Summary: Understanding God’s purpose in illness
"My will be done" (Hezekiah)
Rev Dr Robert Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Outline: Hezekiah’s: Illness (vs 1)
Outcry (vss 2-11)
Outcome (vss 12-21)
A friend of mine serves as a hospital chaplain in Long Island, New York. As he makes his rounds he tries to encourage patients to view their hospital bed as the loving hand of God, holding them in His care. Not everyone feels while experiencing illness that God is lovingly caring for them. When I served as a hospital chaplain at Letterman Army Medical Center, occasionally patients would get angry at the very sight of me. They didn’t know me, but that didn’t matter; they knew Who I represented. They were angry with God for allowing them to be sick. Many people are unable to learn the lessons and blessings of affliction because of pride and/or bitterness towards God. Some people respond to illness like king Hezekiah. This morning I want us to consider the king’s illness, his outcry, and the outcome.
A. Hezekiah’s Illness (verse one)
Hezekiah was a faithful but proud king. He had served God, and he felt that God owed him a long life. When told by the prophet Isaiah to get his house in order and prepare to meet his Maker, the king turns in bitter despair toward the wall and weeps. The unthinkable had happened, and he was sure God had let him down. He will die without a son to reign in his place.
Illness can make us compassionate or bitter. Like Hezekiah, we can yield to the temptation of thinking God is obligated to heal us, that we’re entitled to a long life. We may pray the Lord’s Prayer, but often we’re more concerned with having our will done in heaven than for God’s will to be done on earth. We should be thankful for whatever time we’re allotted. If we’re not careful we can become like Hezekiah, selfishly dissatisfied with the divine plan.
When we read God’s word we gain insight into His will and then we know what to ask for. John the Apostle encourages us to ask, but to leave the answer with God. He points out in his first epistle, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (I John 5:14). When God’s answer is “No”, it likely means that our request did not conform to His plan. When praying, do you issue instructions, or report for duty?
If you’ve read about bereavement you’ve likely encountered the stages or tasks of grief. Let’s apply the grief process to Hezekiah:
Denial--He couldn’t imagine the benefit of departing this life.
Anger--He was bitterly opposed to God’s purpose
Depression--He turned his anger inward, sulking, turning toward the wall in tears.
Bargaining--He pleaded with God for more years.
Acceptance--He didn’t get to this stage; had he, it would have been better for him and his people.
B. Hezekiah’s Outcry (verses 2-11)
Hezekiah was unable to fathom what possible purpose his untimely death might accomplish. He should have been grateful for the time he was allotted, which was time well spent.
A parallel passage, II Chronicles 32 points out that it was Hezekiah’s pride (vs 25) that motivated his outcry. It would be understandable for Hezekiah to beseech God for healing had his doctor told him he was to die; but when a prophet explains that God has decreed the end of his days, his response was inappropriate. He was forgetting his place. Hezekiah was a king, but he answered to the King of kings.
Paul (in Romans 9) forcefully rebukes arrogant prayers: “Who are you to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘why did You make me like this?’ (vs 20).”
Do I mean to infer that it is improper to pray for divine intervention? Biblical instruction regarding prayer encourages us to make our requests known to God, but with the understanding that God’s will is best, and that His answers are wiser than our prayers. Hezekiah opposed the will of God spoken through Isaiah. I suspect that many of us could admit to some foolish prayers. I’ve certainly asked for things of which I had little understanding. We come to our infinite, omniscient God with our limited perception. Wisdom ought to assure us to trust even when we cannot understand. Faith is living with the unexplained, with the confidence that there is a reason, a purpose behind it all.
In the Lord’s Prayer we urge, “Thy will be done”. This is not a cop-out prayer, but a prayer strategy for people who have the strength to accept the verdict of God, whatever it might be. Rather than make too many assumptions, we rest in the will of our sovereign Lord. What some people call confident prayer may well be strong self-will and even rebellion. It is not God’s way for us to demand healing or anything else. Prayer is not to force the hand of God.