Who do we turn to?
“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, ‘This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’ Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: ‘Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” 2 Kings 20:1-6
Have you ever gotten really bad news, like the kind that immediately puts a pit in your stomach or leaves your head spinning with questions? The feeling I have when I hear something I really wasn’t expecting to hear, whether it’s a warning, caution, bad news or just even something a little disappointing is a little bit of loss, and a lot of “what now?”
I imagine that’s how Hezekiah was feeling when he was told by the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die. Hezekiah was literally in the middle of fulfilling his purpose, he was young and healthy, and suddenly he was struck with a disease and the news that his death was imminent.
This story fascinates me for so many reasons.
If I’m honest, in some ways, 2020 has given me that pit in my stomach, head spinning kind of feeling. There’s a lot of warnings coming our way as a society, including warnings about health, politics, social justice issues, and humanitarian issues. Or if you’re my husband, warnings about the stock market. It feels like one thing after the next in the news, and as much as we all keep tiptoeing forward hoping to sort our way out of it, it feels like there’s always something right around the corner ready to jump out at us.
Even more, on a personal level, families are separated from their church communities, struggling with finances, loneliness and lack of community, and health scares among other issues. Maybe you aren’t Hezekiah hearing a disease is about to kill you, but we all know that feeling of the looming news that something we cannot control has a grip on our lives and is taking us away from our purpose, and towards death.
But there’s some major differences between Hezekiah’s story and ours. The most important and one word difference: Jesus.
Hezekiah was a bit fearful of death, and rightly so. He was living under the old covenant, but we are living under the new covenant. That’s a fancy way of saying this, Jesus changes everything.
Because of Jesus’ life and resurrection, we live in the promise of eternal life, and death isn’t scary because as believers, it isn’t death at all. It’s actually a wedding, a reunion, and a homecoming with our God.
Hezekiah’s prayer reflects his relationship to God through the old covenant, because he’s basically saying, “look how faithful I have been God,” because his relationship with God was dependent on obedience under the old covenant. Under the new covenant (again, just Jesus) our relationship is only dependent on Jesus. Nothing else.
So our prayer in this moment should look different, we pray in Jesus’ name because that’s how we have power and authority.
So about Hezekiah’s response to this news…
He first turns his face to the wall. Bible commentaries seem to tell us that this is because he was trying to create a solitary, intimate moment with the Lord. His first reaction to this news is literally “I need to be alone with God and talk to him.”
Then, he prays. Maybe when you read this passage differently than I did, but here’s how I read it.
At first, I thought Hezekiah sounded kind of bratty. I thought he was being entitled and saying, “look God, I’ve been so good, and faithful and you owe me, don’t kill me!” But that’s actually not it at all.
His prayer never explicitly asks God to heal him. Instead, he asks God to remember him. His prayer is a beautiful communion with God telling God he is ready for whatever outcome, but he wants God to remember him and his life that was devoted to God. Why? Again, he’s under the old covenant here so he’s wanting God to see his obedience and faithfulness (which God does) and remember him.
But also, he is choosing a posture that doesn’t care so much about the outcome, but deeply desires to turn to God and make his devotion to God known. How different would our world look if we were actively taking that same approach?
God was gracious to give Hezekiah a heads up about his fate, this warning was what spurred Hezekiah to go to God immediately in prayer to prepare for what was to come. This is another reminder that prayer and communion with our Father is the way to prepare. When we have been warned, when we are scared, when we feel like we are approaching a challenging season, the way to prepare is going to God, alone in prayer.
Then, God does so much more than what Hezekiah asked for. First, He acknowledges Hezekiah. He lets Hezekaih know he’s heard him, He knows the depth of his emotions, and He is responding. He heals him miraculously of the disease and adds fifteen years onto his life. Then, he also promises to deliver Jerusalem.
Sometimes, I think the “bad news” we are facing is overwhelming. The warnings, the predictions, the projections, all of it can feel filled with fear and it feels like we have no choice but to face it. But what if we chose to turn and face the wall instead?
That’s my super clever way of saying, what if we decided to not ignore what’s going on in the world, but to shift our focus and to turn to God, in a moment of solitude and actually believe our prayers have power?
Hezekiah didn’t even pray for a specific outcome to the circumstances, he just asked for God to remember him, and then, God heard his prayer and responded with multiple miracles. We should know that the God Hezekiah spoke with that day is the same God we get to speak to today, and when Hezekiah said, “look at my faithfulness, God,” and allowed that confidence to lead him into prayer, we have even more than he did. We get to say, “I’m depending on Jesus’ righteousness,” and we get to pray from that place. That should make us even more bold, even more confident, even more faithful.
Have you been warned? Are you approaching something that feels unmoveable?
Have you taken a moment alone with the Lord?
Have you trusted that God can make a change, and it can happen immediately?
We get to make a choice in how we respond, and I want mine to look like this. I want to look to my God in an intimate, private moment, immediately upon hearing any concerning news. And I hope when I do, He will remember me, and see my devotion. But if you’re reading this and thinking yikes I haven’t been living a life fully devoted to God, don’t forget what makes this passage different. We pray not from our righteousness, but Jesus’ righteousness. It’s really that simple.
-Think about the last time you received difficult news. What was your first response? Who do you turn to?
-Write about the difference you see in Hezekiah’s prayer, and what your prayers can look like knowing Jesus died and rose for you, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for you.
-When you read this passage and this prayer, what emotions come up for you? What do you think of Hezekiah’s response to the news? What do you think of God’s response to Hezekiah?
God thank you for being a God who is so gracious to warn us, to listen to us, to acknowledge us, and to put things in motion for us. Thank you for sending your Son, so that we can approach your throne boldly and freely with any and every concern. Holy Spirit guide is into moments of solitude and prayer with you throughout our days this week. Amen.