We’re still in the book of Isaiah today, but wouldn’t you know it, my old friend Hezekiah is making a return to the blog today! You may be sick of Hezekiah, but I love the guy dearly, and considering that his story was woven into like 18 different books of the Bible (exaggeration!) I think God really wanted us to pay attention to this man.
This set of verses comes right after Hezekiah recovered from an illness that almost killed him. The illness was going to kill him, the prophet Isaiah even confirmed it and told Hezekiah that it was all over. That’s part of this story that I deeply love. Back then, prophets were basically like the voice of God. If one of these guys gave you a word, you basically were being talked to by God. So the voice of God tells Hezekiah, “get ready to die, you will not recover from this illness.” It was the ultimate death sentence. What does Hezekiah do? He prays about it anyways! He asks God to remember the way he’s lived his life faithful to Him. So Isaiah comes back with a different message from God, this time telling Hezekiah “okay, not gonna die from this illness after all.”
It’s not even remotely my point, but I have to point out the manner in which God gave a sign to Hezekiah that he was going to survive. God turned back time! Here’s the verse, just so you’ll know what I’m on about here.
Isaiah 38:7-8 “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: 8 Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.
Now there’s some debate (isn’t there always?) about what exactly God did here. Did He just manipulate shadows? Did He actually rewind time? My thing is, if you’re all in on the Bible why not just be all in, you know? God clearly performed some type of miracle here, I think everyone agrees on that, so why not just dive in and believe that He performed the coolest possible miracle? Shadow manipulation is something that we can wrap our brains around, I can see how that might be possible. TIME REVERSAL? THAT’S INSANITY, and thus, I feel that’s what God did. God did insane things all throughout the Bible and He continues to do them today. He parted seas and raised people from the dead and sends down fire from heaven, you know? He took my crippling pain away from me in the dead of night in the hospital, sent me to find and speak life to a specific guy downtown Fort Worth, healed my legs and renewed my mind and my heart. This is a God of miracles, past and present, and so I do, I choose to believe the biggest, boldest version of God I can possibly think up. God reversed time as a clear and inarguable sign to Hezekiah that He was going to spare him from this illness.
Okay, so, back to my actual point. Hezekiah, as you can imagine, is quite happy at this turn of events. He gets to live for a while longer, but he also gets that knowledge that his God heard his cries and responded. I don’t know that there’s another feeling quite like when God answers your prayers. Knowing without a doubt that the God of the universe heard you and responded, it’s maybe the most assuring and empowering feeling in existence. So Hezekiah, in his joy, writes this letter of praise to God. I’m going to use the Message translation of the Bible for this, as I just love how it reads there. It starts out a little dark, as he either wrote it while he was still under that death sentence of an illness or wrote it recalling what it felt like, but watch where it goes in the second half.
Isaiah 38:10-20 (MSG) In the very prime of life
I have to leave.
Whatever time I have left
is spent in death’s waiting room.
No more glimpses of God
in the land of the living,
No more meetings with my neighbors,
no more rubbing shoulders with friends.
This body I inhabit is taken down
and packed away like a camper’s tent.
Like a weaver, I’ve rolled up the carpet of my life
as God cuts me free of the loom
And at day’s end sweeps up the scraps and pieces.
I cry for help until morning.
Like a lion, God pummels and pounds me,
relentlessly finishing me off.
I squawk like a doomed hen,
moan like a dove.
My eyes ache from looking up for help:
“Master, I’m in trouble! Get me out of this!”
But what’s the use? God himself gave me the word.
He’s done it to me.
I can’t sleep—
I’m that upset, that troubled.
16-19 O Master, these are the conditions in which people live,
and yes, in these very conditions my spirit is still alive—
fully recovered with a fresh infusion of life!
It seems it was good for me
to go through all those troubles.
Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline.
You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing.
But my sins you let go of,
threw them over your shoulder—good riddance!
The dead don’t thank you,
and choirs don’t sing praises from the morgue.
Those buried six feet under
don’t witness to your faithful ways.
It’s the living—live men, live women—who thank you,
just as I’m doing right now.
Parents give their children
full reports on your faithful ways.
20 God saves and will save me.
As fiddles and mandolins strike up the tunes,
We’ll sing, oh we’ll sing, sing,
for the rest of our lives in the Sanctuary of God.
There are just a few things I want to pull out of there really fast. “It seems it was good for me to go through these troubles. Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline. You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing.” What a gorgeous sentiment, and one that’s really been big on my heart the past 48 hours. I seriously just like thirty minutes ago sent a friend a message about God sometimes needing to bring us low, the fact that sometimes our best moments are the low ones, because they bring us to a fuller reliance on and realization of God’s goodness and provision. Hezekiah says it was good for him to almost die, because in that near death he was able to experience the hand of God gripping tightly to him and keeping him alive. That’s crazy beautiful.
The last thing I want to highlight is this. “The dead don’t thank you, and choirs don’t sing praises from the morgue. Those buried six feet under don’t witness to your faithful ways.” I like all the morbid imagery here, but what I like more is the spirit of what Hezekiah is saying. It’s almost like this pledge to God, like he’s telling him “Hey, you kept me alive and I’m going to tell every single person about your goodness and what you’ve done for me.” It’s funny because I feel this in my own life. If you know me at all you know I can hardly shut up about the ways in which God has just moved my life with miracle after miracle.
Praise God for the hard times. Rejoice in the struggles, for every single one of them is doing a new work in you. God’s goodness and glory is always there, even in the hospital room, even in the unemployment line, and He can and does use the toughest of days to prepare us for our greatest of days. Hezekiah’s brush with death was a reason for rejoicing, it was a source of deepening his love and connection with God, and it was a catalyst for a renewed mission to spread the word of God’s goodness to everyone he met.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, thank you for the tough times. You know, I’ve got several friends that have been struggling a bit the past few days, but I say right now that we praise you in the struggles. Lord, be glorified in the struggles, be ever teaching us, ever growing us, and if it takes some struggles, if it takes a near death experience, whatever it may take to grow us closer to you then I just say yes to it right now. Thank you that you are so amazing that you can turn our lowest point into a key to future glory. For my friends who may be low the past few days, God, I just ask that you show them the purpose, remind them that reliance on you is where our true strength lies, and pull them from struggle to victory as soon as you will. We love you, Lord, good times or bad. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
I love all of you beautiful people. God’s so deeply and madly and fully in love with each of us, His love is a thing that we can’t even fathom. If you’ve got something going on in life go to Him in prayer, I promise that He’s there.
Everyone have a safe and restful weekend!