Hezekiah Gets Sick
(2 Chronicles 32.24-26; Isaiah 38.1-8,21,22)
1About this time, Hezekiah got sick and was almost dead. Isaiah the prophet went in and told him, “The Lord says you won't ever get well. You are going to die, so you had better start doing what needs to be done.”
2Hezekiah turned toward the wall and prayed, 3“Don't forget that I have been faithful to you, Lord. I have obeyed you with all my heart, and I do whatever you say is right.” After this, he cried bitterly.
4Before Isaiah got to the middle court of the palace, 5the Lord sent him back to Hezekiah with this message:
Hezekiah, you are the ruler of my people, and I am the Lord God, who was worshiped by your ancestor David. I heard you pray, and I saw you cry. I will heal you, so that three days from now you will be able to worship in my temple. 6I will let you live 15 years more, while I protect you and your city from the king of Assyria. I will defend this city as an honor to me and to my servant David.
7Then Isaiah said to the king's servants, “Bring some mashed figs and place them on the king's open sore. He will then get well.”
8Hezekiah asked Isaiah, “Can you prove that the Lord will heal me, so that I can worship in his temple in three days?”
9Isaiah replied, “The Lord will prove to you that he will keep his promise. Will the shadow made by the setting sun on the stairway go forward ten steps or back ten steps?”
10“It's normal for the sun to go forward,” Hezekiah answered. “But how can it go back?”
11Isaiah prayed, and the Lord made the shadow go back ten steps on the stairway built for King Ahaz.
12Merodach Baladan, the son of Baladan, was now king of Babylonia. And when he learned that Hezekiah had been sick, he sent messengers with letters and a gift for him. 13Hezekiah welcomed the messengers and showed them all the silver, the gold, the spices, and the fine oils that were in his storehouse. He even showed them where he kept his weapons. Nothing in his palace or in his entire kingdom was kept hidden from them.
14Isaiah asked Hezekiah, “Where did these men come from? What did they want?”
“They came all the way from Babylonia,” Hezekiah answered.
15“What did you show them?” Isaiah asked.
Hezekiah answered, “I showed them everything in my kingdom.”
16Then Isaiah told Hezekiah:
I have a message for you from the Lord. 17 One day everything you and your ancestors have stored up will be taken to Babylonia. The Lord has promised that nothing will be left. 18 Some of your own sons will be taken to Babylonia, where they will be disgraced and made to serve in the king's palace.
19Hezekiah thought, “At least our nation will be at peace for a while.” So he told Isaiah, “The message you brought me from the Lord is good.”
(2 Chronicles 32.32,33)
20Everything else Hezekiah did while he was king, including his brave deeds and how he made the upper pool and tunnel bring water into Jerusalem, is written in The History of the Kings of Judah. 21Hezekiah died, and his son Manasseh became king.
In the days of the Book of Kings, the three powers that governed were prophet, priest and king. It was a really good thing when all three worked together well; the kind of relationship that appears to exist between the prophet Isaiah and king Hezekiah as contemporaries during the eighth century B.C.
When Isaiah told Hezekiah that he would die, his response may seem surprising to readers today. Hezekiah’s life seems bound up with the fate of Jerusalem. When he pleads for his life, Hezekiah is also pleading for Jerusalem. Whereas we are used to looking at things individualistically, God’s response to Hezekiah is also God’s response to Sennacherib and partly also honouring the promise made to David. “Thus Hezekiah’s personal recovery is the working out of God’s will in microcosm.” (Leander Keck, New Interpreter’s Bible).
God in his mercy heard his prayer and not only healed him but extended his life by fifteen years with a miraculous assurance of healing and assurance of deliverance from the Assyrian enemy “for my name sake and for the sake of David” (v 6, NIV).
But while Hezekiah used the fifteen years that God gave him in some spectacular public works for Jerusalem (the water conduit mentioned in v 19 has been discovered by archaeologists) he also acted imprudently. He showed off his treasures to his Babylonian visitors and could not believe that everything he had proudly displayed would one day be carried off to Babylon. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” (v 19, NIV). There was, but several generations later Assyria was conquered by Babylon and Judah taken into captivity.
May we set our hearts and sights on not just what is good for us but ultimately what is best for God’s name sake and the sake of his people.
Almighty God, who answers prayer in miraculous ways, I adore you. I pray for your grace and mercy to seek the nobler goals of the glory of your name and the good of your people rather than just what benefits me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.