2 Kings 20:1-3 (NIV) 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, O 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.
On verses 1-3: Hezekiah is suffering from a life-threatening illness. Initially Isaiah brings a message to Hezekiah from the Lord saying that he must get ready to die. Turning his face to the wall, Hezekiah prays, weeps, and pleads with God for mercy.
What can we learn from this? Just as Hezekiah turned and faced a wall and then prayed, when you’re facing a wall — no matter how insurmountable it may seem — let your first instinct be to go to God in prayer. Pour out your heart to God.
2 Kings 20:4-7 (NIV) 4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader 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. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.'” 7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.
On verses 4-7: The Lord hears Hezekiah’s prayer for mercy and simultaneously moves Isaiah as he is leaving the palace. Isaiah goes back to Hezekiah and tells him that the Lord has heard his prayer, seen his tears and will heal Hezekiah, promising to add 15 years to his life and to deliver him and Jerusalem from the Assyrians. Isaiah then instructs that a glob of figs be placed on Hezekiah’s body, which apparently was a common form of medical care in Hezekiah’s time.
What can we learn from this? Did Hezekiah’s prayer cause the Lord to change His mind? If so, then how do we reconcile this with verses like 1 Samuel 15:29 which says that God “does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind”? I believe what’s happening here is that God was possibly testing Hezekiah’s spiritual strength, even while Hezekiah was physically on his death bed. God’s will was always to heal Hezekiah, but He was waiting for Hezekiah to fight for that healing. As a result, his faith would be strengthened, the faith of the people he led would be strengthened, and God would have a stronger king and nation as a result. So when you receive bad news, don’t be afraid to pour your heart out to God, and be honest with Him about what you feel. It could be that God is simply using that situation to test your faith so that in the end you and those in your scope of influence can all get stronger and more courageous.
2 Kings 20:8-11 (NIV) 8 Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?” 9 Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” 10 “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.” 11 Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
On verses 8-11: Is it wrong to ask God for a sign? If so, then why would God honour Hezekiah’s request for a further sign from God that Hezekiah would be healed? Hezekiah was not the only one in the Old Testament to ask for a sign. Gideon did so in Judges 6:17. Meanwhile, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and teachers of the law when they requested that Jesus perform a miraculous sign (Matthew 12:38-42). So what can we learn from this? God cares about why you ask for a sign. If your request for a sign comes from a place of coldheartedness and unbelief, then don’t be surprised if Jesus refuses to honour your request for a sign. But if your request comes from a place of faith and wanting extra assurance, then it seems that this can be a God-honouring request. It’s not asking for a sign that is right or wrong, but why you ask that matters.
On verses 12-18: Hezekiah is hosting some royal messengers from Babylon and without any inhibition he shows them all the treasures in his storehouse. Isaiah then tells Hezekiah that the day will come when Babylon will attack Jerusalem and carry away all those treasures, including some of his descendants.
What can we learn from this? While it is admirable and helpful to be open and transparent with others, you need to exercise discretion and self-control when doing so. Before you share something that is very precious to you, consider whom you are sharing it with and how much you should be sharing. Is this person someone you can trust, or is this someone who will end up using what you share against you? Are you putting anyone at risk by sharing what you share? As Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6) So exercise discretion, wisdom and self-control when you share about your life with others. 2 Kings 20:19-21 (NIV) 19 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” 20 As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? 21 Hezekiah rested with his fathers. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king.
On verses 19-21: When Hezekiah receives the news from Isaiah that Babylon will eventually attack and carry his people away after Hezekiah is gone, Hezekiah responds by saying, “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good” (v19). What are we to make of Hezekiah’s response? Some scholars think Hezekiah was being self-centered and short-sighted, focusing only on his own comfort and happiness and not thinking about future generations. Other scholars see Hezekiah’s response as humble acceptance of God’s will as well as gratitude that God would allow there to be peace during his lifetime. What can we learn from this?
2 Chronicles 32:25-26 may help to clarify what happened:
2 Chronicles 32:25-26 (NIV) 25 But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD’s wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. 26 Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD’s wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah.
Apparently pride at some point had affected Hezekiah’s heart, but then Hezekiah repented, which led to God having mercy on Hezekiah and not allowing Babylon’s destruction of Judah to take place during Hezekiah’s lifetime. In the end, Hezekiah ends his reign as one of the greatest kings of Judah’s history.
Heavenly Father, thank You for all the lessons we can learn from today’s Word. Whenever I receive bad news, may my first instinct always be to go to You and to give You my heart. Whenever I ask for a sign, may it always be from a place of faith and not unbelief. Whenever I’m inclined to share with others from my life, may I always do so with discretion, wisdom and self-control. And whenever I misstep, like Hezekiah may I be humble enough to repent quickly and turn back to You. Thank You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!