Thursday, January 9, 2014

Living Lessons from Dead Kings - 15 - “Hezekiah: The Test of Success” - Isaiah 38-39

Lesson 15 - “Hezekiah: The Test of Success” - Isaiah 38-39
ID: Inductive Questions (Asking the text questions like who, what, where, when, why, & how?”)
CR: Cross References (Comparing Scripture to Scripture, understanding the vague by the clear.)
WS: Word Study (Understanding definition, theological meaning, and usages in other passages.)
The WORD: What does the Bible say?
Context:  Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."  In this lesson we study what success revealed about Hezekiah’s heart.  Hezekiah’s sickness and reception of the Babylonian delegation are summarized in 2 Chronicles 32:24-33 and recorded in more detail in Isaiah 38-39 (also in 2 Kings 20).
1.     ID:  (Isaiah 38:1-2) What reasons did Hezekiah have to despair about his situation?  What was his response?
2.     WS:  (Isaiah 38:3)  Hezekiah based his prayer on having walked before God “in truth/faithfulness ('emeth ) and with a loyal (shalem) heart” and having done good in God’s sight.  Can think of things in Hezekiah’s life that would support (or contradict) that assertion? 
3.     ID:  (Isaiah 38:5-8)  What did Isaiah say moved God to answer Hezekiah’s prayer?  What does verse five teach us about how and why we pray?
4.     ID: (Isaiah 38:5-8)  What three things did Isaiah tell Hezekiah that God would do?
5.     ID:  (Isaiah 38:10-20)  Make observations about Hezekiah’s thoughts about his sickness and impending death in vv. 9-14 and then about his changed attitude about his sickness and responses to the Lord after he had been healed in vv. 15-20.
6.     ID:  (Isaiah 39/ 2 Kings 20:12-19)  What was given as the reason for the visit by Merodach-Balabon?  Does the text give any hints to why Hezekiah was so pleased/glad with the emissaries that he showed them all he had?  (2 Chronicles 32:31)
The WALK: What should I do?
1.      What does 2 Kings 20:7-11’s description of the use of medicine in a healing that was promised by the Lord teach us about the combination of medicine and faith?
2.      Do you think 2 Kings 20:10 describes audacity or great faith?
3.      Have you seen God answer prayer in a similar way?  (2 Kings 20:5-10)  Have you ever felt complete peace that a prayer was going to be answered?  (Was it?)
4.      What principles can we glean from Hezekiah’s response to the Babylonian visit about how we should think about and respond to attention from important people?
5.      What did Hezekiah’s reply to Isaiah’s prophecy in 2 Kings 20:19 (21:1-2) say about his commitment to his children, grandchildren, etc.?

By Robert Godfrey, professor of church history and president of Westminster Seminary California

The whole article is a good and worthwhile read.  Here is a short excerpt:
The first thing we notice about Hezekiah's second prayer is that the very fact that he prays is a remarkable sign of the faithfulness of Hezekiah. Think how desperate his situation is. He feels sick unto death. He has had the prophetic word that he is going to die. How would you have reacted? I suspect that for many of us there would be a tendency not to pray but to be very angry, or simply to be in a state of numb despair. “OK, I'm going to die; what's the point of anything? I'll just roll over and die.” But that is not Hezekiah's attitude. In his prayer we see the man of faith, the man of God, revealed to us. In the midst of his sickness, in the midst of this terrible situation that he confronts, in the midst of distress about as serious as anyone can face he is a man of prayer. Here is an expression of the very heart of faith that in distress, it turns to God, not away from God. In facing problems, faith seeks help in God. It does not doubt God’s presence or despair of his goodness.
Hezekiah’s prayer flows from a mind fined with Scripture. I believe that he had in mind a psalm of David, Psalm 34. Let me read some verses out of Psalm 34 to show how well they fit with the situation of Hezekiah, and how knowing these promises would have encouraged the man of faith to turn to God in prayer: I sought the Lord and he answered me, and answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (v.4) “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out all his troubles.”(v.6) “Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and lips from speaking your deceit. Depart from evil and seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evil-doers to cut off their memory from the earth. The cry and the Lord hears, and delivers them out all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out them all. ft (v.12-19)
Here are the kinds of promises of the Word of God that encourage Hezekiah. The Lord has promised to hear the righteous. The Lord has promised to deliver the righteous. So Hezekiah turns to the Lord in prayer and says, “Lord, I have been faithful. I have kept your covenant. I have been one who has sought to walk in your ways.”
Was Hezekiah saying that he was perfect? No! It is clear from Scripture that Hezekiah does not claim to be perfect. In Isaiah 38:17 we read another prayer of Hezekiah.
We know that the only one who is truly righteous and the only one who keeps God's law and covenant is Jesus, the Messiah. And so we understand something about the covenant of grace even more deeply and more fully than Hezekiah did. When we pray, we are careful to come to God only in Jesus name. We come in the name of the one who is truly righteous, the one who perfectly kept God's covenant in every way. Yet like Hezekiah, those of us in Jesus Christ can come to God saying, “I am a covenant keeper. I am not perfect, but out of the intention of my heart, renewed by your grace, I am striving to live for you, to serve you. I am your child. I am part of your covenant. O Lord, show me your mercy; show me your goodness.”

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