Today: [2 Kings Chapter Twenty] Turn Your Face to the Wall! In this chapter Hezekiah learns from the prophet Isaiah that he will die and not live. Rather than accept a prophetic death sentence he turns his face to the wall and cries out to God for clemency. As a result God gives him fifteen more years of life. This is an important lesson for us when dealing with unexpected tragedy and the assault of the enemy. God will always hear our prayer when we call out to him even on our death bed.
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[2Ki 20:1-21 KJV] 1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
In the previous chapter the Lord brings a great deliverance to the southern kingdom under the leadership of king Hezekiah. Now we see in the days following that Hezekiah became gravely ill. We are not sure what the illness was but you will see from the following verses that it involved an open wound or boil of some kind, perhaps leprosy or some other infection in his extremity. The prophet Isaiah comes to him and tells him to put his house in order for he is going to die. The narrative does not reflect that Hezekiah called for Isaiah but it was common in those days for kings and commoners to call upon the prophets when their lives were in jeopardy to inquire as to their circumstances from God’s point of view. In this case the news is not good. Isaiah sees that Hezekiah will not live and instructs Hezekiah to put his house in order.
Notice in reading this that it doesn’t say that God put this disease on Hezekiah. Neither does it say that God permitted Isaiah to become sick. This is important because many will blame God for different diseases and conditions. John 10:10 tells us that Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundantly. There is nothing about sickness or disease that is about life and life more abundantly. 1 Peter 2:24 says that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed. As New Testament believers we look to the cross of Calvary where the price was paid not only for our salvation but also for healing for our physical bodies. Hezekiah likewise had a promise from God found in Exodus 15:26 where God promised that he would not put diseases upon the people of God as long as they remained in obedience to him. So Isaiah informs Hezekiah of his death and unless something transpires between Hezekiah and the Lord that is exactly what is going to happen.
2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, 3 I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done [that which is] good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
Hezekiah is sick and the prophet Isaiah gives him a prognosis from God himself that he is going to die. Hezekiah doesn’t accept this verdict or become fatalistic. He knows something about God. He instead turns his face to the wall and cries out to God for clemency. Notice very carefully how he prays. He asks God to remember his personal righteousness and the fact that (in his opinion) Hezekiah has a perfect heart and has walked before the Lord in truth and had done in his lifetime what is good in his sight. This is actually true. Hezekiah was a good king. He had not walked in the iniquity of his father Ahaz. He was the first Judean king since Solomon’s day that destroyed the groves and the idols in the high places. He was very faithful. What will be the Lord’s response to his prayer?
4 And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
Isaiah delivers the word of the Lord to an ailing Hezekiah and informs him that he will not live. Hezekiah turns his face to the wall and cries out to God. He asks God to remember what an obedient and godly person he has been and to heal him of his disease. Before Isaiah can leave the king’s presence the Lord stops him and tells him to go back and tell Hezekiah that he will live. Here we clearly see the conditional and provisional nature of the words of the prophets. Regardless of whether the prophecy is about positive things or warnings of things to come – EVERYTHING is conditional and subject to change according to faith filled prayer. If Hezekiah had simply been passive about what the prophet said then he would have died. 1 Tim. 1:18 tells us to war with our prophecies. Hezekiah took a negative word and turned it to his own good. What you do with a prophetic word is much more powerful than the word itself. A prophetic word that you don’t respond to is an unopened envelope. You must act. You must do something. Hezekiah in his case cried out to God.
Notice what Isaiah returns to say to Hezekiah. God will deliver him and he will live another 15 years. In addition he is told that God will deliver the city from the Assyrians. Now if you read this from a linear perspective you might question hasn’t this already happened? Scholars suggest that this chapter is actually a postscript or epilogue written after the fact to disclose this incident of sickness in Hezekiah’s life during the time that the Assyrians were advancing on the city. Which may in fact explain why Hezekiah did not address Rabshekah the Assyrian war lord directly but rather sent emissaries because Hezekiah was in fact quite ill. So we see that the back story of the previous chapter is not only Hezekiah dealing with an assault from without but also great physical suffering. The devil never plays fair. He will kick you when you are down and do his best to discourage and defeat you and ultimately destroy your testimony. Isaiah was a great encouragement to Hezekiah not only by informing him but also standing with him in his suffering and struggle. Prophets likewise today – true prophets will stand by you and speak words of encouragement and direction when you are struggling, if you will ask. A wise prophet will never answer a question he has not first been asked.
We should also make note that while Hezekiah asked God for mercy on the basis of his own righteousness, Isaiah clarifies the extension of God’s mercy on the basis of God’s own integrity and for “his servant David’s sake…” not for any righteousness on Hezekiah’s part. This tells us when we are in trouble and facing immanent circumstances not to fall into the error of trying to convince God by our words or prayers to do something for our own sake. Cleaning up your act or doing something unusual to convince God to move in your life only serves to demonstrate your lack of faith in the finished work of the cross. God moves in your life because of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for you not in response to any so called righteousness or goodness on your part. Better simply to cry out for clemency as the publican Jesus spoke of who cried “be merciful to me a sinner” who then went home to his house justified.
7 And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid [it] on the boil, and he recovered. 8 And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What [shall be] the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? 9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? 10 And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. 11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.
After pronouncing that the king will live Isaiah does a curious thing: he instructs that a poultice of figs be placed on the king’s wound. Why didn’t he do that in the first place? There was a cure, a treatment that would heal the king and save his life but it wasn’t revealed to Isaiah until AFTER Hezekiah cried out to God for mercy. Hezekiah’s recovery then was not miraculous but a result of properly applied medical assistance. However the treatment was revealed through a word of wisdom after Hezekiah prayed. Never devalue or reject medical treatment on the basis of so-called faith. Hezekiah’s faith and the resulting healing was effected by medical means. Both God and medical practitioners have the same goal in mind – your healing. There may be other reasons not to allow a doctor to treat you but to reject medical treatment as a statement of your faith is inaccurate and unscriptural. Lean on God and trust God and accept medical treatment in the capacity that it is given.
Now after the poultice of figs is applied we see Hezekiah struggling in his faith. How shall he know that God will heal him? He didn’t question Isaiah when the prophet said he would die but now he is questioning the prophet as to whether or not he will live. Notice he didn’t tell Isaiah the first time “how will I know that I will die?” But now that Isaiah is speaking hope and life to him he wants a sign. Aren’t we the same way many times? We are more quick to believe the evil report than the good report. When the devil comes and says he is going to destroy us we don’t say “I doubt that!” Rather we cringe in fear and just expect it to happen. God comes to Hezekiah with good news and as proof the sun dial returns backward by ten degrees. Unsubstantiated rumors from years ago suggest that NASA engineers in computing the moonshot took this into account in order to accurately predict the trajectory of Apollo flight paths.
12 At that time Berodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present unto Hezekiah: for he had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. 13 And Hezekiah hearkened unto them, and shewed them all the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and [all] the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not. 14 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country, [even] from Babylon. 15 And he said, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All [the things] that [are] in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.
Hezekiah is healed and soon after receives a get-well card of sorts from the king of Babylon. Again we see the wiles of Satan working in the midst of a bad situation. Hezekiah is sick. The Assyrian’s are at the gate. Hezekiah is vulnerable in his emotions and upon receiving this condolence from the king of Babylon he promptly gives them a tour of the royal treasuries of the southern kingdom. Isaiah shows up and reproves Hezekiah for his lack of wisdom. It cannot be stressed more not to make decisions or accept overtures from questionable sources when you are under pressure. Sometimes the most vulnerable time in your life will be immediately after a great deliverance. Learn to be wise as a serpent yet harmless as a dove. People will come to you and speak right into your greatest vulnerabilities and insecurities when you are at your weakest. Learn to be quiet and listen to God before taking any precipitous action.
16 And Isaiah said unto Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD. 17 Behold, the days come, that all that [is] in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. 18 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. 19 Then said Hezekiah unto Isaiah, Good [is] the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. And he said, [Is it] not [good], if peace and truth be in my days? 20 And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, [are] they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? 21 And Hezekiah slept with his fathers: and Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.
Hezekiah gives the king of Babylon a full accounting of all their riches and treasures. As a result he has planted a seed of covetousness that Isaiah predicts will bring ruin on his house – though not in his lifetime. Because of Hezekiah’s lack of wisdom Isaiah predicts that his sons rather than succeeding him will become eunuchs to foreign kings. Inexplicably Hezekiah rejoices and declares this is understandable – at least it won’t happen in his lifetime. Thus we see the mercurial nature of king Hezekiah who demonstrated great faith to receive his miracle but also colossal naiveté and callousness to his own stupidity. We should remember this when dealing with God’s anointed leaders. Even though they do exploits in God’s name does not mean they are always wise or prudent. Likewise in our own lives when we see miracles and answers to prayer we must not assume that because God answered that we are not in any case still vulnerable to the attack of the enemy where we are most vulnerable ourselves.
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