Desperate Prayers, Tender Answer

One of my favorite Old Testament characters is King Hezekiah, whose story is told in 2 Kings 18-20 with portions also found in Isaiah. King Hezekiah was a godly king, a man who led Judah in a time of great political and social upheaval. Assyria was a constant threat. Many in the land of Judah no longer sought after God or followed him whole-heartedly. But of King Hezekiah it is said, “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him.  For he clung to the Lord;” (2 Kings 18:5-6).

When Assyria besieged Jerusalem, sending derisive, scathing and taunting letters to the king, he went up to the temple of the Lord, spread out the letter before his God and begged for deliverance. Big prayers in a  time of  desperation! Hezekiah trusted God and wasn’t afraid to pray big. And God answered big! He sent the prophet Isaiah to Hezekiah with a promise of delivery, and an encouragement to stay strong in the midst of the impossible siege.  Then God sent a plague that killed nearly 200,000 in the Assyrian army camped around Jerusalem.

So later when Hezekiah became sick to the point of death, it is not surprising that he expected God to heal him. He had prayed big before, and God had answered in big ways. He had followed God faithfully. Instead this time, Isaiah came with a word to put his house in order because the illness was going to end in death.

I love Hezekiah’s humanity. I love his honesty before God. Turning away from anyone else, and facing the wall, he cried out to God. Hezekiah did not hesitate to remind God of the good he had done in following faithfully after the Lord. And he begged for his life. Hezekiah begged in desperation for God to recant and heal him.

This is the part of the story I love. Before Isaiah could get out of the courtyard of the castle God said to him, “Stop, go back! Tell Hezekiah I have heard your prayers and I have seen your tears; behold I will heal you.”

God heard his desperate pleas and he saw his broken tears! He listened. And in an instant he changed his message to one of healing! God was swayed by the prayers and tears of his faithful servant. Not only that, he answered quickly. He did not leave Hezekiah to continue begging or to struggle through his illness. Sometimes, God does indeed train us through a period of waiting. But this time, his answer was swift and decisive.

And Hezekiah’s response? Unmitigated praise! He rejoiced even before the healing had taken place. Even before his boil was gone, he was writing a praise song to God, proclaiming, “It is the living who give thanks to you, as I do today!”

I am inspired by Hezekiah’s relationship with God—his persistent prayers and unwavering faith, his confidence in God’s faithfulness, and his desperate dependence. And I am undone by God’s relationship to Hezekiah—his miraculous intervention time and time again to rescue Hezekiah, and his personal, tender response to Hezekiah’s prayers and tears! What a reminder of the intimate God we serve, and his gentle but powerful presence in our lives.

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