Gaining Perspective #3
Everybody will die, but very few want to be reminded of that fact.
Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy
I call this story Father Knows Best.
You can find it in 2 Kings 20, or 2 Chronicles 32, and also in Isaiah 38-39.
When God tells the same story three times I think we can assume that there’s a lesson in it somewhere!
To me this reads a little like a Greek Tragedy.
The story opens with a king, a good king, who is trying to avoid a war and paying a punishing tribute. He takes his situation to God. He is facing a harrowing siege by a powerful and vicious enemy. They were the kind that took few prisoners, and the ones they did take wished they had died instead.
That part of the story is in 2 Kings 18-19.
Somewhere in the middle of all this tension king Hezekiah gets sick, really sick.
Isaiah the prophet comes to him and pretty much says, “Set your house in order and get ready to meet your Maker.”
But Hezekiah must have read Dylan Thomas because he was not about to Go Gentle Into That Good Night!
He turned his face to the wall and prayed like crazy.
Before Isaiah had left the palace, God stopped him and said, “Go back and tell Hezekiah I’ve heard his prayer, I’ve seen his tears, and I’m gonna heal him. Three days from now he’ll go up to the house of the LORD and I’ll give him fifteen more years to live. And, I’ll deliver the city out of the hand of the king of Assyria.
When I read the Bible I try to focus on how the truth I find can apply to my life.
I try to put myself in the story.
Be the king, be Hezekiah.
How would I feel if I had tried to live for God and lead the people closer to God, then I get told it’s curtains for me?
I’d be plastered up against the wall bawling my head off.
God gives him 15 more years.
The lessons, the applications for us are found in what happens during those 15 years.
I want to share a quote from Jim Elliot.
He was a missionary who was killed while trying to reach the Auca Indians of Equador for Christ. As a young college student he’d begun keeping a journal and continued that habit until his death. His widow published them and this was among his thoughts recorded there.
“When it comes time to die, make sure that all you have to do is die.”
Elisabeth Elliot, The Journals of Jim Elliot
What would you do with 15 bonus years?
The two key things left in the record of his last years are both bad, very bad.
We’re told in 2 Chronicles 32:25 that the king had a problem with pride.
Even after God healed him, he wasn’t humbled. (2 Chron. 32:25)
Prominence, wealth, and just being deferred to by others is hard to handle. For all his good efforts, the king acted entitled.
And nothing is as tempting to pride as the opportunity to show off.
When the ambassador from Babylon comes to pay a visit celebrating the king’s return to health, Hezekiah takes them on a tour of all the riches of the palace and the Temple. Everything found in the royal treasuries was revealed, “there was nothing in his house, nor in his whole realm that he didn’t show to them.”
When Isaiah hears it he says, “One day they’ll come and take it all and they’ll make your sons eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
Does he repent in sackcloth and ashes and ask God’s forgiveness?
No, he says, “It’s good that it won’t happen until I’m gone. We’ll have peace in my days.”
He plans to spend the fifteen years enjoying being king and he doesn’t care what’ll happen when he’s gone.
How selfish does a person, a father, have to be to say that?
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children. Prov. 13:22
The second thing is that he fathers a son who will be king and yet that boy is wicked through and through.
Hezekiah had 12 years, the bulk of the time God gave him, to shape that boy’s character.
Every king of Israel was to write a copy, in his own hand, of the Scriptures.
He was to read out of it every day.
God had a specific reason for this.
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites:
And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them:
That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
Without that guidance and training, Manasseh excelled in wickedness and evil.
He built altars for child sacrifice, groves for profane worship, and rebuilt the altars to Baal which his father had torn down.
He shed innocent blood until he had “filled Jerusalem from one end to the other.”
That’s a boy whose father neglected his spiritual training.
That’s a boy whose dad was so busy enjoying his last years that he failed miserably to prepare the future king by building his character.
He didn’t teach him about holiness, goodness, or duty.
What a tragedy for Israel, for the people, and for the innocent children.
What God requires of us is really very simple.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
We’re suppose to live this way and teach our children to live like this too.
What will you do with the time you have left?
Make it count for good.
Leave a legacy of goodness that will last for generations.
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”
― Shannon L. Alder
What do you think?
Should Hezekiah have accepted God’s first message and not asked for more time?