September 3, 2023 . . .“Bible prayers: Hezekiah prays for a longer life” II Kings 20:1-3

September 3, 2023 . . .“Bible prayers: Hezekiah prays for a longer life” II Kings 20:1-3

September 03, 2023

“Bible prayers: Hezekiah prays for a longer life”

II Kings 20:1-3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Born ninety-seven years ago, back in July of 1926, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was an author, teacher, and world-renowned Swiss-American psychiatrist. In 2007, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, and in 1999 was named by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Important Thinkers” of the 20th century.

And over her seventy-eight years of life, she taught as many as 125,000 students and wrote twenty books that have since been translated into forty-four different languages!

But the one book for which she’s known best of all is her very first one, the one she called On Death and Dying. It’s a book not really about how to manage death, but one that talks about death from the dying person’s point of view--about their hopes and fears, and their anger and anxieties.

And in that book, she outlined what she believed to be the five stages of grief, what she called, “a patient-focused, death-adjustment pattern,” that included first denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. And while she readily understood that not everyone went through all five stages in the same, exact order, that framework was a way, she said, to cope with life and loss.

She wrote, “It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth--and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.” And she said, “If you were to shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.”

The Bible is full of death and dying. In fact, the book of Genesis chapter 5 is almost a litany about death and dying. Verse 5 says: “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.” Verse 8: “Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.” Verse 11: “Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.” I could go on, but you get the idea.

Or think of the book of Psalms, like Psalm 103: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16). Or Psalm 116: “The cords of death entangled me; the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow” (Psalm 116:3). Or, of course, the words of Psalm 23: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4).

And in the book of II Kings, we hear about a man who also was about to die, a king named Hezekiah. As it says in chapter 20: “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”’” (II Kings 20:1).

So who was Hezekiah? Simply enough, he was a king who reigned over the southern kingdom of Judah right about seven hundred years before Christ. And he was a good king, a remarkable king, a bright, shining light in the midst of deep darkness.

You see, while his grandfather, Jotham, was a good king, his father, Ahaz, definitely was not. The Bible says that not only did he sacrifice his own sons to Molech (II Kings 16:3), he tore apart the temple and its furnishings (II Kings 16:17-18), and he built altars on every street corner to foreign gods (II Chronicles 28:24-25).

Then if all that wasn’t bad enough, he made a deal with one of Israel’s most hated and treacherous enemies, the king of Assyria, that would eventually cost his nation millions upon millions of dollars.

Needless to say, his sixteen years of reign were a complete and utter disaster.

So by the time his son, Hezekiah, became king, at the ripe old age of twenty-five, he inherited a country that was up against a wall and on its knees, that had wandered far from God and now lay under the thumb of the king of Assyria.

But wonder of wonders, just as soon as Hezekiah became king, he completely turned his nation around! He reopened the temple, he reassembled all the priests and Levites, he shut down all idol worship, he stood up against the king of Assyria, and he almost managed to reunite the nation of Israel.

Later, the Bible says, “And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him” (II Kings 18:3, 5).

And because he was such a good and faithful king, God blessed him with financial prosperity, military victories, peace, and health.

As one commentator wrote, “More than just a man of accomplishments, Hezekiah was a man of character.”

Which makes the words of II Kings chapter 20 come as a complete surprise! I’ll read again the words of the text: “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”’” (II Kings 20:1).

I mean, think about it. Here he was, probably the best thing that’s happened to the nation of Israel in who-knows-how-many years. For the past fourteen years, he’s served the Lord and served His people, trying with all his heart to make his nation better. Even more, in a time when most people lived to the age of eighty, he wouldn’t even make it to forty.

It’s just not right! It’s just not fair!

Sound familiar? If it does, then you know exactly how Hezekiah must have felt when the prophet Isaiah came to him and said: “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover” (II Kings 20:1).

Now if you don’t mind, let me digress for just a moment.

So we know Hezekiah was sick. But what was he sick with?

The Bible says it started out as a boil--you know, a red, painful, burning, inflammation under the skin, that fills with pus, then ruptures, and drains. (I could show you a picture, but let’s just not!) And left untreated, one boil can soon form a cluster of boils to become what’s called a carbuncle, which, in turn can enter your bloodstream, spread infection, (that’s sepsis), that will likely result in tissue damage, organ failure, and ultimately death.

Can you picture him tossing and turning in bed, trying to get into a position where the pain isn’t as bad, but no matter what he does, there’s no relief? Can you see the palace doctors, the royal physicians, standing beside him, looking gravely at one another, slowly shaking their heads?

That’s when, all of a sudden, there was a knock on the chamber door, and a message from Isaiah the prophet: “Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” To put it another way, “Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Game over.”

And even though Hezekiah was a good man and a good king, living in the red-carpet limelight of honor and privilege, at the end of the day, he was still a mess of blood and bones, of hopes and dreams, of fears and flaws and failures, just like you and me.

So why was he so bitter about dying? Because his death didn’t make any sense. Not only did he want to keep living, he wanted to keep loving the Lord, to keep doing what was right, and to keep leading his nation to serve the one and only true God.

So what did he do? He prayed. As the Bible says: “Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before You in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight’” (II Kings 20:3-4). Then it says, “And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”

But you know, no sooner had Isaiah stepped out of the king’s chambers that the Lord came to him once more and said: “Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord, and I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake” (II Kings 20:5-7).

Fifteen years, He said. Imagine if you knew you had fifteen years to live, or fifteen months, or fifteen hours, or even fifteen minutes. Would you work differently than you do now? Would you live differently than you do now? Would you love differently than you do now?

Whether we like it or not, the day will come when each of us will also, just like King Hezekiah, hear those cold, sobering words: “Set your house in order, for you shall die.”

What then? What then?

Do you know the One who can save you from death, who took all your sins on Himself, who died that you might live, who is the resurrection and the life? I hope you do, for He is your only hope and your salvation.

Born in Minneapolis in November of 1950, Mike Plant began sailing on Lake Minnetonka, then quickly went on to compete locally and internationally. In his 20s, he not only sailed the length of South America, he moved to Jamestown, Rhode Island to pursue his passion of single-handed sailing. Five years later, he set the record for the fastest American to circle the world, with a time of 135 days.

So it was no surprise that, for another trip around the world, he would design and build his own $650,000, lightweight, fiberglass-coated sailboat called the Coyote. And so in October of 1992, equipped with the best and the latest in technology, he launched from New York and headed across the Atlantic toward France--the start of a four-month, 24,000 mile race.

But it wasn’t long into the trip before he started to have trouble. For several days, no one heard anything from him…until a passing Russian freighter picked up his transmission: “I have no power, but I’m working on the problem.” Then he ended the transmission with his only request: “Tell my fiancée not to worry.”

Thirty-two days later, a Greek Tanker happened to spot the Coyote. But it was drifting upside down, with its mast fully sailed and plunged deep beneath eighty-five feet of water. And there was no sign of Mike Plant.

So what happened? Since the hull was upside down, the fatal problem was exposed--the eight thousand, four hundred pound keel was, for some unknown reason, gone. And without that weight to help balance and stabilize the boat, it was at the mercy of violent winds and an angry sea.

And so are we. Without prayer as our ballast and keel, we don’t stand a chance in this violent and angry world. And so we pray, resting on the grace, the strength, and the mercy of our almighty God.

In the words of a hymn: “Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged--take it to the Lord in prayer. Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness--take it to the Lord in prayer.”

We thank You, Father, for the power and the privilege of prayer, in life and especially in death. Help us, by Your grace, to rest on You and You alone, for Jesus’ sake. Amen