Facing the Times – God’s Way

                                                Sunday 19 April 2020

                                                 Ps Ben Hooman

Good day family and welcome to this service this morning. I thank you for allowing me into your homes again. These extraordinary times we in changed the way we meet on Sundays and I am looking forward to the time when we will meet again as a congregation at church.

Our core Scripture is out of Isaiah 38.

We pick up on the sermon of two weeks ago. As we have seen, this is a story that speaks directly to the situation we find ourselves in. It is a true story of a Godly king, king Hezekiah, who faced an unexpected crisis.

We saw in Isaiah 38:1 that the king got sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah visited him with a message from God to set his house in order for he is going to die.

His whole world turned upside down and all his plans now of no effect. A serious crisis always has a devasting effect and changes everything.

Previously we looked at how king Hezekiah responded to this crisis in his life and how we should respond as well as we face a crisis. First seek the face of God in a crisis. We see in Isaiah 38:2,

“Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, and said: ‘Please O’ Lord, remember how I have walked before You in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what was right in Your sight’. And Hezekiah wept bitterly”. (Isaiah 38:2)

God answered his prayer, he recovered and God add another 15 years to his life on earth.

From this we learned the very important principle that God is sovereign over all things and his sovereignty includes the prayers of His people. He also responded in another way and we should also seek to live life with a clear conscience. The king could say that he walked with God in faithfulness. He was comforted by the fact that he was at peace with God.

At some stage we will also leave this world and need to enter into the presence of the Lord with a clear conscience. Live therefore in such a way that you are always ready for that day.

Today we will look at the joyful ending of Hezekiah’s crisis, what God did and more importantly how God did it. May this also speak directly to the situation we are in.

“Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, thus says the Lord, the God of David your father; I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will add fifteen years to your life.” (Isaiah 38:4, 5)

And then God said in verse 6 that:

“I will deliver you and the city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend the city”. (Isaiah 38:6)

At some stage we will get back to Isaiah 38 verses 7 and 8. We need to get the big picture of this very important chapter as a whole. From verse 9 to 20, we have a testimony written by Hezekiah after he recovered from his sickness. He explains how he felt, what he feared and tells us how he prayed. God willing, we will look at these verses next time.

At the end of Isaiah 38 we have two verses that was added almost as if it was a kind of note but of great importance.

“Now Isaiah had said, ‘Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.’ Hezekiah also had said, ‘What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?” (Isaiah 38:21, 22)

These two verses illustrate for us a principle that is vital for a believer’s wisdom and speaks directly to the crisis we experience today. These are the principles:

God normally works through means, and there is somethings only God can do.

1. God normally works through means

“Now Isaiah had said, ‘Let them take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, that he may recover”. (Isaiah 38:21)

Here we are given a clue to Hezekiah’s sickness. There was a boil, turned into some kind of dangerous infection within his body that brought him to the point of death.

Isaiah says to the king to take a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, a kind of dressing over the infected area. I suppose that this was then often used to draw out the infection. They did not have the means of modern medicine as we have today.

Here is the important principle: God works through means so he must use the means God made available.

Hezekiah prayed to the Lord and he placed this poultice of figs on the boil and God healed him. God worked through this means and we should also use the means that God has available to us.

What if a person say that God will give me strength in my body so I don’t need to eat, or God will keep me warm, so I don’t have to wear warm clothes? Yes, God do give you strength but He strengths your body by the means He gives you which is food.

God works through means. Doctors, nurses and medicine are God’s means to restore health. Builders are God’s means of providing housing, farmers are God’s means of supplying food, teachers are God’s means of giving education, parents are God’s means of guiding and bringing children up in the ways of the Lord. The church is God’s means to gather the saints and to take the gospel to a lost world.

When you get hold of this basic principle, it will give you a proper sense of a believer’s responsibility. It will open your understanding to what God wants you to do.

When you see that God also works through means, you will daily ask how can you be the means that God uses to bring His help and His blessing to someone else and all to His honour and His glory!

This is a very clear and vital Christian principle. It goes to the heart of a believer’s wisdom and very clearly speaks to the crises we face today. A new virus is sweeping through the world.

What should we do? Well, we should pray and use whatever means available as given by God to restrain the progress of this virus. God works through means, so we should wash our hands thoroughly, stay in our homes and practice social distancing. As we do these things, we pray that God will use them to restrain the rapid spread of this virus.

Some have the view that if God wants to protect them, He can do that without our carefulness. Can this be a case of not trusting God but rather tempting Him for God also created us with intellect to guard and protect us and care for other people and live in good health.

In 1527 a deadly plaque was sweeping through Europe and Martin Luther wrote an article calling it: “Whether one may flee from a deadly plaque” and he speaks to those who is much to replace and tempting God and disregarding everything that may counteract death and sickness.

He speaks about how shameful it is for a person to pay no heed to his own body and who fails to protect it the best he can the plaque that can also infect and poisons others for they could have remained alive if taken care of your own body.

He concludes: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us and I shall fumigate my house, I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order to not become contaminated and pollute others and cause them their death as a result of my negligence”.

Thank God that there are some things we can do to slow the spread of the virus. Let us do that and ask God that He will use these means to grant us relief.

So, here is a principle that is vital to a believer’s wisdom:

God normally also works through means and we should use these means God makes available to us.

There is also a second conclusion we should draw from this principle:

Because it is God who works though means we must thank God when He makes the means effective.

Although God used the poultice of figs, let us look what 2 Kings 20:5 clearly states:

“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 will go up to the house of the Lord”. (2 Kings 20:5)

God healed him!

There is two ways in which we can lose the path of wisdom:

One is to forget the means God uses and the other is to forget that it is God who uses the means!

Isaiah had said: Let them make a cake of figs and apply it to the boil, but God says very clearly that through that means “I will heal you”. When king Hezekiah recovered, he is not saying: O, these figs are the greatest medication! No, he is not saying that but give God thanks for healing him. He knows it is God who has given the means for him to be healed.

When we know that God work through means, we will be grateful for the means that He uses, but also be careful and give God all the glory.

A 17th century pastor once said: we know that the same treatment for an illness that works well for one person, may not work that well for another person. Why is that? God controls and commands all remedy so that all cures take effect according to His will and His pleasure. Unless God blesses the remedy applied, it will have no effect. Even though the doctors instruct their patients to apply it on various areas, if the Lord chooses not to bless their work, the patient will have no improvement, continuing to give a lesson to both the sick and the doctor. The patient must learn to look to God that medicine will have a good effect. The doctor must pray that his work be blessed by God for the benefit of the patient. In all our troubles, let us turn first to the Lord and pray that He will be pleased to use the means that He has provided.

Think of this in relation to health if you are sick: “Lord use this medicine to make her well, make it effective in her body. Use this chemotherapy to grant relief to his cancer.”

Think of it in a different sphere: Someone has lost his job and you pray to God, how are you going to pray? If you grasp this principle that God works through means, you will pray like this; “Lord give me perseverance in my working and Lord use the connections that you have given to me in order to open an opportunity”. This is how we pray: “Lord guide this child’s parents to brings them up in the ways of the Lord; Lord grant wisdom to the leaders of our country to make the right decisions”.

Do we pray to the Lord to help our children in the exam, or do we ask God to help them in their studies and then trust God to help them in the exam?

Two weeks ago, as we looked at this chapter in Isaiah, we saw that our first response to any crisis is to pray. What have you been praying? What have you been asking God?

God normally work through means and it will shape the way you pray.

When a person recovered from the virus you will be greatful to the doctors and nurses, but you will give glory to God. When a vaccine is finally available, we will be greatful to the scientists but we will praise God for what they have discovered by His grace.

So, God normally works though means, therefore use the means God has made available. But above all, thank God where ever He makes these means effective.

God normally works through means but, also:

2. There are some things that only God can do

“Hezekiah also had said, ‘What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord” (Isaiah 38:22)

Let us look at the significance of this verse. Hezekiah was sick and at the very point of death, being so weak, it must have been hard to believe that God would heal him. So, God gave him a sign.

“Behold, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dail of Ahaz turn back ten steps”. So the sun turned back on the dail the ten steps by which it has declined.” (Isaiah 38:8)

King Hezekiah’s father built a sun dail so that as the sun goes down, there is a creeping shadow that moved down the steps as the sun goes down. God said that He will give a sign that as the sun is going down, the shadow will go in the opposite direction.

“So, the sun turned back on the dail the ten steps by which it had declined” (Isaiah 38:8)

Something only God Himself can do! Imagine Hezekiah lying in his bed at the point of death, and he look out like every afternoon to see the time. But on this day the shadow moves up the steps in the opposite direction! Only God can make it happen and the king thought to himself: There is hope!

Why did God give this miraculous sign?

“This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He has promised.” (Isaiah 38:7)

God says to Hezekiah: I am the one that heals. When I do that, I want you to know that I am the one who did it!

To get a clear picture of what happened that day we need to look at 2 Kings 20. It begins with exactly the same words as in Isaiah 38. The king got sick and Isaiah coming to tell him that he is going to die. The king then turned to the wall and pray to the Lord. In 2 Kings 20:4 we have an addition to this effect:

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

Let us summarise of what happened that day:

  • Hezekiah became sick to the point of death
  • Isaiah came to him telling him that God said he must get his house in order for he is going to die
  • Hezekiah turn to the wall and pray to the Lord
  • Isaiah leaves the king’s bedroom but before he got out of the palace, God said to him to turn around and go back to the king. 2 Kings 20:4,5 there was immediate answer of the king’s prayer
  • Isaiah goes back and says to the king to put a cake of figs on the infected area, that God has heard the prayer of the king and that God will heal him and he will go up to the house of the Lord on the third day
  • Hezekiah then asks what the sign is.
  • Isaiah told him that God will do something that only God can do, He will make the shadow turn back and go in the opposite direction

Now that is the story.

Why is it in the Bible?

What we have here is the true story of a Godly king who was at the point of death and God heard his prayer and raised him up from his sickness on the third day.

The whole Bible points us to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! The King of kings and the Lord of lords! Not only at the point of death, but He died so we can have life. Raising the dead is something only God can do. Raised on the third day that you may have life for eternity.

And this is our hope! Resurrection is our hope. Jesus Christ became the means to not die but to have life.

What is the sign that we can go up to the house of the Lord? What is the sign that I am protected by God in these times? I can now dwell in the presence of the Lord. I can now pray to God and know that He will give me the means to receive what I pray according to His will. And as I pray, I know that he is in control and I will give Him all the glory! That is the hope of the gospel!

Let us pray:

Father God we are so greatly thankful that You are the sovereign God that works through mean.

We pray for the doctors, the nurses, the government, the scientists, the community workers, use them as the means to relief and the saving of millions of lives.

Father, because you through means, we ask that you help us to live always asking how we might be that means for you to use to help and to be a blessing in times like this.

Yes Lord, make us useful to others for your glory.

We thank you that in your power You are able to do where there are no means at all

Thank you that you raised our Lord Jesus Christ on the third day so that we may have life and life for eternity.

Because He lives, we shall live also.

Help us to walk by faith, be sustained in faith and to look to You and serve You well.

We ask this in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ

Amen

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