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What Should We Do Now?

Date: Aug. 23, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

2 Kings 20:1-21

Key Verse: 2 Kings 20:5

“Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord.”

Last Sunday a member of the Army Golden Knights parachute team died during a performance at the Chicago air and water show. Sgt 1st Class Corey Hood, who had survived four tours of duty in Iraq, was injured when he collided with another skydiver in midair. After his emergency chute opened he floated along motionless as he struck a building and fell to the ground. This sad news only re-enforces the brevity of life for Sgt Hood was only 32 years old. Even though he was performing a dangerous stunt he probably never thought that his life was going to end that day. The truth is, no one knows when their time is up. In today’s passage Hezekiah finds out that his time is up, how is he going to react, what’s he going to do?

Last week we learned that God alone is the Lord. He is the one that determines all mankind’s destiny, even kings. (Did you know that Job 14:5 says “A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” God has determined both our birthday and our deathday) The previous chapter ends with the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, who in the midst of prayer to his god is struck down on the other hand in this chapter Hezekiah prays to the Lord and is delivered—the days of one are shortened while the day of the other are prolonged. Take a look at verse 1. “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”” Imagine for a moment if you were in Hezekiah’s position and you were told that you are going to die, what would be going through your mind? What would you do? Putting your house in order means to prepare yourself for death. In Hezekiah’s case he would have to figure out who would succeed him, assign someone to take care of all of his unfinished business to make sure the kingdom would continue to run. He would have to take care of his family. In modern times putting your house in order would include setting up a will to make sure legally with the government that your children have some place to go and someone to look after them, and to determine who gets all your belongings. But there is also a spiritual side of putting your house in order. Are you ready for death, have you made peace with God and accepted Jesus as your Savior. When I was younger, my grandmother got sick, the doctors told my mom, you better bring in all the family and say goodbye because she doesn’t have much time, so all the children and grandchildren went to the hospital to visit her. When she saw all the people gathering around her, she knew something was up, and said, “What’s going on?” but she didn’t realize that she was going to die.

Some people never know when their time is up, others may get indicators that their time is close to an end. Hezekiah was in this group for God graciously let him know it’s coming so that he could have time to prepare himself. Hezekiah responds by turning his face to the wall and praying to the Lord. No one wants to die, neither did Hezekiah he was only about 37 or 38 years old. In his response we see his humbleness before God. He seeks God in prayer, he doesn’t defy or accuse God rather he appeals to the Lord, take a look at verse 3, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” I think this signifies Hezekiah’s purity of heart, because he knew that God sees all things and knows the truth so he can’t lie to God and yet he crys out remember what I’ve done before you Lord and how I devoted my whole heart to you. Who can make that claim? In his prayer Hezekiah was sincere and humble before the Almighty God.

While this is going on, Isaiah is standing there and it must have been uncomfortable as he stands there watching this grown man, the king, break down and cry and so he says, “I’ll just let myself out,” and he leaves. What’s the protocol for telling someone they’re about to die? Interestingly, before Isaiah could get out of the house, God answers Hezekiah’s prayer and sends Isaiah back with the message, “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” (v5-6) In this scene we learn several things, first, God hears our prayer. Sometimes it may seem like God doesn’t hear our prayers because we may feel alone, but God does hear our prayers. Secondly God answers prayer. In the Bible there are many examples, here are a couple, in Luke 1:13, the priest Zechariah went into the temple to pray and an angel appeared to him and said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” Again in Acts 10:31, Peter said to the Roman Centurion, “Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.” And who can forget when Peter, John and all the believers in the first century church got together and prayed. God answered their prayer in the most powerful way for “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:31) “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” If we humble ourselves before the Lord, he will hear our prayer and lift us up. (James 4) Not only does God hear our prayer, but he sees our tears. Our God, is living and active and he is concerned for his people. He is our shepherd and wants to take care of us. Thirdly, amazingly God changed his plan. God was going to end Hezekiah’s life, but instead he added fifteen years to it. This was a gift from God, bonus years added to his life. It’s like playing one of those racing car video games where you have a set time to make it around the track and if you don’t make it, the games over, but if you do, the game gives you extra bonus time to see how far you can go. This was the case with Hezekiah, he now had fifteen bonus years that God had graciously given him to continue his life. Fourth, God’s answer to Hezekiah was more than he expected. Not only did God heal him, but God was going to save him from his enemy Assyria. The Lord was so gracious to him. Why? Because the Lord remembered his promise to David. The Lord is faithful to keep his promises.

Hezekiah asks Isaiah “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?” (v8) Hezekiah was at the point of death, would it be possible that he could be completely healed in 3 short days? Isaiah told them to prepare a poultice of figs (a soft moist mass of material kept in place with a cloth) and apply it to his boil. Since the healing method was a simple one Hezekiah wanted to be sure that all this is from the Lord so he asked for a confirmation sign. (Remember that Isaiah rebuked Ahaz when he didn’t ask the Lord for a sign – Isa 7) Interestingly in verse 9 Isaiah gives Hezekiah the choice, do you want God to move the shadow forward or backward. What Isaiah is referring to here is there were a set of stairs that they could use like a sun dial and as the day went on the shadow would move forward through the steps. Since it was easy for the shadow to move forward as it normally does, Hezekiah asked for it to go backwards essentially momentarily changing the rotation of the earth. That would be a miracle. “Then the prophet Isaiah called on the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.” (v11)

Now that Hezekiah has been healed, Judah can look forward to fifteen more years of stability with their king on the throne. However what does their long-term future look like? The next section in this chapter answers this question. Take a look at verse 12. “At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness.” After Hezekiah’s illness he receives a visit from the prince of Babylon, Marduk-Baladan. Why would the king of Babylon be interested in Hezekiah? There are a couple of reasons, first there is the political reason. Assyria was an aggressive nation expanding their kingdom by conquering their neighbors. Therefore Babylon’s king was fighting against Assyria to either maintain his power or he may already have been deposed and is scheming from exile to regain his throne. Perhaps having a mutual enemy can make the two leaders friends. ( The old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”) However they may have had another connection. I heard that the Babylonians worshipped the sun and they recorded in their history a day when the sun moved backwards (need ref). The sign that was given to Hezekiah was a world-wide event witnessed by others. And according to 2 Chronicles 32:31 the Babylonians came to ask Hezekiah about the miraculous sign. When they saw the sign and heard that it was connected to Hezekiah, they perceived this as their god giving great honor to Hezekiah, naturally they were drawn to him. Not only that, they had probably heard of Assyria defeat in which God had been wiped out 185,000 of their soldiers, so the purpose of the visit seems to be to court Hezekiah’s favor to become allies against Assyria. However there was another reason, a spiritual one. God had sent the Babylonian envoy to test Hezekiah and know everything that was in his heart. Now that God had blessed Hezekiah with fifteen more years, 2 Chr 32:31 tells us that God left Hezekiah alone to test him to know his intentions.

So how does Hezekiah respond to this test? Verse 13 tells us, “Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil—his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.” Isaiah 39 gives us a little more insight, it says that Hezekiah was happy to see the Babylonians and received them gladly. So what’s the meaning of all this? At first I didn’t think much about it, but after some research I can see what is really going on. Imagine if you experienced a miracle and suddenly all this attention is being showered upon you. And here are these foreign dignitaries bringing you gifts and if their god is honoring you they are going to honor you. And his pride begins to swell. Notice what Hezekiah shows them: HIS storehouses --the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil, HIS armory and everything found among HIS treasures. There was nothing in HIS palace or in all HIS kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. So, what did he show them? He exalted himself instead of exalting God. These potential seekers of truth came to seek help and see a miracle, it was the perfect opportunity for Hezekiah to acknowledge the Lord alone is God. Instead he showed them his gold and his silver and his treasures and his kingdom. I imagine that God was broken hearted especially after all his blessings that he poured out on Hezekiah. Needless to say that he failed God’s test.

Hezekiah doesn’t have to wait long to find out the results of his test. Take a look at verses 14-18. “Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.” 15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” 16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: 17 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 18 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”” It was as if Isaiah gave Hezekiah one last chance to change his attitude as he asked, “What’s up with those guys?” But Hezekiah misses the opportunity. However to me Hezekiah’s last response is the worst. When he finds out that his own flesh and blood, his grandchildren, or great grandchildren will be dragged away and punished he says in verse 19, “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” As long as he was ok, he was fine with God’s judgment. What a selfish and terrible response. It’s like our time when our country is spending spending spending and the financial burden is being heaped upon our children, we say, well as long as I have a good life, I don’t mind.

So what shall we take away from this passage? Just like the army soldier none of us knows how much time we have left in our lives. We need to ask ourselves, is our house in order? Are you ready if the Lord calls you home today? Every week we hear God’s word but how will we respond to his calling? Some of us may be in a difficult time in our lives at the moment; maybe God is trying to get our attention, like he did with Hezekiah. How are you going to respond, will you say, “I don’t need God I can do it myself” or will you humble yourself and ask for his help? Or maybe some of us are living comfortably like Hezekiah when the envoy comes and we are in a position of pride. Who of us can answer like Hezekiah faithfully following the Lord and having whole hearted devotion? Not many. I have no righteousness. Thank God for Jesus. I must call upon the Lord. Earlier this year my grandfather passed away and recently I went to help clean up their house. Going through his stuff, all his videos, Polish polka CD’s and books, I realized that he couldn’t take anything with him. As I packed it up, it felt so meaningless and I thought to myself, “Is this the result of our life?” With someone else going through your stuff when your dead. I want my life to have a deeper meaning than just accumulating things. I titled this message “What should we do now?” to think about how I should live my life from now on. Whatever I do, eat, sleep, work, fellowship, I should do it all for the glory of God, thus storying up my treasure in heaven. May God richly bless you.

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Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

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