2 Kings 20-22 It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps

From 2 Kings 20-22

11 12 crown cross


2 Ki 20.1-11; Hezekiah; Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery

2 Ki 20.12-21; Hezekiah; Hezekiah and the Babylonian Envoys

2 Ki 21.1-9; Manasseh; Manasseh Reigns in Judah

2 Ki 21.10-18; Manasseh; Manasseh’s Idolatry Denounced

2 Ki 21.19-26; Amon; Amon Reigns in Judah

2 Ki 22.1-2; Josiah; Josiah Reigns in Judah

2 Ki 22.3-7; Josiah; Josiah Repairs the Temple

2 Ki 22.8-20; Josiah; Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law

Passage and Comments

12 Kings-4

Hezekiah has been a good king. He encouraged his people to trust in the LORD when they were surrounded by their enemies. The LORD heard his prayer and the insults of their enemies and acted. He saved Israel that day again (2 Ki 18.13-19.37).

In today’s passage Hezekiah is sick. He is so sick he is near dying. Isaiah the prophet does not give him good news.

20 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.’ ” (2 Ki 20:1)

The LORD has told Isaiah that he will die and gets him to pass on the news. This is obviously sobering news for Hezekiah. Perhaps the fact that Isaiah passed this on to Hezekiah in the first place said something about Hezekiah’s relationship with the LORD. Other kings perhaps were allowed to die without being told.

The LORD has another purpose in mind. A second chance prompted by the message.

2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 “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.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (2 Ki 20:2-3)

Hezekiah realises the LORD is gracious and compassionate. The LORD hears peoples prayers. Hezekiah’s prayer might take some back because he talks about the way he has lived. He has been faithful to the LORD, followed him with a whole heart and done good. He believes the LORD will reward him for this. Then he breaks down and weeps.

4 And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: 5 “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, 6 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.” (2 Ki 20:4-6)

The LORD responds immediately to Hezekiah’s prayer and sends Isaiah back.

I wonder if the reason why the LORD wanted to tell Hezekiah he was about to die, was because he knew Hezekiah would then plead for his life. And once Hezekiah pleaded for his life the LORD would respond.

Does the LORD want to teach us he is compassionate?

The LORD acknowledges Hezekiah’s prayer and his tears. In response the LORD will heal him so he will live another 15 years (He is about 39 years old at this time. He will live till he is 54) provided he goes up to the house of the LORD and worships.

What follows suggests the city is still under threat from the king of Assyria and he hasn’t been delivered yet. This has caused a little dispute among scholars. I suspect at this point in time the Assyrians have not yet been destroyed by the LORD, but the stories are kept separate to highlight different points.

Isaiah gives some instructions regarding how he is to be healed.

7 And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.” (2 Ki 20:7)

Sometimes a simple bathing will do. In this case it seems Hezekiah has a skin disease – boils. Isaiah instructs him to lay figs on it. A simple demonstration of his faith. Correct me if Im wrong, I can’t imagine figs on their own would heal boils.

Hezekiah wants some more assurance.

12 shadow

8 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?” 9 And Isaiah said, “This shall be 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?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” (2 Ki 20:8-10)

Generally the sun moves in the same direction from day to day. From this a person could easily predict the direction of the shadow. But for the shadow to go in the reverse direction. That’s quite a miracle. One direction – easy, the other – impossible.

But with God all things are possible.

We don’t know if the sun moved (unlikely), or another light source was coincidentally used (possibly) or God miraculously changed the physics involved.

11 And Isaiah the prophet called to the LORD, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz. (2 Ki 20:11)

The LORD was up to the task. Hezekiah had his assurance. He could feel confident if he went to the house of the LORD and laid figs on his boil he would be cured. The LORD would extend his life another 15 years.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

God promises to answer prayer for personal or corporate needs and for the needs of others. We can see this time and time again through scripture.

God answers the prayers of individuals. Think of the Psalms (e.g. Ps 145:18–19; 6:8–9; 30:2–3). God answered Moses prayers (Ex 15:23–25; 17:4–7; Nu 11:10–17) and God answered Hannah’s prayer for a son (1 Sa 1:10-20,27). God answers the prayers of the prophets (Ps 99:6; 1 Sa 7:9; La 3:55–57; Jon 2:1–2; Jas 5:17–18). God answers the prayers of the kings of Israel (1 Ki 9:3; 2 Ch 18:31).

He answers people prayers when they ask to be delivered from hardship (Dt 26:7–8; Ex 2:23–25; Ex 3:7–9; Nu 20:16; 1 Sa 12:8; Ps 81:7) and from their enemies (1 Sa 12:10–11; Jdg 3:9,15; 2 Ki 19:19–20; 1 Ch 5:20). God answers the prayer of the oppressed (Ex 22:22–23; Job 34:28).

God answers prayer for healing (Nu 12:10–15; 1 Ki 17:21–22; 2 Ki 4:32–35; 2 Ki 20:1–6; Mt 8:2–3; Ac 9:40. God answers prayer for others (Dt 9:18–19; 1 Sa 7:8–9).

Be encouraged. God will answer your prayers as well.

Story of Jesus

Hezekiah’s bold request for the shadow to head in the other direction reminds us that some things are easier to say. Others can be quite difficult or impossible. In the gospel Jesus takes upon himself the same challenge to prove his authority.

2 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.

3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?

9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—

11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mk 2.1-12)

Jesus ‘sees’ their faith. Faith in action.

Jesus rewards their faith and gives the man something more valuable than physical healing. Forgiveness. But he did this knowing his declaration would cause a stir. Like God did with Hezekiah, Jesus does things to prompt a response which will then give him opportunity to reveal more of himself.

King Jesus has authority. Authority to forgive sins and heal the sick. Put your trust in him.

Jesus wasn’t asked by a Hezekiah wannabe to do something impossible to assure them. Jesus takes the challenge of his own accord. Its easy to say ‘your sins are forgiven’. Anyone could say that. But not so easy to heal the paralytic. Jesus shows he can do both.

Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2015. All Rights Reserved.