From the life of King Hezekiah, we discover an amazing story (found in 2 Kings chapter 20). The prophet Isaiah approached Hezekiah with solemn news: “Put your house in order, because you are going to die” (v.1). Now, Hezekiah could have simply accepted the pronouncement…and rolled over in his bed and died. End of story. But, instead, he prayed earnestly and desperately! The Bible says, he “turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord…and wept bitterly” (vv.2-3). And, something amazing happened! God changed the future for his servant and gave Hezekiah 15 more years of life. The Lord proclaimed, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.”
When I read this story, I am struck by a couple of things. First, God is sovereign, but He often chooses to “weave” His will based on the response of His people. What seemed an irreversible decree by God instead became a test to Hezekiah as to how he would respond. This tells me that God is not some impersonal force, unable to change His mind about certain events. Now, let’s not misunderstand something. God will never change His holy character. He can never lie or approve evil. However, God may decide to mitigate specific consequences of sin and death in this world and show unusual grace and mercy…as he did to Hezekiah. The second thing that strikes me here is the appeal by Hezekiah to his own “track record” of faithfulness. At first glance, my New Testament thinking says, “He is wrong in appealing to his own works as a source of righteousness.” I am assuming Hezekiah is saying, “I’ve been such a good guy. Surely, you need to work with me on this.” This is not the sense from the Scripture here. Hezekiah, in a prayer of brokenness and humility, is reminding God of how He honors past faithfulness and devotion. And, God hears him! This story shouts out, “You can’t put God in a box.” Sometimes, He surprises us by unusual acts of grace. We need to trust Him…no matter what happens.
Pastor Mark Boucher
I love reading the Psalms; however, I used to be perplexed at some of the harsh expressions from David and others concerning their enemies. For example, in Psalm 52:4-5, David is speaking about an evil man named Doeg, who was responsible for killing many of the Lord’s priests. David wrote, “You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin. He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent….” These are strong words, and we might ask, “How does this reconcile with the words of Jesus who taught us to ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’” (Matt. 5:44)? First, let’s remember the purpose of the Psalms, which was to reveal the heart’s cry of God’s people as they lived in the multifaceted experiences of life. In other words, those who wrote the Psalms honestly wrote about the deepest pains and joys they were feeling. This tells me that God can handle our expressions of emotion, as we pour out our hearts to him. Also, let’s remember the time of history when the Psalms were written. Hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, God’s people did not have the light and teachings of the New Testament. God’s Word is compared to light. The more time passed, the greater the light from God (the theological term is called “progressive revelation”). What may have been acceptable then (“God, destroy my enemies”) is now eclipsed by the fullness of light we have in Jesus. Instead of wishing ill and judgment on those who persecute us, we have the great honor of being filled with the love of Jesus! After all, we too were once enemies of God. Instead of receiving the wrath from him, he showed us mercy and steadfast love. So, when people try to hurt us and bring us down, let’s give ourselves to Jesus. He will enable us to show them what he is like!
We are all professionals at the art of self-justification. I’ve been in court several times as both a juror and witness and have never heard anyone say, “I am guilty and want to make things right.” As a juror, it seemed like our task was trying to figure out who was lying. By nature we are fanatically committed to our own goodness and righteousness. Think of this: Jesus had to die a horrible death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. By trusting in him and what he has done, we are given mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life! And yet, how many people in our country know about what Jesus has done and still trust in their own righteousness! Most people, if asked if they are going to heaven, would answer yes. If you were to probe why they say yes, you would get answers like, “Because I am a good person” or “I am not as bad as others” or “I do a lot of good things.” If our goodness could get us right with God, Jesus did not have to die on the cross! This trust in self-righteousness goes all the way back through human history. When the Israelites were getting ready to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses warned them, “Do not say to yourself, ‘The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness’” (Deut. 9:4). God wanted Israel to humbly admit their past failures and put their faith and dependence on him. After all, the Lord was opening the door for them to enter the Promised Land; it was not because of how great they were. When God blesses us or answers our prayers, we must resist the temptation to think of ourselves as better than others or something special. God blesses and helps us because he loves us, not because we are entitled. The sure foundation we stand on is his grace, not our goodness.