I’m so glad you’ve joined me again. I appreciate the effort that you show to both read the Scriptures (the most important part of this discipline) and then read my humble blog. As I’m sure you’ve noticed this is interesting territory we’re in now: Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah. Today’s reading starts with Hezekiah getting sick. Let’s see what we have hear to think about.
Maybe there was a reason — Hezekiah is sick with a boil and is afraid he’ll die — in fact, he was going to die. We might find that a little odd. “Boils hurt, but they don’t really kill do they?” You’re thinking like a 21st century person. But in a world without aspirin or antibiotics such wounds and their infections often were fatal. So anyway, Hezekiah asks Isaiah about his fate. Isaiah tells him that he would do well to “get his house in order”, because this sickness would be fatal. Hezekiah was devastated; after all, he’d been a good guy, he’d gotten rid of the remnants of idolatry and all the high places. How could this be happening? He pleads with God to change His mind — and God does! Isaiah returns to Hezekiah to tell him that God had granted to him 15 years. Great news, right? Maybe less than you think. It’s interesting that when Hezekiah dies some 15 years later that his son Manasseh was a mere 12 years old, which is to say that Manasseh was conceived shortly after Hezekiah was granted the extra time. This strongly insinuates that the reason God had for shortening a good king’s reign, is that He knew what kind of trouble for Judah that Manasseh would bring.
And this has significant implications for the various answers that God gives to our prayers even today. Things are not always as simple and straightforward as we humans might think. God, who knows the future, who knows the hearts of all men, who can calculate the incalculable, knows what’s best. “Why would God allow my innocent child to die?” “Why can’t we have children?” “Why can’t I get that job?” Would there be another Manasseh around the corner? Or some great spiritual disaster for you or those you love? It’s one of those things that we need to trust God about. Now, this is not to say that we would do well never to ask God for anything — just trust His “A” plan. God wants and invites us to ask. Sometimes, we can imagine, our requests don’t quite change history like Hezekiah’s did. I’m just saying that sometimes, when God says, “No,” there might be a really good reason.
Bragging comes with a price — After Hezekiah was healed, he had a visitor from Babylon. Hezekiah was flattered that a king and nation from so far away would care about his health, and he never guessed that the visit might turn out to be a case of “casing the joint” to discover Judah’s wealth. Isaiah rebuked him for disclosing to the foreigner all the treasures of Judah — and promised him that a day would come when these far away Babylonians would come and take every bit of what Hezekiah had shown him and take his sons. Hezekiah’s response is a little odd, upon first hearing it, however; “Well, at least it won’t happen in my days!” But it’s sometimes not unlike us about things like debt and other things — even church. We are often too concerned about our “right now” and too unconcerned about the future. Do we want our children to be strong Christians? You have to bring them to church, provide a strong example, teach them God’s will, answer their questions, etc. Do you want the church where you are to grow and be around for another 100 years? You have to do your part in terms of evangelism to the community, service, teaching God’s word, work, encouragement of others, and faithfulness.
Worse than the Canaanites — Did you get that part about Manasseh? He was worse than the people that God had dispossessed centuries earlier. Our text (21:10-15) indicates that the Babylonian exile was precipitated by Manasseh. The world into which Christianity appeared on the scene was pretty awful, too. I certainly don’t have the time detail the depravity of the world at that time, but Paul does a pretty good summary of it in Romans 1:18ff. In view of how quickly modern society seems to have descended into immorality of the worst sort, will the same be said of this generation or one in the near future? And if it is, will God’s reckoning be far behind?
Light when things were getting so dark — Despite how dark things looked, there was a bright spot in an 8-year-old named Josiah. Manasseh’s son Amon was just as evil as his father, but his grandson was a radical departure from idolatry and rebellion. And one of the bright spots in this era of bright spots was the rediscovery of the book of the law. Can you imagine having lost the Bible? Things had gotten that bad. To Josiah’s great credit, when he read the Law, he was blown away by the promises of punishment and offered deep repentance and contrition. God was impressed and promised that the destruction that He had promised against Judah wouldn’t happen in Josiah’s lifetime. Repentance has that kind of persuasive power with the Lord — too bad that it always seems to be in such short supply in our lives. Try it and see what kinds of changes for the better emerge.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.