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Hezekiah, Prayer And Chastening

Strange as it may seem, Hezekiah was the only king of Israel after the division of the monarchy who is on record as praying to the Lord, except for the brief repentant prayer of his wicked son Manasseh in Babylon. Hezekiah's name, by interpretation, was "Strengthened by Jah", and prayer was evidently one of the very real ways in which God strengthened him. And not by private prayer only, but also by joining with another in prayer. In 2 Chronicles 32:20 we read, "And Hezekiah the king, and Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz, prayed because of this, and cried to heaven". The enemy at the gate brought the two men together.

Some men and women stand out in Scripture in connection with prayer. Interceders like Moses and Samuel deeply affected the heart of God as evidenced in Jeremiah 15:1. The prayers of righteous men like Noah, Daniel, Job and Elijah must have profoundly moved Him as witness Ezekiel 14:14; James 5:17. Truly He was then, and is now, a God who waits for those who will stir themselves up to lay hold upon Him (Is. 64:7).

But in addition, what a lovely thing it was in days gone by when men or women met together for communion with God in prayer. Immediately there come to mind experiences such as Daniel and his three companions in Babylon in days of crisis as in Daniel 2:17,18. Or Paul and his fellow. labourers in all the pressures of their itinerant ministry as for example in 1 Thessalonians 1:2. Arid do we not sense the breath of prayer when Mary visited Elizabeth as in Luke 1:39-56? And is it not still a choice exercise when two or three brethren or two or three sisters today meet privately for prayer and waiting upon God? Or the overseers kneeling together and naming one by one the saints in the charge allotted to them?

Now Hezekiah, right from the first month of his reign, was an excellent king of Judah. He followed his father Ahaz, but not in his footsteps. Ahaz was a wholly perverted ruler who sinned against the God. of Israel in every known way, leaving behind him as a memorial of shame a locked house of God and altars in every corner of Jerusalem.

Good King Hezekiah swept through Judah like a spiritually cleansing tide and an envigorating quickener to the priests and Levites. Nor was his vision restricted to Judah only, and it must surely be one of the remarkable happenings in Israel's history that before the last of the ten tribes were carried away to Assyria they received from Hezekiah God's final appeal to come to the Passover in Jerusalem:

So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh, even unto Zebulun: but they laughed them to scorn, and mocked them. Nevertheless divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem (2 Chron. 30:10-11).

But in due course Hezekiah fell sick and the historical narrative, condensed in 2 Chronicles 32, is taken up by Isaiah in chapters 36-39. For sheer fascinating history and deep spiritual truth the reader is invited to spend a little time in these portions. Prayerful meditation will yield much more than the following.

After all this faithfulness the hand of the Lord seemed to be lying sore on Hezekiah. The camp of the Assyrians, with more than 185,000 trained men of war were at the gate. Hezekiah was ill, seemingly to the point of death. Perhaps he was melancholy also because it seems he had no son and for the first time Judah's succession to the throne seemed broken. And had he not served his God with all his heart all his royal years?

So he sent for Isaiah, his old companion in prayer, only to be told by him, "thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live" (38:1). Then, left alone. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall.

He prayed; reminded the Lord of his integrity; then wept sore. Swiftly the response from the Lord came to Isaiah, telling him to go back to Hezekiah and assure him that his prayer was heard, his tears were seen, his life would be lengthened by fifteen years, and God would smite the Assyrians in defence of Jerusalem. In confirmation of all this the shadow on the sundial would return backward ten steps. And it was reported to Hezekiah that the shadow had in fact returned.

Then the recovered king looked back over all the recent converging of adversities which had overwhelmed him. And the recording of his reflections written in Isaiah 38:9-20. It's a reading of the meaning of tears. He had felt the end had come. He was dying deprived. Long looked-for expectations were unfulfilled. Oppressed, he had mourned like a dove and chattered like swallow and crane (Is.38:14).

And then like a flash he saw what he had overlooked. It was the hand of God in his life. The chastening hand, the loving hand, the purpose-guiding hand. He saw it all now. He cried, "0 Lord, by these things men live, and wholly therein is the life of my spirit... Behold, it was for my peace that I had great bitterness: But Thou hast in love to my soul delivered it" (Is. 38:

16,17).

Let the closing word of Hezekiah ring throughout the house of God, "we will sing... all the days of our life in the house of God".