Tuesday, January 10, 2012

mercy for bitter tears

"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." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
2 Kings 20:3

Hezekiah knew he was dying when he prayed this simple prayer. He did not ask to live, which I think is very interesting. He seems to have accepted the message of Isaiah the prophet that his time had come. He appeals to God's covenant faithfulness and just asks God to remember the kings's own obedience to follow God. The bitter tears would flow because nothing about mortality and death is particularly joyful! But Hezekiah is simply coming to terms with death's reality, and prays his honest prayer.

God intervenes and adds fifteen years to the king's life. Isaiah is sent back to Hezekiah with a message of hope and healing. God graciously confirms the hope with a miraculous sign. The sun's shadow actually recedes back its relentless advance, signifying God's ability to add time to the king's days on the earth. God turns in mercy to a faithful and obedient follower, who is a leader of His people.

This story sets up a theological debate. Obviously. God knew that Hezekiah would live. Why then is the message of death followed with a message of healing? It seems to be that God is drawing out of Hezekiah the faithfulness that is already there. It is a moment for God to have with the king. Hezekiah is not bragging about his testimony before God. He is rehearsing the facts and reviewing his life in the light of having to come to grips with mortality. God made the choice in Hezekiah's case to do the miraculous and to converse with the king about his day of death. And in so showing His power, God kept confirming His relationship with His obedient and loving child.

The highest ruler in the land is subject to God's sovereign purposes. And when that powerful man is obedient and humbly submissive to God's control, the power of God is displayed. God received the glory in Hezekiah's life. And the extra fifteen years he received from the Lord was just more time to spend glorifying the mercies of God. The way in which God turned even bitter tears into a moment of praise for His power is the way God can work in any difficult situation. We just need to be faithful to Him and trust God's plan.

No comments: