The Fall of a Godly Nation
God Listens and Restores – Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery
Does God change His mind? That is a question that has perplexed man for thousands of years. Malachi 3:6 declares, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” James 1:17 tells us, “ Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” The meaning of Numbers 23:19 is quite clear: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
No, God does not change His mind. God is unchanging and unchangeable. God is sovereign and immutable. Sovereign in that God, as the ruler of the Universe, has the right to do whatever he wants and is in absolute control over everything that happens (see Psalm 115:3; Daniel 4:35; Romans 9:20). Immutable in the sense that “God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises.” God, as the creator and the ruler of the Universe and beyond, has the right to do whatever he wants.
So, hearken back to our chronicle on the times of Hezekiah and let’s tie this together. It is 701 BC. We have reached the point in this series of articles where Hezekiah is facing a personal health crisis. A crisis that usually leads to a speedy death.
Scripture: (all ESV unless otherwise noted)
2 Kings 20:1-11 (also found in Isaiah 38) – 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 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. 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.” 7 And Isaiah said, “Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover.”
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.” 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.
For continuity and additional clarity in the scripture discussion let’s explore some of the pertinent history related to this incident. The Thomas Nelson Chronological Study Bible (p. 652) has an excellent summary perfect for our purpose:
“Sargon of Assyria decisively put down the Ashdod rebellion in 712 B.C., and as Isaiah had expected, Egypt did not keep its promises of aid. King Hezekiah must not have been too involved in the rebellion, however, because Judah was not punished as Ashdod was. Nevertheless, a few years later he began to consider rebellion again. He even received overtures of friendship from Merodach-Baladan, who had been driven from Babylon by Sargon around 710 BC but had managed to regain control of planning another rebellion against Assyria.
The biblical history of the next few years appears not only in 2 Kings 18:13-20:21, but also in Isaiah 36-39. The order of events in the biblical text is not strictly chronological. Hezekiah’s illness (Isaiah 38) and the visit by ambassadors from the Babylonian ruler Merodach-Baladan (Isaiah 39) are described at the end of this section but must have come before Sennacherib withdrew from Jerusalem (Isaiah 37:37; see 2 Kings 20:6)
The name “Berodach-Baladan” in 2 Kings 20:12 appears to be a corrupted spelling of Merodach-Baladan. He was the Babylonian ruler at two separate times (721-710 and 703-702 BC), and specialized in forming alliances to support his fight against Assyrian control. He may still have been known by the title “king of Babylon at the time of Hezekiah’s sickness although he might then have been in exile. Hezekiah died in 686 BC; his illness 15 years earlier would have been approximately 701 BC (2 Kings 20:6).”
Hezekiah had contracted a terrible illness as recognized by the presence of a significant boil … an illness that would be certain to lead to a speedy death. 2 Kings 20:1-11 is our focal scripture reference. As he had often done before, Isaiah went to advise Hezekiah in his time of distress. Isaiah gave Hezekiah the news that he would most surely die from his illness. Hearing this Hezekiah immediately turned his face toward the wall, and while bitterly weeping, petitioned God for deliverance from the ravages of the fatal disease. Hezekiah pleaded with God that he had walked before Him in truth, with a loyal heart, and had done what was good (and right) in God’s sight. God listened to Hezekiah’s prayer and restored him to health. Even before Isaiah could leave Hezekiah’s presence, the Word of the Lord came to Isaiah confirming Hezekiah’s healing. Hezekiah would have fifteen more years of life to build upon his Godly reforms and could continue to protect Jerusalem against the assault of the Assyrian army. Hezekiah asked for a sign from God that He would keep His word. God provided confirmation through a physical sign of His promise to Hezekiah… a sign only God could give … by miraculously moving the shadow on the sundial backward by ten degrees just as Hezekiah had asked.
A natural question arises here. Did God change His mind regarding Hezekiah’s future and instead heal him of his fatal illness? If you followed what was included in the background above, then you know the answer. NO, GOD DID NOT CHANGE HIS MIND! I conclude that God was simply waiting for Hezekiah’s repentance and admission that he was totally dependent upon God Himself to provide a solution. God was waiting for Hezekiah to reach the point where he knew that only God was able to deliver him from this terrible scourge.
In times of great distress, men’s prayers are often filled with petitions to God to change the course of what seems to be inevitable. Some point to specific scriptures, often taken out of context, to cite instances where God changed His mind. But this is simply not true. God does not change His mind. He could, but He won’t. Repeating Numbers 23:19 which is quite clear: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
I am reminded of a hauntingly similar event in an earlier slice of time for Israel and Judah.
Rehoboam, son of Solomon and grandson of David, had come to the throne of (2 Chronicles 11-12) the United Kingdom of the twelve tribes. In approximately 931 BC the ten northern tribes revolted against the leadership and harsh tax treatment of Rehoboam and separated themselves into the Northern Kingdom of Israel led by
Jereboam (931-910 BC). Rehoboam then governed only the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Both Rehoboam and Jereboam were considered as “bad” kings forsaking the Law of the Lord..
In the fifth year of Rehoboam’s reign, God’s prophet, Shemaiah, told Rehoboam and all of the princes of Judah gathered in Jerusalem that Judah would be overrun and defeated by Shishak of Egypt (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:1-12). Why? Because Rehoboam and Judah had forsaken God. Shishak had provided Jereboam sanctuary earlier and was considered an ally of Israel. According to the Bible, Shishak took all of the fortified cities of Judah and carried off many of the treasures of the temple and the royal palace in Jerusalem, including the “shields of gold” that Solomon had made. Jerusalem was spared to some degree because ” … the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, The Lord is righteous. And when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves … the Lord said … because they have humbled themselves … I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. Nevertheless, they shall be his servants; that they may know my service … (2 Chronicles 12:5-8 KJV, some minor paraphrase on my part).”
As was the case with Hezekiah, did God change His mind about the fate of Reheboam and Jerusalem? The answer is obvious! God does not change His mind. No, He waits for us to recognize our sin, repent of that sin and then and only then carries out His perfect will in the lives of men.
Much like Judah, is there hope for America? Are we in a temporary respite from the wrath of God? Can we survive our sickness as a nation unto death like Hezekiah? Is there any hope that we will not go the way of Israel and Judah and ultimately fall to our enemies under the weight of our own sin? Current circumstances in America don’t seem to point to a way of escape from the consequences of our individual and collective sin because we, and our leaders, continue to ignore the will of God for our nation.
However, I do believe the scripture teaches there is always hope … hope that is sure, hope that is lasting, hope that is without fail, hope that is found only in Almighty God. Hope that is found through repentance. Hope that is found because of God’s love and His perfect will.
So why is it so hard for man to find real and worthy direction and answers to life’s problems? Could it be that our sin simply blinds us from seeing the truth? After all, God recorded ALL of His solutions in His Word, the Bible. God’s answers to our ALL of our problems are enumerated within its pages. There are ample examples in the Bible of how righteousness breeds success for nations and unrighteousness breeds doom. Could it be that we are too modern and too sophisticated to believe that an ancient God and His time-proven life principles are still at work? Could it be that we have become so dependent upon our selves and our governments that we no longer see the need for God? Could it be that even if we believe in an Almighty God that we don’t trust Him enough to allow Him to provide for ALL of our needs?
Has America reached a point in our history where we refuse to recognize that we must individually and collectively as a nation seek first the kingdom of God? (But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you Matthew 6:33). Is it more important to live in an era of political correctness, inclusiveness and sensitivity, all the while shunning the appearance of anything Christian?
To me the course of action for America is obvious. Our sinfulness does indeed blind us from seeing the truth. It separates us from God. It provides false hope. It leads us to destructive paths of unrighteousness. It causes despair … lack of trust in one another … disgust with our leaders. Our sin is a death spiral leading to self-destruction!
In summary, there are some scriptural principles involved here.
- First of all, there must be recognition that God is God and man is not God.
- God is the author of ALL that is good and right.
- Satan and man are the authors of ALL things corrupt and sinful.
- There are no flaws in God’s plans.
- Man-made solutions to our problems, no matter what they might be, are ALLWAYS inferior to those of God.
- None of our other gods including items such as fame, self-dependence, self-righteousness, military forces, government, wealth (money, gold, silver jewels, etc.), prosperity, freedom, legislation, rules, alliances, compromises, contracts, commitments, covenants, treaties, promises, bond or judge can ever begin to match the solutions of the one and only supreme Jehovah God.
American leaders have abandoned God. How soon will God abandon us? Are we ready to admit that we are a sinful nation? Are we ready to humble ourselves? Are we ready to repent as a nation? Are we ready for God to heal our nation? Until we do as King Hezekiah did, then wallowing in our national sinful condition will continue unabated. May God help us!
As Christians there are many lessons we can learn from the fall of Israel and Judah. As a direct result of my study I have quite a number of topics in mind that I plan to develop into articles in the future, Lord willing. This first set of articles will deal with a portion of the time period when King Hezekiah of Judah and his strong Assyrian adversary, King Sennacherib reigned. As always, the articles will be based on Scripture and include a Reflection that draws parallels to our modern times. Here’s my ambitious list of the topics, not necessarily listed in order, that I want to cover:
- The Fall of a Godly Nation – An Introduction to a Series of Articles on Ancient Israel and Judah That Parallel Our Modern Day
- Revival Before the Fall – Hezekiah Brings Reforms and Revival to Judah
- Successful Execution of the Wrong Plan – Hezekiah’s Tunnel
- Intentional Deceit – The Lies and Intimidation of Sennacherib
- The Folly of Not Trusting God – Isaiah Pronounces Judgement
- God Listens and Restores – Hezekiah’s Illness and Recovery
- Lest Any Man Should Boast – Sennacherib Blasphemes Jehovah
- Parading Your Own Glory – The Consequences of Hezekiah’s Pride
- Passing the Mantle – The Failure of a Godly Father
- Conclusion: Is It Too Late for America?
I am excited about the message of these articles and look forward to completing them! It will take me some time as I have again begun working on my third book, Thank You Lord For Saving My Soul, which will include an extensive updated article on Evangelists Seth and Bessie Sykes.
Look for the next article in this series soon.
Where to Read More:
- Scriptures About Hezekiah – 2 Kings 18 – 20; 2 Chronicles 29 – 32; Isaiah 36 – 39
- Biography of King Hezekiah
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