hezekiah and the shield

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On my journey with the tiresome kings, a particular passage caught my attention. It’s buried in the story of Hezekiah, who was one of the few bright lights on the string of dismal kings. Hezekiah cleansed and restored the temple and reinstalled the priests. He called the Levites to bring their instruments for worship. He called the people to observation of Passover and they came in droves.

Hezekiah understood the importance of serving God fully and worked hard to turn the people from their wicked ways. God blessed him for it. His kingdom was prosperous and protected. And then he fell ill.

Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. The prophet Isaiah … said, “put your affairs in order, you’re about to die — you haven’t long to live.”

How often it seems to happen that way. Years and years of hard work and some success, perhaps even a sense of God’s favor … and then, KA-POW! It feels like a sucker punch. Suddenly, there is no air to breathe.

I can hardly imagine how the doctor felt when his wife died suddenly a couple of weeks ago. She retired not long ago. They had lots of hopes and dreams. Another friend lost her husband in a freak accident three summers past. Retirement was on their horizon, weddings and grandchildren still ahead, anticipating a long future together. Suddenly, alone; facing a different future. In a word: heartbreaking.

In this case, however, Hezekiah was warned of his demise. Isaiah was not a prophet to be ignored. His illness would be fatal. His first instinct was to turn to God.

Hezekiah turned from Isaiah and faced God, praying:

Remember, O God, who I am, what I’ve done! I’ve lived an honest life before you, My heart’s been true and steady, I’ve lived to please you; lived for your approval.

And then the tears flowed. Hezekiah wept.

Some historians believe Hezekiah had contacted the plague. If so, that was certainly a death sentence. His plaintive prayer, “God, remember me…” is testimony of his trust in God, despite the circumstances. Did he weep for life unlived, plans unfulfilled? In fear of the afterlife? In bitterness for his plight? I wonder. He seems to be resigned. What happens next is remarkable.

Isaiah, leaving, was not halfway across the courtyard when the word of God stopped him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, prince of my people, ‘God’s word, Hezekiah! From the God of your ancestor David: I’ve listened to your prayer and I’ve observed your tears. I’m going to heal you. In three days you will walk on your own legs into The Temple of God. I’ve just added fifteen years to your life; I’m saving you from the king of Assyria, and I’m covering this city with my shield—for my sake and my servant David’s sake.’ (2 Kings 20 MSG)

Hezekiah’s restoration to health was nothing short of miraculous. But what caused me to pause on this reading was God’s promise of protection. “I’m covering this city with my shield — for my sake and my servant David’s sake.” God’s protection is powerful. His plan will prevail.

When I read this passage, I was thinking specifically about a dear friend’s daughter, recently and suddenly diagnosed with leukemia. It was an extremely precarious position. She was teetering on the brink; the situation dire. Inexplicably, from the outset I had a deep peace for her situation. It was the kind of peace you can’t explain and know is real. I believed God was at work. I believed she would be healed. I received this passage as confirmation of my belief. And I began to pray for God’s shield around her and her family. I love the imagery of being covered with a mighty God’s massive shield, sheltered and protected by the God of Angel Armies!

God’s response to Hezekiah was in keeping with his promise to his people. He always has the bigger picture in mind. We don’t necessarily appreciate the plan. It doesn’t change the intense pain or the loss we experience in living through it. There is no tidy explanation for those tragedies. Most days it seems this world is so far out of balance with pain and heartache that I cannot bear to read the news. But I continue to believe and trust in God in all things. It is the only thing to do. As it turns out, we are all only passing through.

~ René Morley

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