IN the midst
of his prosperous reign King Hezekiah was suddenly stricken with a fatal
malady. "Sick unto death," his case was beyond the power of man
to help. And the last vestige of hope seemed removed when the prophet
Isaiah appeared before him with the message, "Thus saith the Lord,
Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live." Isaiah
seemed utterly dark; yet the king could still pray to the One who had
hitherto been his "refuge and strength, a very present help in
trouble." Psalm 46:1. And so "he turned his face to the wall,
and prayed unto the Lord, saying, 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." 2 Kings
days of David there had reigned no king who had wrought so mightily for
the upbuilding of the kingdom of God in a time of apostasy and
discouragement as had
dying ruler had served his God faithfully, and had strengthened the
confidence of the people in Jehovah as their Supreme Ruler. And, like
David, he could now plead:
prayer come before Thee:
ear unto my cry;
For my soul
is full of troubles:
And my life
draweth nigh unto the grave."
art my hope, O Lord God:
Thou art my
trust from my youth.
By Thee have
I been holden up."
me not when my strength faileth."
be not far from me:
O my God,
make haste for my help."
forsake me not;
Until I have
showed Thy strength unto this
And Thy power
to everyone that is to come."
6, 9, 12, 18.
"compassions fail not," heard the prayer of His servant.
Lamentations 3:22. "It came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into
the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 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. 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." 2 Kings 20:4-6.
prophet returned with the words of assurance and hope. Directing that a
lump of figs be laid upon the diseased part, Isaiah delivered to the king
the message of God's mercy and protecting care.
Like Moses in
the land of Midian, like Gideon in the presence of the heavenly messenger,
like Elisha just before the ascension of his master, Hezekiah pleaded for
some sign that the message was from heaven. "What shall be the
sign," he inquired of the prophet, "that the Lord will heal me,
and that I shall go up into the house of the Lord the third day?"
sign shalt thou have of the Lord," the prophet answered, "that
the Lord will do the thing that He hath spoken: shall the shadow go
forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?" "It is a light
thing," Hezekiah replied, "for the shadow to go down ten
degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees."
Only by the
direct interposition of God could the shadow on the sundial be made to
turn back ten degrees; and this was to be the sign to Hezekiah that the
Lord had heard his prayer. Accordingly, "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." Verses 8-11.
his wonted strength, the king of Judah acknowledged in words of song the
mercies of Jehovah, and vowed to spend his remaining days in willing
service to the King of kings. His grateful recognition of God's
compassionate dealing with him is an inspiration to all who desire to
spend their years to the glory of their Maker.
cutting off of my days,
I shall go to
the gates of the grave:
I am deprived
of the residue of my years.
I shall not
see the Lord, even the Lord, in the land of the living;
behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
age is departed,
removed from me as a shepherd's tent:
cut off like a weaver my life:
He will cut
me off with pining sickness:
day even to night wilt Thou make an end of me.
till morning, that,
As a lion, so
will He break all my bones:
day even to night wilt Thou make an end of me.
Like a crane
or a swallow, so did I chatter:
I did mourn
as a dove:
fail with looking upward:
O Lord, I am
oppressed; undertake for me.
shall I say?
He hath both
spoken unto me,
hath done it:
I shall go
softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.
by these things men live,
And in all
these things is the life of my spirit:
So wilt Thou
recover me, and make me to live.
for peace I had great bitterness:
But Thou hast
in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of
For Thou hast
cast all my sins behind Thy back.
grave cannot praise Thee,
They that go
down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth.
living, the living, he shall praise Thee,
As I do this
The father to
the children shall make known Thy truth.
Lord was ready to save me:
will sing my songs to the stringed instruments
All the days
of our life in the house of the Lord."
fertile valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates there dwelt an ancient
race which, though at that time subject to Assyria, was destined to rule
the world. Among its people were wise men who gave much attention to the
study of astronomy; and when they noticed that the shadow on the sundial
had been turned back ten degrees, they marveled greatly. Their king,
Merodachbaladan, upon learning that this miracle had been wrought as a
sign to the king of Judah that the God of heaven had granted him a new
lease of life, sent ambassadors to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his
recovery and to learn, if possible, more of the God who was able to
perform so great a wonder.
The visit of
these messengers from the ruler of a far-away land gave Hezekiah an
opportunity to extol the living God. How easy it would have been for him
to tell them of God, the upholder of all created things, through whose
favor his own life had been spared when all other hope had fled! What
momentous transformations might have taken place had these seekers after
truth from the plains of Chaldea been led to acknowledge the supreme
sovereignty of the living God!
But pride and
vanity took possession of Hezekiah's heart, and in self-exaltation he laid
open to covetous eyes the
with which God had enriched His people. The king "showed them the
house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices,
and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armor, and all that
was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his
dominion, that Hezekiah showed them not." Isaiah 39:2. Not to glorify
God did he do this, but to exalt himself in the eyes of the foreign
princes. He did not stop to consider that these men were representatives
of a powerful nation that had not the fear nor the love of God in their
that it was imprudent to make them his confidants concerning the temporal
riches of the nation.
The visit of
the ambassadors to Hezekiah was a test of his gratitude and devotion. The
record says, "Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the
princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was
done in the land, God left him, to try him, that He might know all that
was in his heart." 2 Chronicles 32:31. Had Hezekiah improved the
opportunity given him to bear witness to the power, the goodness, the
compassion, of the God of Israel, the report of the ambassadors would have
been as light piercing darkness. But he magnified himself above the Lord
of hosts. He "rendered not again according to the benefit done unto
him; for his heart was lifted up." Verse 25.
disastrous the results which were to follow! To Isaiah it was revealed
that the returning ambassadors were carrying with them a report of the
riches they had seen, and that the king of Babylon and his counselors
would plan to enrich their own country with the treasures of Jerusalem.
Hezekiah had grievously sinned; "therefore there was wrath upon him,
and upon Judah and Jerusalem." Verse 25.
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 unto me, even from Babylon. Then said he, What
have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine
house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not
said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the
hosts: Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that
which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried
to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. 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.
said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast
spoken." Isaiah 39:3-8.
remorse, "Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both
he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord came
not upon them in the days of Hezekiah." 2 Chronicles 32:26. But the
evil seed had been sown and in time was to spring up and yield a harvest
of desolation and woe. During his remaining years the king of Judah was to
have much prosperity because of his steadfast purpose to redeem the past
and to bring honor to the name of the God whom he served; yet his faith
was to be severely tried, and he was to learn that only by putting his
trust fully in Jehovah could he hope to triumph over the powers of
darkness that were plotting his ruin and the utter destruction of his
The story of
Hezekiah's failure to prove true to his trust at the time of the visit of
the ambassadors is fraught with an important lesson for all. Far more than
we do, we need to speak of the precious chapters in our experience, of the
mercy and loving-kindness of God, of the matchless depths of the Saviour's
love. When mind and heart are filled with the love of God, it will not be
difficult to impart that which
the spiritual life. Great thoughts, noble aspirations, clear perceptions
of truth, unselfish purposes, yearnings for piety and holiness, will find
expression in words that reveal the character of the heart treasure.
whom we associate day by day need our help, our guidance. They may be in
such a condition of mind that a word spoken in season will be as a nail in
a sure place. Tomorrow some of these souls may be where we can never reach
them again. What is our influence over these fellow travelers?
Every day of
life is freighted with responsibilities which we must bear. Every day, our
words and acts are making impressions upon those with whom we associate.
How great the need that we set a watch upon our lips and guard carefully
our steps! One reckless movement, one imprudent step, and the surging
waves of some strong temptation may sweep a soul into the downward path.
We cannot gather up the thoughts we have planted in human minds. If they
have been evil, we may have set in motion a train of circumstances, a tide
of evil, which we are powerless to stay.
On the other
hand, if by our example we aid others in the development of good
principles, we give them power to do good. In their turn they exert the
same beneficial influence over others. Thus hundreds and thousands are
helped by our unconscious influence. The true follower of Christ
strengthens the good purposes of all with whom he comes in contact. Before
an unbelieving, sin-loving world he reveals the power of God's grace and
the perfection of His character.