Sunday 10 May 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
What a privilege to bring the Word of God into your homes this morning.
Have you ever been in a situation where you begged for a second change, or unexpectedly given a new lease of life? We are then thankful and want to make the best of the opportunity. But soon we forget the grace that had been shown, and pride creeps into our hearts.
May this last message in our series on “Facing the Times”, with a focus on life after a crisis, guide us to a new life of humility and gratitude.
Our core Scripture this morning is from Isaiah 38:18-20; 39:1-8.
In this story we see a great reflection of king Hezekiah, a godly man who faced an illness that brought him to the point of death. God heard his prayer and he made a remarkable recovery. This story is speaking to us directly as we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis.
As we look at Hezekiah, we saw that he went through different stages in this crisis. First the shock and turning to God in praying having hope, in the middle of this crisis in anguish, how faith get tested, strengthened and assured and today we will look at position after the crisis.
As we have gone through this series, we found that it has been speaking to us in a remarkable way to what we are facing as we walk through this crisis in these days.
As this dangerous virus entered our lives, we were all in a state of shock. Nothing like this has ever happened to us. We as believers then affirmed our hope, our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but as time goes on, we felt increasingly distressed and in anguish. Our faith gets tested, finding our faith not as strong as we might have thought. We looked at how our faith can be strengthened by the Word of God and by praying the promises of God. We then looked at the things in which a believer can be absolutely sure that even in these times that we are loved, we are saved and we are forgiven.
Today we are looking at the last part of this story and again it speaks directly and powerfully to where we are in this corona virus crisis.
Hezekiah was sick to the point of death; he cried out to the Lord in prayer; God healed him and add fifteen years to his life. Now here is the question: What use did this man make of those fifteen years added to his life? Or, personally to each and every one of us?
Here we are in this crisis, we are past the shock. We have experienced a great deal of anguish but we have our hope in the Lord and see that there is life at the end of this all. We see guidelines for getting the country going, some restrictions lifted and hopefully more to be lifted in the near future. We all want to get our lives back. Back to work, back to church, back to friends and families, back to travelling again. We continue praying for this crisis to be something of the past.
But what are you going to do with your life when you get it back? That is the question before us today.
Let us look at the story of Hezekiah; what he said, what he did, what he discovered when he got his life back, and how God’s grace prevailed.
What he said
“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)
Hezekiah said that “I walk slowly”, or as it might be translated “humbly all my years”. This was Hezekiah’s commitment and he was absolutely clear, saying: Lord, if you will give me my life back; if you will answer my prayers, here is what I am going to do: if you give me another fifteen years I’m going to live every day of my life before You in humility.
What would that look like? This Hezekiah tells us in the following verses as he describes the life his going to pursue. We see that a humble person seeks to glorify God and to seek the good in others:
“The living, the living, he thanks You, as I do this day; the father makes known to the children Your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:19)
- A humble person seeks to glorify God.
Hezekiah is saying: ‘No one in the pit of destruction is going to be praising You, but You have saved me from that. You have promised me life, and I believe in Your promise.
So, I am going to praise You, I’m going to thank You, and if You give me another fifteen years, I’m going to praise You and thank You every day of my life’.
- And, a humble person seeks the good of others.
Remember at this stage Hezekiah is not a father yet. Children has not yet been born to him, but he believed that God will be faithful to His promise given to David, hat the line of David in which Hezekiah stood, would continue. So, he makes this commitment to God: ‘I will tell my children of Your faithfulness. I will make sure my family knows that You are God, and that You are good, and that Your faithfulness endures to all generations’.
Notice that the cycle of praise keeps on expanding. It starts with one man; Hezekiah praising and giving thanks to God, then his family joins in with him, and then the entire community:
“The Lord will save me, and we will play my music on stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the Lord.” (Isaiah 38:20)
Notice the movement from ‘me’ to ‘we’ in this verse. Hezekiah is saying: It is not just me that is going to thank the Lord, but all of God’s people is going to join in to praise Him with me. We are going to make music; we are going to sing praises to You O’ Lord. We going to do it in the temple and doing it all the days of our lives.
What a commitment! Lord, if You give me back my life, here is what I am going to do: I’m going to live my life humbly for Your glory, and I’m going to seek the good of other people.
That is what this king Hezekiah said. But what he did was something entirely different!
What he did
“At the time Merodach-baladan the son Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.” (Isaiah 39:1)
Babylon was the rising superpower of that day, and so when envoys came from Babylon, Hezekiah really wanted to impress them. He was flattered and couldn’t resist showing off his treasure. Look what he did:
“And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armoury, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2)
Imagine what effect this must have had on the envoys from Babylon. Their eyes widen as they see the gold, and as they see the silver. They then go back to their crown prince saying that there is serious money over there in Jerusalem.
After the envoys from Babylon had left, the prophet Isaiah came back again to Hezekiah in the palace and ask him about these visitors.
“Then Isaiah the prophet came to king Hezekiah, and said to him, ‘What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?’ Hezekiah said, ‘They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon’ He said, ‘What have they seen in your house?’ Hezekiah answered, ‘They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them’. Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 39:3-6)
What do we learn right here? We learn that good people can make disastrous decisions. Hezekiah was a godly man, but here he acts in utter folly. A good man making a disastrous decision in showing future enemies all of the treasure of his house. An absolute disaster because this was what sowed the seed of the loss of Hezekiah’s kingdom in future generations, when a future king of Babylon would come and destroy the city of Jerusalem and plunder its wealth entirely.
When Hezekiah heard what will happen, he spoke one of the saddest sentences in all of the Bible. Isaiah had told him that his sons will be carried away, in other words this great loss will happen in a future generation. Hezekiah knew he was only going to live another fifteen years. He knew exactly how long he had left to live. So, when he hears this news that this disaster is not going to happen immediately, but that it is going to happen in a future generation, he knew it is not going to be on him but on his sons.
“Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good’. For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days”. (Isaiah 39:8)
What sheer selfishness! No thought for a future. He actually says: who cares to what happens to other people. As long as I live a good life and life is good to me, there will be peace and security in my days.
Looking at these words, how can any one be that selfish? But God has told us that judgement is coming to this world, and you know, we might not be so far from Hezekiah as we would like to think, when he basically says, ‘judgement is coming, well as long as I’m not involved. The world can go to hell as long as we don’t go with it’. That is the spirit of Hezekiah right here.
What Hezekiah said, and what he did, were two entirely different things. He says he is going to live humbly with thanksgiving. He is going to seek the good of others.
What he did though was all about himself. “As long as there is peace and security in my days…” God gave him life and he lived it for himself!
Here is the question: How could a godly man behave in such a way? How could a king who prayed and whose prayers have been heard and answered, how could a good man who the Bible says was the best king Judah ever had, behaved like this?
The key is given to us in the second book of Chronicles where God tells us what is going on at this time in king Hezekiah’s heart.
We looked at what Hezekiah said, we looked at what he did and we now will look at what he discovered.
What he discovered
“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefor wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem”. (2 Chronicles 32:24-25)
Here we see that this king that said that he will walk humbly, did not make return according to the benefit returned to him, but became proud. He said one thing but what he did was the opposite. Why? “for his heart was proud”.
Remember that Hezekiah was a godly man, the best king Judah ever had. The Bible says there was none like him before and none like him after. He was a true believer, and his prayers were heard and wonderfully answered by Almighty God.
But pride lurked in his heart and when God gave him his life back, the Bible makes it very clear what he did with his life: he lived for himself.
“And Hezekiah had very great riches and honour, and he made for himself treasuries for silver, for gold, for precious stones, for spices, for shields, and for all kinds of costly vessels; storehouses also for the yield of grain, wine, and oil; and stalls for all kinds of cattle, and sheepfolds. He likewise provided cities for himself, and flocks and herds in abundance, for God has given him great possessions.” (2 Chronicles 32:27-29)
God gives him abundant goodness, and what does he do with it? It is all for himself. Here is a man who says to God: you give me back my life, and I will walk humbly with You all of my years. But exactly the opposite happened when God gave him back his life! It is all about Hezekiah. He becomes proud in his heart, and what he does is all for himself!
The question that really reveals our hearts is not ‘will you pray in a crisis?’ most people pray in a crisis. No, the question that really reveals your hearts is ‘how will you live when the crisis is over?’ what will you do with your life if God gives it back to you? It is this question that exposes the heart of Hezekiah. God knows how to deal with a proud heart.
“Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefor wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chronicles 32:15)
What are we being told here? When Hezekiah’s heart became proud, he came under the discipline of Almighty God. Here is a very important biblical principle: God loves His own children so much, that He will not allow His own children to continue in sin. What did His wrath look like? Chronicles tells us very clearly how God dealt with Hezekiah, and how He will deal with us, if our hearts become proud:
“And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart” (2 Chronicles 32:31)
When a person who has been blessed by God turns away from Him in defiance and refuses to repent, things don’t go so well.
The prodigal son knew all about this. He sinned against God and against those that loved him, and for a long time there wasn’t the slightest hint of repentance in his life. He remained in a far country, and things did not go well for him there. In the end he became desperate. He most probably told himself that what he needed was a new job, or new friends, maybe move to a new location. But what he really needed to do was to repent! He needed to humble himself. He needed to repent towards God: “I have sinned against heaven”. He needed to repent towards people in his life. The money he had taken, the trust he had betrayed, the work he had abandoned, the love he had spurned. The Lord Jesus says in the story of the prodigal son that eventually ‘he came to his senses’.
That is what happened to Hezekiah. He came to his senses, and the reason he came to his senses was that God left him to himself, so that the foolishness of his own proud heart was exposed.
What he said – something very wonderful, what he did – something very different, what he discovered – that his own heart was filled with detestable pride and not nearly as godly as he might have like to think.
The last think we need to see is how grace prevailed.
“But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and his inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah” (2 Chronicles 32:26)
Here is something very significant in the Old Testament. The wrath of God in God’s mercy was postponed! It was held over for another time. It was postponed but was not removed. Justice must be done somewhere. Sooner or later, all sin must be dealt with, and this is why Jesus came into the world.
What we see in the Lord Jesus Christ is exactly the opposite we have seen in Hezekiah today. Hezekiah became proud in his heart, Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on the cross. Hezekiah lived for himself. He was all about himself, filling the treasuries for himself. Jesus left the riches of heaven and gave Himself for the good of others. Most striking of all; when Hezekiah faced the prospect of the wrath of God, he thought, ‘as long as it is on others and not on me’.
“And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they do” (Luke 23:34)
Jesus absorbed the wrath that was due to us, on account of our sins. He took it on Himself, so that for all who come to Him in faith and repentance, that wrath that was due to us is not only postponed, it is completely removed!
“There is therefor no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)
Family, here is then the question that is before us today in these extraordinary days in which we are living: what are you doing with the life that God is giving you?
Maybe you see something of yourself in this story of Hezekiah. Maybe you say: ‘I have messed up, I have said one thing and done another. I have made commitments to God in the past but I have not kept them. I have even taught others, but I have not lived up to that teaching myself. I behaved like a fool! Now I see my own heart for what it is. I feel that there is no hope left for me’.
I want to say to you from God’s Word today: Yes, there is hope for you! There is hope for you in and through the Saviour that came for you and for me, Jesus Christ our Lord! The very fact that you are seeing the need of your own heart, is evidence of the grace of God at work within you.
Here is what you must do: you have seen that you need a Saviour. You have seen the need of your own heart. Now you must humble yourself. Thank God that Jesus Christ, His Son came into this world and bore the wrath for you, and then ask Him, ask Jesus Christ, God’s Son, to become your Lord and to become your Saviour. There is hope for you in Jesus Christ who died for your sins.
“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised”. (2 Corinthians 5:15)
Will you bow with me before God in prayer?
Let us pray:
Father God, forgive the foolish pride of our hearts and that we so often take the life You give us for granted and depend on ourselves. Father, our hearts are exposed by Your Word. Thank you that when we see our own self-interest, we see our need for a Saviour, and we thank You that Jesus Christ is the Saviour we all need. Therefore, in humble faith and repentance we embrace Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Grant cleansing for our sins and renew our hearts. Take our proud hearts and make us humble. Grant that in Christ we no longer live for ourselves, but as You give us life, let us live for the One who died for us and rose again. In His great Name, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, Amen