I was reminded recently of King Hezekiah, and what happened when he got ill. It features three times in the Bible. Usually when a story’s told more than once, it’s done for a reason. 2 Chronicles 32:24-26 mentions it briefly. 2 Kings 20:1-11 gives us the order of events, and Isaiah 38 records the song Hezekiah wrote concerning his illness. I knew King David was a songwriter, but hadn’t realised King Hezekiah was too.
So, what is the story, and what can we take from it? Hezekiah was so ill. He had a boil, which must have got infected, because God’s spokesman Isaiah was sent to tell him he was going to die; he wouldn’t recover. Hezekiah’s response was to pray fervently, so much so that he broke down and wept. Isaiah had left by this point, but he hadn’t gone far when God told him to return to Hezekiah. God had heard the king’s prayer, and seen his tears, and was going to heal him. “Three days from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life,” God said.
Hezekiah wanted a sign that God would do this for him. I imagine Isaiah as a very softly-spoken man, with penetrating eyes that seem to see into a person’s soul. He looks at doubting Hezekiah and reminds him: “The LORD will do what He says”. Nevertheless he asks: “Do you want the shadow to go forward ten steps or back ten steps?”
“It’s easy for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” Hezekiah answers, so Isaiah cries out to God and the shadow moves backwards.
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The first thing that strikes me is the power of prayer. If Hezekiah could pray earnestly in the face of death, surely we can too, at a time like this.
What did God promise after such a passionate prayer? “Three days from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD.” Hezekiah was on his deathbed, and on the third day, he would rise again. I know someone else God raised from the dead on the third day. Because Jesus conquered death, we can ask Him to give us life: Not just in the natural, but spiritually too – hope when things seem hopeless; peace in a time of anxiety.
A friend has a quote on her Facebook profile that I like. It says: “Be realistic … demand the impossible”. Perhaps God gave Hezekiah that sign of the shadow moving backwards not just for his benefit, but for ours – to remind us that God’s supernatural, and we can ask things of Him that would defy logic. If He can move a shadow back instead of forwards, surely He can shorten this season we’re in. People are in isolation with a lot taken from them at this time, but God’s still a God of miracles. He wants to meet all your needs, today and always.