Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. 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, you shall not recover.”
Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
My mother, Maurine Edvenson Riskedahl (high school photo above), grew up in a family that saw a lot of sorrow. Several of her siblings died in infancy; hard-earned money was scammed from them for Oklahoma oil wells that never delivered (existed?); an Iowa farm was lost in the 30′s. And my mother’s mother fought a difficult battle for many years with multiple sclerosis. On New Year’s Day of the year my mother turned 13, each of the family members chose a year verse, as was their habit. The verse my mother’s mother chose for herself was the verse above –“Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.”
My grandmother died that year just days after Christmas. She spoke her last words to her family, all gathered around her bedside, and the words pointed to joy: “I’ll be waiting for you just inside the Eastern Gate.”
I heard this story often as a child, and now that I am older, I think the verse is a wonderful year verse for each one of us. Is our house in order with the Lord? Are we keeping short accounts with friends and family, eager to forgive, averse to holding grudges? Are we regularly telling the ones we love how important they are to us? Are we giving our best to the Master with our time, our skills, our money? Are we taking time every day to praise and worship and thank the Lord for all His goodness to us? Do we show God’s grace and joy to those in our sphere of influence? Do we seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance? Do we love with the love of Christ?
I never met my grandmother, of course. But that day will come. And when we meet, “just inside the Eastern Gate,” I will thank her for teaching me to prepare willingly and carefully not only for death, but also for eternal life in Heaven.
2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 and said, “Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.
In fact, God gave two gifts to Hezekiah. First, He gave the gift of an extended life. Second, He gave the gift of knowing he only had fifteen years left. If he were wise, this would still give King Hezekiah the motivation to walk right with God and to set his house in order.
6 I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city.
It would seem that this chapter is out of place chronologically, coming before the Assyrian invasion of the previous chapter. In reality, the personal healing is proof that God will in fact deliver Jerusalem from Assyria. One promise confirms the other.
7 “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.
9 A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:
This is a poem that Hezekiah wrote (verses 9-15) celebrating his recovery.
10 I said, In the middle of my days
I must depart;
I am consigned to the gates of Sheol
for the rest of my years.
11 I said, I shall not see the Lord,
the Lord in the land of the living;
I shall look on man no more
among the inhabitants of the world.
Hezekiah’s pain at his approaching death is increased as he believes that in the grave he will no longer see the Lord. His thinking is based in the cloudy understanding of the world beyond before life and immortality were brought through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:10). Though there are occasional glimpses of hope into the world beyond (such as in Job 19:25-27), for the most part there is no clear understanding in the Old Testament of the nature of life after death (Psalm 6:5, Psalm 88:3-5, 11).
This explains why Hezekiah does not welcome death as a certain pathway to the presence of the Lord. For these Old Testament saints like Hezekiah and David, the grave (Sheol) was an uncertain place. They knew the Lord was there (Psalm 139:8), but they didn’t know exactly how. So for these Old Testament saints, going to the world beyond was exchanging this world’s certainty for the uncertainty of the world beyond.
We, on the other hand, know the glorious truth of the Empty Tomb!
12 My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me
like a shepherd’s tent;
like a weaver I have rolled up my life;
he cuts me off from the loom;
from day to night you bring me to an end;
13 I calmed myself until morning;
like a lion he breaks all my bones;
from day to night you bring me to an end.
14 Like a swallow or a crane I chirp;
I moan like a dove.
My eyes are weary with looking upward.
O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety!
15 What shall I say? For he has spoken to me,
and he himself has done it.
I walk slowly all my years
because of the bitterness of my soul.
What did Hezekiah do with these added 15 years?
One thing he did was father a son who would succeed him on the throne of Judah. Of the next king of Judah, Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, it is written that he was 12 years old when he became king (2 Kings 21:1). This means he must have been born in the last 15 years of Hezekiah’s life. Sadly, fathering Manasseh was not a worthy achievement. It was written of him, And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel (2 Kings 21:2).
Like they say — Be careful what you wish for. Oh, that we might submit every thought and desire to Christ, to do his will in every detail!
16 O Lord, by these things men live,
and in all these is the life of my spirit.
Oh restore me to health and make me live!
17 Behold, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back.
18 For Sheol does not thank you;
death does not praise you;
those who go down to the pit do not hope
for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living, he thanks you,
as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
20 The Lord will save me,
and we will play my music on stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
at the house of the Lord.
21 Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.” 22 Hezekiah also had said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?”
The two are related: Hezekiah will not go to the house of the Lord until he is healed.
My mother loved to sing and she loved to listen to George Beverly Shea sing. This song was one of her favorites. Click HERE for “The Love of God.”