Wednesday, March 22, 2023

2023.03.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 20:1–11

Read 2 Kings 20:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What was happening about the same time that Sennacherib died (2 Kings 20:1)? Who comes and tells him what from Whom? How does Hezekiah respond (2 Kings 20:2)? What does he ask Yahweh to remember (2 Kings 20:3)? What happens to Isaiah where (2 Kings 20:4)? What does this Word say is God’s response to what (2 Kings 20:5)? How much longer will he live (2 Kings 20:6)? What else will He do for that long? Why? What does Isaiah tell Hezekiah to do (2 Kings 20:7)? With what result? For what does Hezekiah ask a sign (2 Kings 20:8)? Whom does Yahweh’s prophet give the option of which sign (2 Kings 20:9)? How does Hezekiah “pick” (2 Kings 20:10)? In response to what does the sign happen (2 Kings 20:11)?

Why should believers pray? 2 Kings 20:1–11 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord Who all-powerfully upholds all things at all times has planned to execute His holy will in personal responses to our personal prayer. 

God’s invitations to prayer. We’ve recently seen in Exodus 32:7–14 how the Lord presented to Moses the situation as it was with the implication in Exodus 32:10 that if he prayed it would change the way the situation was. This is not an unique teaching. The Bible teaches everywhere that prayer changes things—even with the simple, “you have not because you ask not” in James 4:2.

Here, the Lord provokes Hezekiah to prayer by telling him the way that things stand (2 Kings 20:1). It’s a merciful message. We would all like the opportunity to set our house in order. Later, when the Lord gives him a definite time period (2 Kings 20:6), it involves the same mercy of “knowing the times” of his life. Those who are evidently short for this world ought to set their houses in order. 

And those who don’t know should keep in mind that they may be summoned from this world at any moment. The Lord has shown us the mercy of teaching this to us plainly enough. It is a biblical thing to conduct our business in a way that is considerate of those whom we would leave behind if the Lord summoned us suddenly.

But Hezekiah knows God. Despite his other failings, we still remember the summary that God Himself gave us in 2 Kings 18:1–8. And, knowing God, he knows that knowing God makes a difference. God has ordained that godliness makes a difference. God has ordained that prayer makes a difference. And, since our own faithful working is itself the work of God’s hand in our life, the godly plead those works not on the basis of merit but on the basis of grace. We plead with Him as the Creator Who made us in the first place, “Remember the work of Your hands.” And when the sobbing king prays, “Remember now, O Yahweh, I pray, how I walked” (2 Kings 20:2-3)… he is praying now to Him as the Redeemer Who produced that walking, “Remember the work of Your hands.”

The Lord teaches us the ordained effectiveness of the prayer of the righteous (cf. James 5:16b) even by the speediness and abruptness of His reply. The prophet hasn’t been able to vacate the premises before the word of mercy returns (2 Kings 20:4-5).

The greater mercies in every mercy. In God’s answers to believers’ prayers, there’s always more mercy than meets the eye. We tend to see or focus on one thing at a time. Often, what we focus on is relatively small and unimportant. The mercy of Lord’s answer to Hezekiah promises him is abundant: not just recovery from an illness, but fifteen years (2 Kings 20:6a). Not just fifteen years, but deliverance from Assyria (2 Kings 20:6b).

Yet, there is something far greater here than either the fifteen years or the military protection. 

First, Hezekiah has the mercy of the Lord’s personal compassion. “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you.” By stating it that way in 2 Kings 20:5, the Lord communicates just how personal His intervention is in Hezekiah’s and our lives. He listens to the sound of our voice. He sees when moisture leaves our eyes and wets our cheeks. He doesn’t just cause healing to happen from a cosmic distance; He personally does it in a way that is literally fleshed out by many of the personal touches (literally!) in the Lord Jesus’s healings. The personal compassion of God is not new in the New Testament; it is just newly visible in Christ.

Second, the Lord’s mercy to Hezekiah is powerfully comprehensive. It may seem to us a small thing when 2 Kings 20:5 says “on the third day you shall go up to the house Yahweh.” But this is actually the main part of the promise to which Hezekiah ends up responding in 2 Kings 20:8. What good is it to have our life extended, if it is only for this life and this world? 

Even if men still had gifts of healing or even resurrection, their beneficiaries would still eventually leave this world and face the judgment. But the Lord’s mercy to Hezekiah is not just healing of the body but maintenance of the soul. Yes, that was the Lord’s own work in Hezekiah’s life, to which the prayer in 2 Kings 20:3 had referred. And now, that spiritual work will continue. Hezekiah will continue to live as a worshiper of God. 

How important this is! For, while fifteen more years is significant in earthly terms, it is exceedingly small by comparison to eternity. When believers delight in the comprehensiveness of “all things for good” (cf. Romans 8:28), let us delight that this is especially spiritually comprehensive. It is for the good of being conformed to the image of the Son (cf. Romans 8:29). It is for the good of moving from “justified” to “glorified” (cf. Romans 8:30). It is for the good of having Him to Whom all other things are an ancillary addition (cf. Romans 8:32). 

Third, Hezekiah has the mercy of the Lord’s persistent covenant. The mercy that has been so personal in his life is a part of God’s eternal plan to glorify Himself (“for My own sake,” 2 Kings 20:6) by the redemption that He would bring through His Son as the Son of David (“for the sake of My servant David,” verse 6). This assures him of the certainty of this mercy, which also has the high privilege of having a place in this plan.

The great power behind every earthly mercy. Finally, we see the immense power that is at work when God responds to our prayers. The Lord had already given a sign, with the fig-poultice and the boil (2 Kings 20:7)—a sign that itself was a reminder that God employs earthly means and our obedience in His work. But Hezekiah is still unsure. 

Rather than rebuking His doubtful servant, the Lord offers him another sign, and this one is a doozy. It is not more difficult for God to suspend or accelerate time—to uphold all of existence by His naked Word, rather than all of the physical “laws” that are the normal pattern by which He does so—than it is for God to suspend the natural ways of figs and boils. This is even brought out more poignantly in the text by Hezekiah’s ignorant idea that “it is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees.”

And this immense power is exercised in response to prayer. The Lord does not “merely” reverse or accelerate time. He makes Hezekiah’s word (2 Kings 20:10) and Isaiah’s subsequent prayer (2 Kings 20:11) the trigger by which this occurs! Earlier, we were reminded that we personally have the ear and the eye of God (2 Kings 20:5b). Now, we are reminded of the infinite power of Him Who responds to our lives and to our prayers (2 Kings 20:10).

Thanks be to God Who is so personally and powerfully responding to His people’s prayers and working through His people’s lives, and Who rules and overrules all things for the sake of His glory and His plan to glorify the Son in redemption! How, then, ought we to live as those who have His eye, and pray as those who have His ear!

What part has prayer had in the ordinary course of your life? What part has prayer had in the intense moments of your life? When you think about the mercies that you have been desiring from God what, specifically, have you been desiring from Him? How does it compare with the greater mercies that you need from Him and should more desire? Realizing that there truly is such a thing as reward in this life and in the next—that even with Christ alone as all our worthiness, godliness makes a real difference—what changes do you hope that God’s grace will work in you? To make what difference?

Sample prayer: Lord, we thank You for being kind to us as You were to Hezekiah, and reminding us that we are short for this world and must live in a way as to honor You and do good to those whom we leave behind. Forgive us that we have not lived as those whose affairs are “set in order.” We thank You and praise You that any walking before You in truth is by Your grace, any walking with a loyal heart is by Your grace, and any doing good in Your sight is by Your grace. Forgive us that we have done so little of these. Forgive us that, for what we have done, we have not given Your grace enough credit. And forgive us that we have not pleaded Your gracious work more in our prayers. We thank You that You hear our prayers and see our tears. Forgive us when we have thought of You as a God Who is far off, rather than a God Who is near. Forgive us when we have abused the wonderful truth of Your sovereignty to deny the wonderful truth of the usefulness of prayer and godliness. Truly, O God, You are merciful, and we are needy of that mercy. Forgive us and continue to deal with us in mercy we ask, by Your Spirit, through Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP65A “Praise Awaits You, God” or TPH520 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

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