2 Kings 19-20 (NIV)
2 Kings 19:9 Sennacherib… sent messengers to Hezekiah with this word: 10 “Say to Hezekiah king of Judah: Do not let the god you depend on deceive you when he says, ‘Jerusalem will not be given into the hands of the king of Assyria.’ 11 Surely you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the countries, destroying them completely. And will you be delivered? 14 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.” 20 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria.
2 Kings 20:1 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.”2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 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. 4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: 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. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life.
This teaching is the second part of our series called Lessons Down the Line. We’re highlighting a few of Israel’s Kings, from the time of King David to the arrival of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.
Most of them were scoundrels, and unfaithful to God, but Hezekiah was a good king. Around 700 years before the birth of Jesus, Israel fell to the Assyrians and yet Judah had remained independent. It was during this time when Hezekiah became king at the age of 25. He ruled for 29 years, and he was a contemporary of Isaiah the prophet. Hezekiah’s father was wicked. He followed the ways of the wicked people around them – worshiping their gods, which included a brutal practice of sacrificing their children.
But Hezekiah was different. He began removing all of the items used to worship the false gods, and under his rule, child sacrifice was abolished.
During his reign, King Hezekiah was challenged and troubled on two occasions by awfully bad news, and we've looked at the two stories from the 2 Kings account. Both times, he took this awful news to prayer, and received help from God because he prayed. Let’s look at these two events in Hezekiah’s life, beginning with:
1. Bad news from his enemy
Sennacherib, king of the hostile Assyrian empire, had sent a threatening message, delivered by his field commander, to King Hezekiah. The message declared war upon Judah, the small and vulnerable independent kingdom that Hezekiah ruled.
At the same time the field commander tried to intimidate Hezekiah's people by shouting propaganda for all to hear. The letter delivered to Hezekiah mocked both Hezekiah himself, and the LORD whom he worshipped (2 Kings 18).
Understandably, Hezekiah was shaken by the aggressive message, so privately he took the letter into the temple, spread it out before the LORD, and pleaded with him to do something about it. The answer from God was immediate. An angel struck the camp of the Assyrian army. Sennacherib fled home, only to be assassinated by his sons (2 Kings 19).
2. Bad news from his friend
Isaiah the prophet had the unenviable task of telling Hezekiah that he was going to die, and to set his affairs in order. Hezekiah was sick in bed when Isaiah visited him and broke the news. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed. He shed many tears as he pleaded with God to help him.
The LORD heard Hezekiah's prayer, and was moved by his tears. He granted and guaranteed Hezekiah fifteen more years of life!
Now let’s note some lessons from these two stories—something we can take away. The lessons come in my third point:
3. Good news from his God
The most important words in these two bad news stories, are five words which God spoke to Hezekiah on both occasions: “I have heard your prayer” (2 Kings19:20-20:5).
This verse certainly implies that God acted because Hezekiah prayed. A lot of people have the idea that a divine God simply does what he does and is not moved by the desperate cries of humanity. But God destroyed Sennacherib because Hezekiah spread out a threatening letter and prayed for God’s help.
Shortly after our eldest son, Zac, was born, my wife,Karen, received a letter from Revenue Canada, telling her that they had made a clerical error, and that they had overpaid her benefit for maternity leave. She, they told her, now owed them a substantial amount of money.
We were serving God in missions at the time, and quite literally did not have ANY extra money to repay anything.
So after some heart pounding moments, and shedding more than a few tears, Karen phoned the government office. She explained to the agent that this was going to be a definite hardship if we were expected to repay the money. Still the agent insisted, but ended the call by saying he would see if there was a way that the repayment could be reduced, or at least stretched out over a longer term.
When I got home and Karen told me about the phone conversation, I asked her to bring me the letter, opened my bible to this story of Hezekiah, and placed the government letter on top of the pages of my bible. Then together we prayed that God would help us in this difficult situation, even as He had helped Hezekiah when he spread out his letter before the LORD.
And wouldn’t you know, God acted because we prayed! We waited, and waited…and waited, for a decision from the government and none came. We never heard another word. No letter, no phone call, nothing. The file was closed, or lost, or something, but we did not have to pay back a single dime.
Here me today, God is still moved by our desperation, even as He was in ancient Judah. What are you concerned about today? Will you take courage today from the story of Hezekiah, and remember the sublime suggestion, found in 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you”.
Maybe you’ve asked yourself, “Why doesn’t God answer my prayer, why is this taking so long, why won’t he release me from this trial”. I know I’ve asked myself those questions many times, when it seems the heavens are as brass.
I can’t give you an easy answer, but I can absolutely assure you of this: “God wouldn’t allow you to suffer if He didn’t plan to make something good out of it”
God heard Hezekiah's prayer on his sick bed, and he saw his tears. A young king of a tiny kingdom is crying and dying, and God sees from heaven and cares. And not only does He see to it that Hezekiah gets better, but because he prayed to God he is promised fifteen more years!
My parents have told me, that when I was an infant, just a few weeks old, I needed surgery for a hernia that had developed in my abdomen. The surgery was routine, but during the procedure I contracted a staff infection. The infection quickly took over my system, and even though I was hospitalized the doctors couldn’t stop it.
After a few days it was determined that there was nothing more that could be done and they sent me home with my parents with virtually no hope that I would survive. My parents tell me that the fever was intense, and that the smell of death was coming off of my body.
Then one evening as my dad was holding me, he began to walk the floor and pray. In desperation He pleaded with God to spare my life. He prayed, “God, if you will heal Craig, I commit his life to fulltime service in your Kingdom.” Well, that’s certainly more than 15 years later, and clearly, I’m still here! You see God had a work for me to accomplish—still does.
So let me ask you, what is it that you could use some time for—even extra time if necessary—to accomplish for His glory?
Maybe what God did for King Hezekiah, He has done for you too, and raised you up in spite of a bad health report to carry on with His purposes for you.
Perhaps somebody here has received another kind of report. It may not have been a report that threatened your physical life, but it spoke death to your spirit and will. Sometimes ill placed words from others, even from people that we love and respect, can cause us to malfunction and give up on our hopes and dreams.
If you are one of those people, you need to hear God promise you today that He will give you the extra years you need—perhaps even more than 15 years—and start you up again.
I love the words of Psalm 90:15-17 (NLT)
15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
16 Let us, your servants, see you work again;
let our children see your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.
Yes, make our efforts successful!
Do you believe God could, God would, work on your behalf—even today? Do you believe that every bit of bad news that darkens your door can become a testing ground where God shows up to deliver you?
That’s a challenge for all of us today, and a good reminder of God’s faithfulness from the story of King Hezekiah.
Pastor Craig Eagle