Translations: Chinese GB Big5

Hezekiah's Prayer of Despair

Isaiah 38:9-20
A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah after his illness and recovery:
I said, "In the prime of my life must I go through the gates of death and be robbed of the rest of my years? I will not again see the LORD, the LORD, in the land of the living; no longer will I look on mankind, or be with those who now dwell in this world.

I waited patiently till dawn, but like a lion he broke all my bones; day and night you made an end of me.

I cried like a swift or thrush, I moaned like a mourning dove. My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. I am troubled; O Lord, come to my aid!

But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.

I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul.

Lord, by such things men live; and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health and let me live.

Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins behind your back.

For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living— they praise you, as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about your faithfulness.
The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD.

A Prayer of Despair

Hezekiah had been in despair at death's doorway. Notice his actions: He expressed his despair; He endured long through it day and night waiting for God's help; He cried and mourned asking for God's help. Then God answered and delivered him.

Looking back he could testify saying, "Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish."

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Heb 12:11
Suffering helps to maintain one's humility, reminding us of our frail humanity, as Hezekiah said, "I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul." It also brings to mind our sinful state and God's holiness and the judgement to come. God's deliverance from times of suffering reminds us of God's grace and the forgiveness of sins we have through faith. Hezekiah rejoices in faith, "you have put all my sins behind your back."

When going through suffering God wants us neither to take it lightly nor to lose hope altogether. "My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?" Heb 12:5-7

The Resurrection

While these aspects of Hezekiah's prayers and his underlying faith are commendable, nonetheless it seems to me that he was overly concerned for the things of this life grasping too much the temporal rather than the eternal.

Where for example does he express hope in the resurrection from the dead? In the midst of Job's suffering didn't he proclaim,"I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God;  I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" Job 19:25-27 This in contrast to Hezekiah who said, "I will not again see the LORD, the LORD, in the land of the living; no longer will I look on mankind, or be with those who now dwell in this world." Hezekiah was mistaken on this point, which added to his despair.  In contrast notice also Paul's view concerning his own death, "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body."Php 1:20-24 Hezekiah doesn't express this Christian hope. How great a hope we Christians have in time of despair!

Many years after Hezekiah Daniel also received a vision affirming the resurrection, as it says, "As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance." Daniel 12:13 This resurrection is extensively spoken of in the New Testament and understood by many Jews at Jesus' time.

Speaking of his brother Lazarus Martha said,  "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." John 11:24

Granted it was not accepted by the Sadducees (for that was why they were so sad, you see?) Yet it was well accepted among the Pharisees. And Jesus spoke extensively on the resurrection such as Matthew 22:30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

So also the apostles taught on the resurrection, such as what kind of bodies we will have in 1Corinthians 15. And concerning death Paul writes, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."1Thess 4:13,14

Revelation also reveals that the resurrection comes in two parts. "They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection." Rev 20:4-6

Therefore let us not hold too tightly on to the things of this life, "For this world in its present form is passing away." 1Cor 7:31 "The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever." 1 John 2:17

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