Sunday 03 May 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
What a privilege to bring the Word of God into your homes this morning. I pray that God open our hearts and minds accordingly so the truth can be implemented in our daily lives.
We in the series of facing the times and we stay in the story of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38.
It tells the story of a godly king who faced an unexpected crisis. Suddenly right in the middle of his life, he was afflicted with an illness that brought him to the very point of death. In verse 1 the prophet Isaiah comes to tell him to get his house in order for he will die and not recover.
It is important to note that this was a godly man who walked closely with God:
“He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.” (2 Kings 18:5)
What we see here is that Godly people also suffer. We see this in this story of Hezekiah and also in the story of Job, but also supremely in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we look at this Godly king Hezekiah, how did he respond to his crisis?
“Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,” (Isaiah 38:2)
Isaiah then left the king’s bedroom but before he could leave the palace, the word of God came to him a second time:
“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 38:5)
What a remarkable answer to the prayer of a righteous man. But what is also of particular value to us is that after he recovered, Hezekiah wrote down his inside experience, what he went through as he walked through this unknown crisis in his life. What he experienced is also what we experience in this crisis we find ourselves in here and now.
Last time we saw the king felt fragile; he felt anxious; he felt weary, but also feared being separated from loved ones; his life being cut off, and also feared the possibility that God might be against him.
We looked at his distress, his anguish, and we saw how his experience speaks to our experiences and how we must let our anguish lead us to Jesus.
What we look at today is the faith of Hezekiah, the substance of his faith as seen in Isaiah 38:15-17.
In a crisis we learn three things from faith:
In a crisis our faith will be tested, how your faith can be strengthened and, how your faith can be assured.
“What shall I say? For He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done it. I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” (Isaiah 38:15)
When you go through an unexpected crisis your faith will be tested. Hezekiah is here writing after he recovered from his illness:
“A writing from Hezekiah king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:” (Isaiah 38:9)
Looking back at his crisis, filled with thanksgiving, he asks: What shall I say? God has spoken and God has healed me!
“…. I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold I will add fifteen years to your life.” (Isaiah 38:5)
God did what He promised. God healed him and brought him back from the very point of death. When he recovers, he rejoices in the answered prayer, but when he went through the crisis it was a different story.
What is he honestly telling us:
“I walked slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” (Isaiah 38:15)
When this Godly king suffered, he struggled with great bitterness according to verse 17.
He is saying: Lord I have given my life to be Godly, pursued righteousness and have served you. I am now in the middle of my life and you allowed me to be afflicted even to the point of death. God, that is not fair. I walk slowly because of the bitterness of my soul”.
Just look at the honesty of the king. He is not coming out of his crisis, look back saying: I was afflicted and I just trusted the Lord! No, he tells us the truth that when he was afflicted, he struggled with bitterness.
He is telling us that a battle raged within him. He trusted God but when the crisis came, trusting God was not so easy.
Perhaps there has been a time when your faith has been tested, or getting tested right now in these unknown times we find ourselves in.
If that has been your experience, would it help you to know that it was the same for this most Godly king in the Bible. Hezekiah did not come out of this crisis with some note of triumph. He had to honestly confess that when he suffered, he found that his faith was not as strong as he thought it to be.
He says: I had great bitterness. That is the confession of a Godly man. Faith was tested and when you face a crisis, your faith is going to be tested.
Notice what Hezekiah says in verse 17:
“Behold it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; (Isaiah 38:17)
He says that God used this crisis and his experience for his own good.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Even when the weakness of our own faith is exposed, God use that for our welfare.
“For my welfare I had great bitterness.” How could God use this man’s bitterness for his own good? The answer is in verse 15 as he looks back at the bitterness that he felt:
“I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.” (Isaiah 38:15)
Walking slowly here simply means walking humbly. Some translations here read; I walk humbly all my years.
Therefore, this is what Hezekiah is actually saying: “I use to think my faith was strong, but when this crisis came, I did not do so well. I wish I could look back and say that I trusted God all the way, but I can not say that. I have to tell you that there was a great bitterness in my soul. God even used this for my welfare and used it to humble me. I am done with priding myself on the strength of my faith. From now on I will walk humbly, I will walk slowly all of my years.”
Pride lurks in all of our hearts and the worst form of it is spiritual pride. God may use a crisis to humble you, and may use it to humble all of us. He may do it in showing us that our faith is not as strong as we like to think.
What happened to the disciple Peter? At the last supper Jesus said to His disciples:
“Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward’. Peter said to Him, ‘Lord why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for You’. Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? …” (John 13:36-38)
He thought his faith was that strong. Later that same night it only took a servant girl to be asking:
“Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looked closely at him, said, ‘This man also was with Him’. But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know Him’”. (Luke 22:56-57)
God used this to humble Peter, to make this confident man more like the Lord Jesus Christ. Later in the New Testament we amazingly find Peter, the gentle pastor writing these words:
“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you”. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Here is the principle: An unexpected crisis will test your faith and God can use this to make you more like Jesus.
If you come to a time in your faith and your faith is tested, you don’t do so well. Let that experience humble you, let it show you how much you need Jesus and then thank God that your salvation does not depend on the strength of your faith, but on the strength of your Saviour.
Faith tested, and here is the second thing that is so important: How will faith then be strengthened?
“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. O, restore me to health and make me live!” (Isaiah 38:16)
It is hard to be certain of the precise order of events in this story, but I suggest this is how it unfolds:
Hezekiah became sick to the very point of death. Despite being a godly man, he struggles with bitterness. Isaiah the prophet visits him in his bedroom with a message from God to set his house in order for he is going to die. The king then turns to the wall and pray, weeping bitterly. Isaiah is on his way home but before leaving the palace, God speaks to him and direct him to go back to the king. Isaiah came back into the room and speaks the word of God saying that God heard the king’s prayer and will add fifteen years to his life. Hezekiah then prays with new faith and with new confidence, saying: O Lord, restore me to health and make me live!
Look at the pattern here: God speaks in verse 15, and in verse 5 He tells us what He said; that He will add fifteen years to the king’s life, that his prayer has been answered. We see the response of king Hezekiah in verse16 as he prays: Restore me to health and make me live!
Here we learn something of great importance on how faith is strengthened. The king had struggled, facing great bitterness, how is his faith then strengthened?
Firstly, Faith is strengthened by the Word of God.
How did Hezekiah overcome his bitterness? If you in a crisis and you discover your faith is merely strong enough, not as strong as you thought, how will help come to you?
The answer to that question is that faith is strengthened by the Word of God.
“But He answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. (Matthew 4:4)
Your faith will be strengthened by the Word of God. When you in a crisis you need to feed on the Word of God. That is why we open the Word right here and now. By this means; by His Word God will strengthen your faith!
Secondly: Faith prays for what God has promised.
God speaks in verse 15, the promise is recorded in verse 5 and what does Hezekiah do? He prays in response to that promise.
Faith prays for what God has promised. The king prays and says: Lord you said you going to add fifteen years to my life. Heal me and make me live, give me these extra years.
It is good to always pray with an open Bible. In other words, look at what God has promised and then turn what God has promised into your prayers.
This is what Hezekiah models to us. When you see that God has promised something in His Word, the right response is to pray that what He promised will be yours, and that you will know it in yours by experience.
Faith prays for what God has promised. Let us look at an example: You read in the book of Philippians and you get to;
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. (Philippians 4:13)
You say to yourself: Look at that, Christ gives me strength! What are you going to do at that point? Are you just going to say that it is nice that God gives strength and carry on?
Or what are you going to do? You say: Lord, Your Word says you give strength and I ask that You give me strength to bear the burden that I carry right now.
That is when you turn God’s promise into your prayer.
You read in 1 Peter 1:8 about people that love God and believe in Him and that they are filled with glorious joy.
What am I to do when I read that? Am I to say some believers have more joy and that is nice?
No, I am to say: Lord, if it is possible for others to have such joy because they know you and they love you, I want that too. Look in the Bible for any clue why they have that joy and you will see that in the verses before it, they know they have a risen Saviour, a living hope and that they have a glorious inheritance, and that is why they have this great joy.
Pray and say: Lord help me to see the value that is mine in our Lord Jesus Christ, even in the middle of a crisis.
When you see in Scripture that God promises to forgive, we don’t just respond to say that God promises to forgive sins.
No, it is to say: Lord as I repent of these sins, will you forgive me. You turn God’s promises into prayer. That is what faith does!
Faith prays with an open Bible and turns what God promises into prayer so it become part of your own experience.
When you face an unexpected crisis, your faith will be tested. How does your tested faith get strengthened? Faith is strengthened by the Word of God and faith will then pray for what God has promised.
The promises of God will strengthen your faith and faith strengthened will turn the promises into prayers so that what God promises will become yours.
We looked at faith tested, and we looked at faith strengthened, and we need to look at faith assured.
“… but in love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind your back.” (Isaiah 38:17)
Just take this in right now! When you face an unexpected crisis and your faith is tested, her are three things of assurance: I am loved, I am saved and I am forgiven.
“In love You have delivered me …” Literally the words are: God loved me out of the pit! Nothing is as sure as the love of God for you in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Father gave His only Son for you. On that darkest day of your life you can say: The Son of God loves me He gave Himself for me.
God did not redeem you because He had to but because He wanted to, that is how much He loves you. He has chosen to lay His life down for you and for me and that is how much He loves us!
How great is the love that the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God? In love He predestined us for the adoption of sons to the praise of His glorious grace.
Nothing in life, death or eternity can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus!
When you face a crisis, you can say with confidence that you are saved, you are delivered from the pit of destruction. “but in love you have delivered me from the pit of destruction”. The Bible speaks of an eternal destruction, a destruction tearing apart that never ends.
We hear a great deal about fear in these days. Fear of the virus, fear of a great recession. But Jesus says:
“And do not fear those that who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell”. (Matthew 10:28)
Remember Hezekiah is a godly king and the worst thing he could imagine would be to live and to die for sins and find yourself in the pit of destruction for ever and ever. With a full heart he thanks God from saving him from that.
Jesus Christ came into this world to save you and me from that pit of destruction. When born again you can also say: Lord, you have delivered me from the pit of destruction.
Whether things are better or worse today, whether in sickness or in health, facing the prospect of the following weeks and months, in Jesus Christ today we can say: I am loved, I am saved!
The third thing: We can say with great confidence: I am forgiven.
“for You have cast all my sins behind your back”.
How does God save us from the pit of destruction? Notice the word “for”, this is the reason, this is the explanation of what God does in order for you to be saved.
Godly people know that our sins are many. The closer you walk with God, the greater your own sins are revealed. There are only two places where your sins can be; either before God’s face, or behind God’s back.
The question that determine your future are not whether your sins are many or few, but are they before God’s face or behind God’s back?
Jesus died and He bored our sins so that we can repent of our sins. When you repent, God takes your sins from before His face and cast them behind His back. As far as the east is from the west, he cast them out of sight
“You have cast all my sins behind your back”.
Someone once said: If we cast our sins behind our back, God sets them before His face. But when we set them before our face in true repentance, God cast them behind His back.
Many people cast their sins behind there back and never come to real repentance. As long as you are casting your sins behind your back, they are right in front of God’s face!
What do we do? We bring our sins before your own face in genuine repentance and when you do that, God cast them behind His back, and when your sins are behind His back, you can cast it safely behind yours. That is forgiveness.
Faith tested, faith strengthened, and faith assured.
Life in these times are much less certain, more that we think. We make all our own plans and a tiny virus throws everything up in the air.
But how rich are we in the Lord Jesus Christ! On the darkest day of your life, you can say with confidence: I am forgiven, I am saved, and nothing can ever separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
Therefore, we can face any crisis.
Let us pray:
Father we come into Your presence aware of our weakness and of the agree in which our own faith is tested and often showed up to be less than we think it to be. Strengthen us as we move through these days in which we live. Strengthen us by Your Word. Grant that we may pray what we see, and also believe as promised by you to make ours. Thank you today that in Jesus Christ, whatever we face, we are able to say with confidence that we are forgiven, we are saved and we are loved. May Your grace reign in our hearts. We ask this in Jesus Name, Amen.