I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah in an effort to spend more time in the Old Testament. As I’ve been reading, the sections about King Hezekiah intrigued me, so I wanted to do a little more digging and share what I’ve learned. The verse that caught my attention followed Hezekiah falling ill, but before we dig into that it’s important to understand the history leading up to it.
Hezekiah was 25 years old when he became the 13th king of Judah. That’s the same age as me. Yes, the culture was much different back then, but I can’t imagine trying to lead a nation. So what type of person is he? In 2 Kings 18, it describes Hezekiah as a man who “did right in the eyes of the Lord.” In verse 5 it says, “Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”
Fast-forward about 14 years to Isaiah 37 and 38. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, is basically trash talking Hezekiah and Jerusalem. Sennacherib was confident in his previous conquests and didn’t believe the Lord could save Jerusalem. At this message, Hezekiah took the letter to the temple and prayed. In response, the Lord spoke through Isaiah and foretold of Sennacherib’s fall. In chapter 37:36, it all comes together: Then the angle of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning – there were all the dead bodies!
Following this, Hezekiah becomes ill and “was at the point of death.” In the first verse of chapter 38, Isaiah comes to Hezekiah and tells him, “You are going to die; you will not recover.” Ouch. Right to the point. It is in Hezekiah’s reaction to this news that started to really grab my attention. Verse two says, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord.” After receiving news that he was about to die, his reaction was to pray. It was the same reaction he had when the leader of a powerful nation was taunting God. I hope to one day be at that point, where prayer is naturally my first response.
Immediately following the prayer Isaiah hears from the Lord, and God decides to extend Hezekiah’s life by 15 years. The power of prayer is amazing. Following his recovery Hezekiah wrote, “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back,” – verse 17. Hezekiah sees it as a benefit that he nearly died. He reflects back and gives credit to God that he is alive.
Shortly after reading this in Isaiah, I read Psalm 75:3: When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. To me, Hezekiah embodies this belief. Through these scenarios, Hezekiah responded in prayer to God, the one who holds the pillars firm. It is my hope in the difficult times we face we remember to turn to God in prayer. From all accounts, Hezekiah was a man of God and lived it out through his actions. He demonstrates how powerful prayer and trusting in the Lord can be.