Hezekiah becomes ill. Isaiah tells him his life is over. Embolden from God’s answer to his previous prayer he pleads with Him again. God heals Hezekiah’s sickness.
I was wondering just where this story fell in Hezekiah’s life so I did the math. The attack from Assyria comes in the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign. Isaiah tells him he will live 15 more years. And his entire reign lasted 29 years. So that put Hezekiah’s brush with death in the same year Assyria attacked AND departed. Because bible times don’t usually break things down into month, day and time this could have happened any time that same year. I think it would be safe to say that it followed Assyria coming and leaving. But it couldn’t be so far after that Assyria was no longer a threat.
Let’s join in the story again today and see where the Spirit takes us.
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It was wonderful to have peace again. Assyria had withdrawn from the whole region, thanks to God’s intervention. The spoils from the camp were feeding the people and refilling the storehouses of the king. Life had returned to normal in the city of Jerusalem.
One morning king Hezekiah awoke with a sore spot on his flank. He didn’t pay it much attention. He figured he had slept wrong or pulled a muscle the day before. He went about his day as usual, only giving this area of pain attention when it demanded it. The next two days were about the same. Hezekiah had taken to sitting shifted more on the opposite side but that was about the extent of his accommodations he was willing to make for this issue.
The morning of the fourth day changed all that. Hezekiah’s whole left side hurt. He ached from his shoulder tip to the base of his buttocks. The original spot was the worst. Hezekiah realized that it was probably something more than a pulled muscle or a kink from sleeping wrong. He called for mirrors while he was dressing so he could inspect the place where it hurt the most.
The mirror reflected a large red welt situated right over his kidney. It was also hot to the touch. Hezekiah realized his delay and dismissal had may cause him some lasting of damage. He sent word to the Temple for a priest to tend him at once.
When the priest arrived he was shown directly to the chambers of the king. Hezekiah sat in his ephod on a stool. His face wore a mask of serenity but a grimace spoiled the illusion he was trying to maintain. The priest was the most skilled among his brothers in the healing arts and he accurately surmised Hezekiah’s pain level at first glance. He quickly set his bag on a nearby table and moved closer to Hezekiah to examine him.
“Show me where the problem lies.”
“My entire left side hurts but the worst spot is here” said Hezekiah as he raised his ephod to expose the red welt.
“Does it hurt worse if I touch it” asked the priest as he lightly touched the surface of the welt.
“How about now” asks the priest as he puts gentle pressure on the welt.
“Yes!” cried Hezekiah.
The priest released the pressure he was applying on the welt and moved his hands beside it and applied gentle but equal pressure on both sides. “How does this feel?”
“Better than before but worse than without any touch.”
The priest continued examining Hezekiah and asking his input to different touches. Once he was done he went to his bag to retrieve a treatment. From its depths he pulls a ceremonial knife and a vile. These he hides from the view of the king with his body until he is ready to use them.
“You have a large boil that is pressing outward from your flank. It appears to be exerting as much force inwards as it is outward. We do not know enough about the human body to say exactly what damage this may be causing but we do know it needs to be relieved. If it isn’t relieved it can cause significant damage, even death.”
“What can you do for it?”
“I will lance it and drain from it any fluids. It should heal on its own after that.”
“Whatever you need to do, do it. I don’t know how much more of this pain I can take.”
The priest turns back to the table and picks up the items he laid out previously.
“Bring a glass of water for the king. I need to mix this into it. Also bring fresh linen so I can wipe away what flows from the boil and cover it afterwards.” instructs the priest to one of the servants waiting nearby.
While the servant is fetching the items requested the priest prepares Hezekiah for the procedure.
“You would probably be more comfortable if you laid down for this. I will give you something to dull the pain but this will hurt.”
“I need to be about the business of the day. I’m afraid I would want to stay in bed were I to crawl back in it” offered Hezekiah with a slight smile.
“We can do it here on the stool if you so desire.”
The servant arrived with all that the priest requested. The priest quickly mixes a portion of powder from the vile into the water and hands it to the king.
“Drink this all.”
Hezekiah takes the glass and empties it of its contents. He grimaces at the taste but says nothing. The priest smiles at the king’s reaction. He knows first-hand how bitter this tincture tastes. He secretly applauds the king’s resolve in drinking it straight down.
“We will give that a few minutes to take effect. It will deaden the pain as I lance the boil.”
“May I have something to wash the taste out of my mouth?”
“What were you thinking of?”
“Wine would be nice.”
“That would be fine.”
The servant rushes to retrieve a goblet of wine for the king. He places it in Hezekiah’s hands and returns to his place of waiting.
“Are you ready” asks the priest after five minutes have passed.
“Yes. Let’s get this over with.”
The doctor kneels behind the king with his knife in hand. Before applying it he warns the king.
“This will probably hurt. It won’t be as bad as it could be thanks to the tincture though. Be sure not to pull away or jump as it may cause unintended cuts as this knife is VERY sharp.”
“Tell me just before you do it so I can be prepared and still my body.”
“On three I will make the cut. One, two, three!”
Hezekiah holds himself rigid as pain rips through his back. He wants to pull away from it but he knows better that to move. Instead he takes slow breaths to calm himself.
“You did well but now comes the hardest part.”
“Hardest part! What do you mean?”
“Now I have to put pressure on it to drain it.”
Hezekiah is regretting his decision to stay seated because if he were lying down he could press his face into his bed and let out a scream. He nods his understanding and urges the priest on through gritted teeth.
“Just do it.”
The priest applies pressure on both sides of the boil with his thumbs and begins to work his way towards its center. As he moves closer to the center green puss begins to ooze through the open wound. Hezekiah’s breathing becomes ragged as he endures the pain. Spots dance before his eyes and just as he fears he may faint, the pressure ceases and the pain recedes.
The priest pauses, giving Hezekiah time to catch his breath.
“Are you alright” asks the priest.
Hezekiah nods his head slightly but doesn’t speak.
“We are almost done. All that is left is for me to clean and dress your wound. Would you like to lie down for this last step?”
Hezekiah shakes his head no and grips his knees tighter.
“Finish it” he breathes.
The priest dips a piece of cloth in Hezekiah’s water basin and gently cleans the green puss all around the wound. He finishes his cleaning process directly on the wound and Hezekiah once again stiffens under his hand. By the time the cleaning is complete blood is mixed with the puss. This is a good sign as it signifies that the pressure has been relieved enough to allow the body to bleed naturally.
“Still alright” asks the priest.
Hezekiah quickly nods.
“Time for the dressing” informs the priest as he begins wrapping linen strips around Hezekiah’s body. “I will have to tie it in place which means there will be some pressure remaining on the wound while it is in place. This will help push any more puss from it as well as prevent too much blood from escaping.”
With the last strip tied and knot in place the priest settles Hezekiah’s ephod back into place. Hezekiah’s face has regained some of its color. It was nearly white at the highpoint of the priest’s ministrations. This too is a good sign.
“Thank you for all your help.”
“You should rest my king.”
Hezekiah waves the priest’s concern away. “Is there anything more I need to do to care for my wound?”
“You will need to change the dressing every evening. It should resolve on its own in a day or two.”
With these instructions the priest bows and returns to the Temple.
Hezekiah moves carefully as he dresses. He relies more on his servant for this process today than he ever has since an infant. Hezekiah waits in his chambers for his meal instead of sitting at table today. He still feels drained.
After completing all his morning preparations Hezekiah makes his way to his throne room. There are always matters that need tending to among the people. Decisions that need to be made and judgements rendered.
The day seems to drag on forever as Hezekiah pushes down his pain and tends to the needs of his kingdom. By the time the last decision is rendered, sweat covers his brow and soaks the hair at the base of his neck. He calls his servant to assist him back to his chambers. Once there his servant helps him remove his clothing. His tunic is stuck to the dressing and the servant wets it with water rather than pulling it free.
Hezekiah’s servant carefully unties the dressing on his wound, wets the cloth over the wound to release it from Hezekiah’s skin. He then carefully cleans the wound which is still oozing puss. He keeps his touch as light as possible.
Grateful for the release of pressure with the removal of the dressings Hezekiah takes his first deep breath of the day. It sends spikes of pain straight to his wound. Resigned to the pain of the dressing he nods his head for his servant to continue.
Within minutes Hezekiah’s wound is dressed again and he is prepared for bed. He is so tired he refuses all but a few bites of food before retiring.
Exhaustion is the only thing that allowed Hezekiah sleep during the night. The pain continued on and is what brings Hezekiah from his sleep early the next morning. He had hoped that the healing the priest spoke of would happen sooner rather than later. It appears that ‘later’ is going to be the order of things.
Hezekiah summons help again from his servant. While preparing his king for dressing the servant notices that the dressing over the wound is already soiled.
“May I change your dressing again my lord? It appears soiled.”
“The priest said to change it once a day. I don’t know if it is wise to change it again so soon.”
“How it adhered to your robe yesterday leads me to believe that will happen again if we don’t change it.”
“You are probably right. I hope this is the last day it needs such tending.”
The servant nods his head in agreement and begins the process of changing the dressing. He again has to wet it before pulling it from the skin. As he pulls it away from the wound he notices it looks more aggravated than it did the previous evening.
“My lord, your wound looks inflamed.”
“Probably from so much ministration. Redress it for now. We will see how it looks this evening.”
Hezekiah takes his place on his throne again today but his mind wanders to his pain and he has a hard time attending to the needs of those before him. At midday he can take no more. He calls a halt to the day’s proceedings and goes to his chamber. He required the shoulder of his servant to lean upon as he made this short journey and he is sweating and exhausted at its conclusion.
“Should I summon the priest again my lord?”
“Yes. Quickly please.”
Hezekiah’s robe is again stuck to his dressing and he is forced to leave it in place as he waits for the priest to arrive. He doesn’t have long to wait before the priest and his servant burst into his chambers.
The priest’s face is pulled as he considers his patient. Hezekiah’s face is flushed with fever and his breathing is labored. The priest is angry with himself for not insisting that the king rest following his procedure. The king has obviously pushed himself too hard and is suffering a setback.
“Let’s have a look at that wound. Help me get his robe off.”
The servant steps in immediately to help the priest loosen the bond between robe, ephod, dressing and finally skin. As the last layer is pulled away the servant and priest both look is shock at the wound. It is now fully inflamed with black edging more than half of its margins.
“How long has it been this way” demands the priest.
“It looked angry this morning but this”, the servant points to the black patches, “is new.”
“Why didn’t you call me this morning when it looked inflamed?”
“That is my doing. I figured it was just from changing the dressing too often” offered Hezekiah.
“I don’t know if I can heal it at this point” said the priest as he shakes his head while looking at the blackening wound. “It may be beyond my skill.”
“Try please” pleads the servant.
“Yes. Try please” echoes Hezekiah.
The priest sends the servant for several items to make a poultice from. The priest mixes together turmeric, water and ginger to form a paste and applies it to the wound on Hezekiah’s flank. Hezekiah writhes in pain at first but then settles as the poultice begins to soothe his wound.
“Apply this at least twice a day and let it sit for 20 minutes. If it doesn’t look any better by morning send for me again.”
The priest packs his tools back into his bag and prepares to leave. As he reaches the door he stops in his tracks and turns back to the king.
“And STAY in bed” he orders.
Hezekiah nods his head in agreement and resignation. He hasn’t the strength to do otherwise. He soon falls into a restless sleep.
Hezekiah’s servant tends him the rest of the day and through the night. At first Hezekiah’s wound appeared to be improving but later applications of the poultice show it growing angrier and the black surrounding it increasing.
Morning brings an exhausted and worried servant calling out for help again. Before he can summon the priest for assistance another figure strides into the king’s chambers. It is the prophet Isaiah.
Hezekiah is awakened by the entrance of Isaiah. Their eyes lock and Isaiah speaks the words of God without so much as a greeting.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover’” (verse 1b).
Hezekiah’s servant stands with is mouth hanging open as Isaiah turns and marches from the room.
Hezekiah recoils as if struck full force and turns his face to the wall. He begins to pour his heart out to the Lord.
“Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight” (verse 3).
Hezekiah dissolved into bitter tears once his plea left his lips. He knew the Lord spoke directly through Isaiah. His life was over and it would end in this misery.
The servant wept also from across the room. He loved his master. There was no greater king than Hezekiah. His king truly followed the Lord and called his people to do the same. And what would become of Judah? There wasn’t even an heir to take his place on the throne.
Isaiah walked with purpose through the palace and out into the courtyard. He had done as the Lord instructed; nothing more. He trusted God to care for Judah after the death of Hezekiah. He had no doubt there would be difficulty in the transition but the Lord was more than able to handle such issues.
Isaiah was mere steps away from exiting the middle court when the voice of the Lord stopped him in his tracks.
“Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the leader 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” (verses5-6).
Isaiah turned around immediately and walked straight back to Hezekiah’s chambers. Once again he walked in without preamble or invitation. He found both Hezekiah and his servant weeping. Neither took notice of his entrance as they were both wrapped in their own pain. Isaiah launched right into the Lord’s word.
“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” (verses 5b-6).
Hezekiah and the servant both snapped their attention to Isaiah’s voice, their tears of sorrow drying on their cheeks. As soon as he finished giving the words of the Lord Isaiah turned his attention to the servant.
“Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover” (verse 7).
Hezekiah’s servant bowed deeply then rushed from the room to set the staff to this task.
“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?” (verse 8) asked Hezekiah. He was not speaking out of a lack of faith but one of hope for the new promise of the Lord.
“This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that He has promised: shall a shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” (verse 9).
Isaiah waited while Hezekiah considered his options. The Lord was willing to do either to show Hezekiah that He had indeed heard his prayer and granted his request. While Hezekiah took time to contemplate his servant returned and took up his place in the corner.
“It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps” (verse 10).
Isaiah nodded his agreement. “As it will be three days until you rise from your bed, I will take your servant that he may witness the sign from the Lord and report it back to you.”
“This is agreeable to me. Please tell me all you see” he instructed his servant.
Hezekiah’s servant was overjoyed to be given the opportunity to witness a true sign of God. But he wanted to make certain he brought a report to the king that NONE would question.
“Should I take another as witness?”
“As the Law says that a thing is established by the mouth of two or three witnesses, have one of the guards accompany you.”
Isaiah and the servant made their way out into the courtyard where the time piece of the king was kept. It was a staircase to mark the passage of time known as the steps of Ahaz. They summoned a guard while on their way.
While the three men stood before the steps of Ahaz Isaiah called on the Lord to bring the sign Hezekiah had agreed upon. Isaiah’s words had not even died on the air before the shadow began to recede back the way it had come. None but the Lord could have accomplished such a thing.
The agreed upon point being reached Isaiah turned and left. His mission accomplished. Hezekiah’s servant and the guard quickly made their way to the king’s chambers. The servant knocked at the door before entering.
“My king the shadow indeed went back ten steps! The word of the Lord is sure to come to pass.”
The guard standing beside Hezekiah’s servant waited until the king acknowledged him before giving his report.
Hezekiah looked to the guard and waited.
“Your servant speaks the truth my king. The shadow retreated ten steps backwards on the steps of Ahaz. None other than the Lord could have done this.”
Hezekiah’s eyes brim with tears of joy. The Lord has found him worthy of both a sigh and life. He WOULD honor Him when he rose from his bed in three days.
The poultice of fig cakes was applied to his boil three times a day. Each time the wound looked improved. On the third day it was completely healed. Hezekiah’s strength had begun to return earlier but he waited the appointed three days lest he anger the Lord with his impatience.
The morning of the third day following Isaiah’s visit dawned and Hezekiah sprang from his bed. He dressed quickly and went straight to the House of the Lord. Here he praised his God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the God of David. He praised Him with his whole heart. He also called for a day of feasting in celebration. He would have 15 more years to celebrate the goodness of God.
(to be continued)
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I LOVE knowing that God hears our prayers! We don’t always get the immediate answer or even the answer we want but He ALWAYS hears us.
Did you notice that this prayer of Hezekiah’s focused on his personal walk with the Lord? He didn’t appeal to the Lord based on all the works he had done as a king for God. He said “I walked before You in faithfulness and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight” (verse 3b). His heart for the Lord spilled over and affected Judah but it was his relationship that developed first. We can’t do anything great for Him without a strong personal relationship first. It is the foundation of all we do with and for Him. It is also the foundation on which He relates to us.
Father God, thank You for allowing me to ‘climb up in Your lap’ for ‘story time.’ Thank You that You speak to me in ways I can understand. Thank You for letting me share my understanding of our special time with others. Don’t let the ‘sharing’ ever be the reason for coming.
Thank You for hearing EVERY prayer I make, even the ones that happen only in my heart and mind. Even the ones You have to say, ‘No’ to. And the ones that You say, ‘Wait a while.’ Keep me whispering, speaking and singing them to You!