2 Kings 20:1-11

Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery

20 In those days Hezekiah became [a]mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept [b]bitterly. Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your [c]life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”’” Then Isaiah said, “Take a cake of figs.” And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord the third day?” Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?” 10 So Hezekiah [d]answered, “It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.” 11 Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord, and He brought the shadow on the [e]stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the [f]stairway of Ahaz.

Hezekiah’s heart is shown in the stark contrast of his reaction to bad news from the prophet compared to other kings. Ahab, for example, threw a prophet in prison for speaking the truth, even though the king himself had threatened the prophet if he spoke otherwise.

Yet Hezekiah is not so stubborn, nor so haughty. He humbles himself before God, prays and weeps bitterly. His prayer is so earnest and sincere that God stops Isaiah before he had gone out of the king’s court and tells him to deliver the real message. I say “real” because God knew Hezekiah’s reaction before he ever prayed, and God knew what He would do in response to that prayer. Thus the original message could have been just a test for Hezekiah to pass.

In any case, God knew (and saw) Hezekiah’s heart, and I love that the promise is that Hezekiah will be able to go up to the temple ( the “house of the Lord”) in three days. And Hezekiah does not shun that, but asks for a sign that He will indeed be in the temple in three days. I love His response when Isaiah asks if the sun should go forward or back, “It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps…” Really, that’s easy?

To be fair, easy probably isn’t the right word, but perhaps “easy to mistake” the sign of God for a trick of the eyes, or some other mental lapse. But to go backwards, no one in the earth would mistake that God had just intervened in the natural order of things.

It’s even more interesting than at first glance, because some have said that all miracles are simply God accelerating the natural, and such things are easy to mistake. But God is not to be put in a box, and while He may most often do that, here is a perfect example, an unmistakable case, of when God went against the natural order He himself had instated.

That’s all a lovely story, but what can we glean from it? First, God has good things in store for many people if they will but ask. Sometimes, perhaps even often, we receive not, because we ask not. Further, when you think you have God “figured out”, you don’t. God is unfathomable, and unsearchable, yet all the time He calls us to know Him more. It’s a lifelong pursuit, even an eternal pursuit, to know God. To find His love, mercy, peace, joy, and so much more.

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