This is a very remarkable story full of instruction.
“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, ”Set your house in order; for you shall die, you shall not recover.” ’ Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, ‘Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in thy sight.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him : ‘Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the prince of my people, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.’ And Isaiah said, ‘Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.’ And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘What shall be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord on the third day?’ And Isaiah said, ‘This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised : shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?’ And Hezekiah answered, ‘It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps; rather let the shadow go back ten steps.’ And Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord; and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz” (2 Kings 20:1-11).
This is a very remarkable story full of instruction.
1) THE REALITY OF HEZEKIAH’S SICKNESS AND HIS IMPENDING DEATH
The king became very sick and was at the point of death. From physical evidence, there was hardly any hope. In addition, the Lord sent him word, saying, “You shall surely die, you shall not recover.” That spelled finality. God had spoken, sealing the fact that he would die. There did not seem to be any hope left whatsoever. If there was to be hope, then God had to change His mind, but the way He had spoken bore a tone of finality.
The king could have said,
“Physical evidence says my end has come and the Word of the Lord confirms it. Let me indeed put my house in order and die as the Lord has said.”
He did not do that. He believed that it was possible for God to change His mind. So Hezekiah did three things :
He turned his face to the wall, determined to talk to God alone.
He pleaded with God.
He wept bitterly.
2) THE ANSWER OF GOD
God answered Hezekiah immediately and spoke through Isaiah, saying:
“I have heard your prayer.
I have seen your tears.
I will heal you. On the third day, you will go to the house of the Lord.
I will add fifteen years to your life.
I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria.
I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David’s sake.”
What if Hezekiah had just prayed and said, “Your will be done, Lord ”? The Lord would have had no prayer to hear. What if he had shed no tears? The Lord would have seen no tears, and what if he had not pleaded? He would not have been healed. He did three things and got three things out of the Lord.
3) THE GOD OF BONUSES
It was wonderful that God gave Hezekiah what he asked for - healing. But God did not stop there. He gave him three additional things which he had not asked the Lord. What a great God! The Bible says,
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
4) GOD’S MECHANISM OF HEALING
God had promised that He would heal Hezekiah in three days’ time. He had spoken clearly by the prophet. God could do it directly, yet the prophet said,
“Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover” (2 Kings 20:7).
God was saying, “I have decided to heal him. I will use the mechanism of placing a cake of figs on the boil to effect My healing.” The prophet did not say that because God had promised healing, it must come in one way or the other.
Yes, God had indeed promised the healing and the time of the healing. He had also established who would do the healing, but He did not specify how He would do the healing. The prophet who knew the mind of God asked that the figs should be applied to the boil. That was surely God’s way in that particular situation. If Hezekiah had dictated the method that God must use, he might have got into trouble.
Hezekiah was told that God would heal him in three days. Although he believed God and believed the prophet of God, he wanted a sign. The prophet gave him the choice between two possible signs, and he chose the more unlikely of the two. The prophet cried to God and even this impossible sign was given to him.
I am personally very amazed by the graciousness of God. I am also amazed by the freedom that we can have before Him. Hezekiah was not satisfied to know that God had promised that He would heal him. He wanted some physical proof on which to base his faith. God did not just give him a sign. He gave him the choice between two signs. He took the more difficult one, yet God granted it.
God wants His children to become that intimate with Him. He does not want an officious relationship. He wants us to deal with Him even in details. There is nothing wrong in asking for a sign if we have no assurance in our hearts, although those who are mature will find in every word that proceeds from God’s mouth, all the assurance that they need.
It needed the prophet crying to God in order that the difficult sign might be performed. There could be no mistake about it. The king had asked for a sign that could only come if God did a miracle. I think the king reasoned this way, “If God is prepared to perform such a miracle to assure me, then He must be willing to perform the miracle to heal me.”
Sometimes God’s children are afraid to ask God for miracles. Their prayers are all in the realm of the possible. They pray about things that may still happen without the special intervention of God. They do not ask God for those things in which failure would be so obvious if God did not work. Somehow God’s children want to save God’s face and theirs by their types of requests, and because that is so, they stand in the way of God’s mighty acts.
Let me ask you a personal question, “If the Lord answered all the prayers on your list, would the answers shake the world?” If not, your prayers are ants and not giants. You will have ant-like replies.
Although Hezekiah got the figs put on the boil, he did not look to the figs for healing; He looked to the Lord. The type of sign that he asked for shows that he believed that it needed God for him to be healed and that figs could not do it. The Prophet ordered that the figs be put there. He consented but kept his eyes on the One who could heal him.
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).
6) GOD FULFILLED HIS PROMISE
God fulfilled His Word to Hezekiah. On the third day he went up to the house of the Lord. The Lord fulfils all His promises on time. There are some promises that He makes conditionally. Such promises may only be fulfilled if the terms of the promises are kept. There are other promises which are given unconditionally, but no time factor is given. The fulfilment of the promise must come to pass irrespective of what man does, but a man of prayer can cause the promise to be fulfilled well ahead of time by insisting with God. He may even have the freedom to set a time limit before God and insist upon it with God. However, this will depend upon the relationship between God and the person. All men of glory have had such freedom before God and carried out many such transactions with Him.
There are other promises that are unconditional and for which God also sets the time when He will perform that which He has promised. In such a case, there is no need for further prayer. Praise and thanksgiving should take the place of petition. One such promise was made to Abraham. The Lord said to him, “I will surely return to you in the spring, and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (Genesis 18: 10). God had made that promise before but had put no time limit to it. Now, He put a time limit and all that was left was fulfillment.
It is a most serious thing if a promise made by God is not fulfilled. No one should take such a situation lightly. It is equally a very serious matter if man should pray and not receive a definite answer!