We have been looking at the life of Hezekiah who is the best king that the nation of Judah ever had. He torn down the high places and trusted in the Lord. He kept the commands of the Lord and the Lord made him prosper. We left off with Hezekiah enjoying the benefits of trusting in the Lord. Rather than relying on Egypt or trying to pay off Assyria, Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and the Lord answered by doing the impossible. The Lord himself destroyed the Assyrian army and sent them back to their own land where the Assyrian king was killed by his sons. But there is another moment in the life of Hezekiah that the Lord wants to share with us. The next picture begins with God’s continuing power to answer prayer.
Hezekiah’s Restoration (20:1-11)
We are not told what led up to this, but Hezekiah becomes sick to the point of death. God sends Isaiah to Hezekiah to tell him that he is not going to recover from this sickness. Put your affairs in order because you are not going to recover. Keep in mind that Hezekiah is only 39 years old. So this is shocking news. But notice what Hezekiah does. Hezekiah turns and prays. His words are very simple. “Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight” (20:3). Now it is possible that this is an entirely selfish prayer, desiring to live longer. But I think it is worth noting that Hezekiah does not merely say that he wants to live longer. Hezekiah points out his own faithfulness in serving the Lord with his whole heart. Perhaps he wants to live longer to continue to rule as a good king in faithfulness to God. Hezekiah’s father was one of the worst kings Judah had up to this point and Hezekiah has reversed those policies as well has done more for the Lord than any other king before him. Isaiah 38 records this situation and what he was thinking when this news came to him. Part of what Hezekiah prayed was about how only the living can thank and praise the Lord (Isaiah 38:18-19). So I do not think that Hezekiah merely prayed to live longer but to live longer with purpose.
I think we can confirm this with the answer that God gives. Isaiah turns around and gives the word of the Lord to Hezekiah that he will add 15 years to his life. But notice what else God is going to do during Hezekiah’s reign. God is going to deliver Jerusalem from Assyria. God was going to continue to use Hezekiah to show his own glory. But the words the Lord gives to Hezekiah are beautiful.
“I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears.” (20:5)
I want us to hear these words because this is true about God with us. God hears our prayers and he sees our tears. Our God listens and our God cares. Then God declares that he is going to heal Hezekiah and raise him up to go to the house of the Lord on the third day. The third day is symbolic for the day of rescue and deliverance in scriptures. Here we have Hezekiah declared dead but being brought back to life. Hezekiah desires a sign to know that he will be restored so that he can return to the temple on the third day. Isaiah gives Hezekiah a choice of the shadow moving forward 10 steps or back 10 steps. Hezekiah takes the 10 steps backward because it is normal for the shadow to go forward. We see another amazing picture of God’s power to answer prayer. In our last lesson from Hezekiah we observed that God can answer prayers in even impossible circumstances in impossible ways. Hezekiah is the recipient of another powerfully answered prayer. We would love for this to be a great end to Hezekiah’s life story.
Restoration to Failure (20:12-21)
The Babylonians hear about Hezekiah’s restoration of health and send letters and a gift to Hezekiah. Hezekiah welcomed them and showed them all his treasure house. Listen to the words at the end of verse 13. “There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.” Isaiah comes to Hezekiah and asks what he did and what he showed the messengers from Babylon. Hezekiah says that he showed them everything in his kingdom and palace. Isaiah then declares that the days are coming when everything will be carried away to Babylon. Nothing will be left. The impression is that Hezekiah boastfully showed his wealth to the Babylonian envoys, not giving glory to God for great riches and honor he had at this time (cf. 2 Chronicles 32:27-29). The Chronicles account gives clarity about what has happened to Hezekiah which helps us understand what the Kings author is teaching.
And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. (2 Chronicles 32:31 ESV)
The Chronicler says that after Hezekiah was healed, “Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud” (2 Chronicles 32:25). This moment was a great test in the life of Hezekiah. It is quite a startling response for someone who trusted in the Lord. Hezekiah was going to die. The Lord had sent his prophet to tell him to get his affairs in order for his impending death. But God listened to Hezekiah’s prayer, rescued him from death, and gave him new life. But he did not respond to the kindness shown to him. Not responding to the kindness shown toward us is a very big deal to God. You might remember a parable that Jesus told about a man who had an unpayable debt that was forgiven by his master. But that forgiven man turned around and refused to forgive the debt that someone had with him. He did not respond to the kindness shown to him. He did not make return according to the benefit done to him. Hezekiah fails the test.
Responding To God’s Kindness
So what happened? Why do we not respond to the kindness shown toward us? It is a problem that God warned about. The blessings that God gives to us often lead to pride and forgetfulness. You may remember that Moses warned Israel about making this mistake before they came into the land in Deuteronomy 8:11-20. Moses says that the people are going to eat and be satisfied and have their possessions multiplied to them. But then he warns them “then your heart will be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (8:14). The warning is that God’s riches and blessings lead us to pride and forgetfulness. How sad it is that Hezekiah’s prayer for a longer life is answered, only for him to turn around and be filled with pride later in life! What God has done for us is supposed to point us to God, to remember him and obey him. But unfortunately Hezekiah’s healing is wasted on him. God shows him mercy but does not make return according to the benefit he received.
I want to encourage us to not waste the healing that God has done on us. We were dead but God has brought us to life. But will we return the benefit? Will we respond to the kindness shown to us? This is always God’s desire for us. God has acted first so that we would respond with love and obedience. The apostle John said that we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). The apostle Paul declares in Romans 5 that it is while we were enemies, helpless, and sinners that Christ died for us. God is constantly telling us that he has done for us so that we would love him in return. God never tells us to merely obey. Rather, God is telling us that we should respond to the kindness shown to us.
So we need to learn the lesson from Hezekiah. Our wealth and prosperity can tempt us to forget the Lord who gave it all to us. Our ability to do well can tempt us to forget how many times God has answered our prayers. How many times has God turned our darkness to light? How many times has God carried us through the dark valleys of life? We are not to take these answered prayers and blessings of God and forget him, become proud and thinking that we are excelling in life because of ourselves. We are to respond to God’s kindness. Have we wasted our salvation, not living in response to what God has done? Have we wasted our life, not living in the light of the healing and restoration that God has given to us? Have we wasted our blessings, using them selfishly on ourselves rather than returning the benefit we have received? When we are proud, it simply means we have forgotten what God has done for us. When we act arrogantly, it means we do not see that everything we have and everything we enjoy is because of God. Do not forget God when he answers you. Do not forget God when you enjoy prosperity. Look to the Lord and thank him. Look to the Lord and love him. Look to the Lord and obey him.