe that it was during Manasseh’s reign that the Shekinah glory departed. In fact Manasseh was very much like the Antichrist, the Man of Sin who is yet to come.
As I come to the close, I still will not make a “New Year Resolution”, but I would like to share this prayer for a New Year which I discovered some years ago:
Prayer for a New Year
Lord, I confess before You that: I have had longings and nudges from You which I did not translate into action.
I have made decisions without consulting You, then have blamed You when things went wrong.
I have said that I trusted You, yet have not turned my affairs over to You.
I have been greedy for present delights and pleasures, unwilling to wait for those joys which time and discipline alone can give.
I have often sought the easy way and have consistently drawn back from the road that is hard.
I have been fond of giving myself to dreams of which I am going to do sometime, yet have been so slow in getting started to do them.
Forgive me for all the intentions that were born and somehow never lived.
And now I claim Your promise to change me. Do for me what I cannot do for myself. Lead me into a new tomorrow with a new spirit.
Cleanse my heart; create within me new attitudes and new ideas, as only You can.
Throughout 2020 and years to come make it your goal to honor God by 1) remaining in constant prayer, 2) believe and hold on to the promises of God, 3) praise God for all things at all times, and lastly avoid a prideful heart.