1-11 The Extended Years
Why is life so important to Hezekiah? Here’s a man who has just about everything his heart could desire. We know Hezekiah has lived a good and full life— though brief; what could there be that left him so undone and inadequate to face his Maker? Let me make a suggestion of one major thing Hezekiah is missing, it’s a little confusing, but nonetheless, a very real struggle.
Let me just write what I think and then I’ll come back and look at it closer. It’s very well possible that Hezekiah had no son at this time in his life and that is what distressed him most. What makes this chapter somewhat confusing is reading Isaiah saying, “…Put your house in order….” When we see those words we use our culture to apply its meaning. “Get you house in order” means to us, see a lawyer, put your will together and set everything straight in advance for your spouse and children. However, it just may be Hezekiah is the only king warned of his impending death, as he is the only monarchy of Judah who had no son. Was there even a relative of David that could be selected and anointed to rule? We don’t read of any other sons of Ahaz. It was time to start looking for an heir and that lack bothered Hezekiah tremendously. Confronted with mortality and inadequacy Hezekiah turns and pleads with God:
NIV 3 “Remember, O 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.
I don’t think he’s asking for a life extension so much as he’s asking God to remember his service. The possibility of breaking the line of David had become real to him. He felt as a failure and asked God to remember his service in other areas. It’s this prayer that will touch the heart of God. Hezekiah is so burdened that he catches the attention of God. And as Isaiah is leaving the middle court in the great hall of the kings, God speaks to the prophet:
NIV 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader 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. 6 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.’”
God’s response to Hezekiah is for David’s sake; the legacy of David will not be broken. God will defend the city, and extend his life 15 years past this date. Let’s focus on God’s answer to Hezekiah in this first section.
1. God’s Answer
God answering Hezekiah is not what is unusual here. What’s fascinating is God extending the life of this man who had been marked for death! I have images of the proverbial grim reaper waiting his turn to carry this soul away. Suddenly death is put on recalled and a life addition is given to Hezekiah—a contract extension. Hezekiah asks, what’s the guarantee of life and he is told to pick a sign. There are two things I want point out here: the sign and the shadow.
a. The Sign
Isaiah’s answer; make a choice Hezekiah, do you want the shadow to step forward 10 degrees or do you want it to go backwards. We are told, and no doubt Hezekiah knew, the sun stood still for one day in the times of Joshua. Hezekiah knew time could stand still for 24 hours—that could be done. Time going forward, what’s new about that. People lose track of the day all the time. What Hezekiah was looking for was the most impossible request of all—time to go backward. Scientist say 10 degrees movement in shadows is exactly 40 minutes in time. Hezekiah was looking for a forty-minute jump backwards in time.
Maybe I’m somewhat a novice at this whole time contingency miracle thing, but to me, for the earth to suddenly, in a moment, jump back 40 minutes without altering anything else is rather significant.
Are there things we can ask God for? I’m not saying to ask for 40 minutes back, I’m thinking more in lines of believing if He can do this for Hezekiah, surely my impossibilities can fit in there somewhere. The sign of Hezekiah is a promise to me of God’s possibilities.
b. The Shadow
Now there’s the shadow. On the sundial of the unbelieving Ahaz, father of Hezekiah, the shadow was to be witnessed suddenly traced backwards 10 degrees. All of this transpired in a moment of time. One second the shadow was here, next it was back there where it was forty minutes ago. While this was a local miracle for Hezekiah, I want you to understand it was a global concern:
NIV 2 Chronicles 32:31 …envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land…
The miracle got the attention of the leaders in Babylon. Now, this is going to become a source of problems for Hezekiah and all Israel in the future; but we’ll get there in our discovery. What is significant to understand at this moment is that the sign was a worldwide phenomenon upsetting nations! It wasn’t just reserved for the porches of the Temple; it was a miracle of global proportions with universal significance.
When God does something for His people it affects the world around them. Sometimes we wonder why God does not answer some prayers. Well, there are things bigger than we are; there’s the will of God and how that will influence the world.
2. Hezekiah’s Accomplishments
Let’s move to the accomplishments Hezekiah made in his extended 15 years of life. Two things here to think on: the son and the service.
a. The Son
I want you to remember that first of all, the heir apparent, or royal prince, was always the firstborn of the king unless the king deemed that firstborn unworthy. The reason why folks believe Hezekiah was without an heir is because Manasseh was 12 years old when he began to reign. We are told this in the next chapter. That means he was born within Hezekiah’s 15 years of extended life. God saw Hezekiah’s grief and service; he extended 15 years of life to him and David’s linage continued.
b. The Service
It is also seriously speculated during this 15 years Hezekiah ordered and participated in a collation of the Old Testament. We know Hezekiah canonized a portion of Proverbs. There is strong speculation a large part of the Word of God also was written out and organized so that parts of the Old Testament would no longer be handed down just orally. This is what preoccupied the majority of Hezekiah’s time and became his lifelong passion and mission.
These are the things Hezekiah did with his remaining years. He didn’t waste time whining he’d be gone in 15 years; he was productive for God. It was also in these days he saw what I’ve called the Trying Years found in Part 3.
J. Robert Hanson