Summary: King Hezekiah is told he is going to die and he had better get ready. What does it mean for Christians to face death? What is our understanding of death in light of what Christ has done for us?
THE LAST ENEMY
Many of you know that I love movies. As a true movie aficionado I enjoy watching some of the really old movies. One of the most interesting movies from 1934 was called “Death Takes A Holiday.”
In “Death Takes A Holiday,” Death takes on human form as “Prince Sirki” to discover why people fear him. As he is drawn further into the mortal world, he becomes fascinated with the people he meets. A certain young woman named Grazia is the only person he meets who has no fear of him. However, the aged Duke Lambert, knows who he is and is threatened to keep quiet or many people will die.
The consequences of Death taking a holiday are darkly humorous. A man jumps off the Eiffel Tower in an attempt to kill himself but walks away without a scratch. During a horse race half a dozen riders and horses collide in such a calamity that all should have been killed. Horses and riders all get up as if they simply tripped. War rages without casualties, plants and flowers do not wither or die, no one dies because Death has taken a holiday and has fallen in love.
At the end of the movie Death returns to his domain and things return to normal; people die as they are supposed to. This is a fantasy, a “what if” scenario, not at all reality.
Death is obviously a morbid subject. It is a subject we prefer to ignore. We ignore it to a fault so that when death strikes our families we are rattled and unable to think clearly about the reality and nature of death.
Why do we fear death? Our society has taught us to view death with escapism, to live now and fulfill your dreams now. You don’t know when you will die so enjoy the moments. Eat your bran, exercise, and take your vitamins so you can live a long healthy life. Why? Because the world does not know what to do with death. Yet it is a daily reality.
What is the Christian response to death? How do we approach death? What does Hezekiah teach us about death?
1. Death Takes a Holiday
As we revisit the story of Hezekiah we could say that Death took a holiday in his situation. Very few of us are given the opportunity that Hezekiah receives to set his life straight before dying. Perhaps that is the reason for his response.
a) “Put your house in order” – Like a movie plot Hezekiah is warned of his impending death. “In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, ‘This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover” (v. 1).
What would you do if you were faced with this news? How would you put your house in order? I have sometimes imagined having cancer or something, knowing I was going to die, and pictured myself making amends with the people I had hurt in life. You would want to make sure that all your debts were paid; you would forgive and ask to be forgiven; you would spend time with your loved ones, maybe write a letter to each one expressing your affection for them. What would you do?
Hezekiah prayed. Yes we would do that too. But Hezekiah cried out for life. “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, ‘Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (2-3).
In pleading to God, Hezekiah does three things: he prays, he appeals to God on the basis of his faithfulness, and he weeps. With what Hezekiah inherited as a king he did a good job as God’s servant. He reigned over a kingdom that had worshiped idols and did all kinds of detestable things. Hezekiah turned the nation around and sought to honor the LORD. The annals of the Kings remembered him this way: “Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the LORD had given Moses” (2 Kings 18:5-6). Based on this, wouldn’t God show mercy and spare his life?
b) God’s Answer – Of the three actions God responds to two. “This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayers and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life” (v. 5).