When Sennacherib’s mighty Assyrian army arrived to besiege Jerusalem, all hope evaporated (Isaiah 36:1-10). This unstoppable military machine had run roughshod over the surrounding nations with both ease and brutality. In a characteristic act of intimidation, the king of Assyrian sent his field commander to King Hezekiah to threaten Jerusalem with destruction. Worse, the messenger ridiculed the living God.
The message offended Israelite King Hezekiah. A godly man, he tore his clothes immediately, put on sackcloth, and went into the temple of the LORD to pray. He knew his modest army was no match for Sennacherib’s formidable forces.His only hope was to pray to God Almighty. The Living God heard his prayer and, that very night, sent an angel to kill 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. This was truly a time of death. His army decimated, Senacherib withdrew, sparing Jerusalem from certain defeat and the death of an untold number of souls on both sides.
Ultimately, however, death spares no man. After this great victory, Hezekiah fell gravely ill (Isaiah 38:1). No one, regardless of his greatness or goodness, is exempt from the eventuality of sickness and death, and no one has conquered death except Jesus Christ. Hezekiah, a powerful ruler on Earth and a mighty favorite of Heaven, was struck with a disease despite his righteousness. Without a miracle, his illness meant certain death. In a bittersweet way, his sickness seized him while in the midst of his triumphs over the ruined army of the Assyrians. This should teach us to rejoice always with trembling.
What’s a man to do when his time of death is at hand? Hezekiah did the same thing he did when afflicted by an unbeatable enemy – he prayed to God (James 5:13). Prayer is a salve for every sore, public or private, and we can never pray too much. When Hezekiah was distressed by his enemies, he prayed. Now that he was sick, he prayed. The lesson is that whatever comes our way, when anything ails us or afflicts us, we should go to the Father. Afflictions are sent to bring us to our Bibles and to our knees.
When Hezekiah was healthy, he went up to the house of the Lord to pray, for it is a house of prayer. When he was sick in bed, he turned his face towards the wall (Isaiah 38:2), probably towards the temple, which was a type of Christ, to whom we must look by faith in every prayer. If by God’s grace we have lived a good life and have walked closely and humbly with Him, Christ will be a great support and comfort to us when we come to look death in the face.
God has a gracious ear open to the prayers of his afflicted people. The same prophet He sent to Hezekiah with a warning to prepare for death was sent to him with a promise that he would not only recover, but be restored to an excellent state of health and live fifteen more years.
What an amazing revelation! Who among us knows the length of his life or the number of his days? (James 4:14). This is one of the great mysteries of life. Moreover, for most of us it is better not to know. With God’s revelation, Hezekiah knew his time of death in advance.
No one except Christ had the promise of living a certain number of years to come, as Hezekiah had. Moreover, God thought it fit to confirm this unprecedented favor with a miracle – God made the shadow on the sun-dial retreat in the opposite direction (Isaiah 38:7-8). Whereas the sun is a faithful measurer of time, and rejoices when a strong man of God runs a good race, God can set the clock back when He pleases. He is sovereign, even over time.
It is normal for God to set the time of death for all creatures. Death entered the world when Adam sinned and death stalks us all. Sin is a sickness and sin’s curse, death, is inevitable. When we pray in our sickness, even though God will not send to us a clear time of death as He sent to Hezekiah, by His Spirit He bids us to be content and joyful (Philippians 4:11). He assures us our sins are forgiven through Christ our Savior, that His grace will be sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9), and that, whether we live or die, we shall be His. Whatever our time of death, we have no reason to say that we pray in vain.
A servant of Jesus Christ
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