The Problem with Prayer : Hezekiah Desires More Time

 

Among the kings of Israel, three are reckoned as righteous men: David, Josiah, and Hezekiah. Each of these men worked hard to move Israel toward a life of religious observance; however, none of these men were perfect. David knew another man's wife and was called “a man of blood” by his own creator. Josiah, when given the chance to let Egypt and Assyria fight and destroy one another, confronted the pharaoh of Egypt and caught an arrow in his chest for interfering in other nation's affairs. Hezekiah made the same mistake all of us have: he wanted more than what God gave.

 

The Bible tells us in Isaiah chapter 38:1 that the 39-year-old king Hezekiah received word from God that death would soon take him. God told the king to get his affairs in order. For, at that time, Hezekiah had no male heir so he needed to find a righteous man to continue in his footsteps leading Israel. God gave Hezekiah a gift of knowledge that everyone might envy: knowing the amount of time God his given for a person to live. Unfortunately for Hezekiah, and the rest of Israel, that gift was insufficient.

 

Though Hezekiah knew the will of YHWH, instead of accepting the decree he, “turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, and said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.(Isaiah 38:3) It seems from his statements that the king expected life as payment for good works.

 

Instead of letting his prayer show his acceptance and obidience to God's will in his life, Hezekiah made prayer a chance to express desires for himself (please read the other articles on the Hebrew and Greek definitions of prayer). Perhaps Hezekiah desired to keep living to fight off the Assyrians, perhaps he wanted his own flesh and blood sitting on the throne after him, or he may have simply feared death. I believe God's choice of answer tells us, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. (Isaiah 38:5-6).”

 

Read how God answers Hezekiah. Number one, YHWH defends Israel not human kings, in the previous chapter YHWH made this clear saying, “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. (Isa 37:35).” Two, he recognizes that Hezekiah, though a king among men, cries as a child before God and, as would any child, Hezekiah tries to bargain with God and puts his desires before the wishes of his heavenly father.

 

God gives Hezekiah 15 years: enough time to administrate two shmitas and a jubilee as prophesied by Isaiah saying, “And this shall be a sign unto thee, Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof. (Isa 37:30).”

 

From the text of the bible we see clearly only two accomplishments of Hezekiah during his added 15 years of life. One, he sired Manasseh, the most evil king to have ever ruled Judah. Two, he opened the treasure houses of Israel to the Babylonians and showed them what a ripe prize Israel would make (Isa. 39:2). Immediately after receiving more time we find Isaiah prophesying destruction caused by Hezekiah:

 

Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. (Isa. 39:6-7)

 

And perhaps as a final slap in God's face, Hezekiah did not administrate those shmitas and a jubilee as he had time for:

 

To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years. (2Ch 36:21)

 

According to the word of Jeremiah, the land was owed 70 sabbaths and that would account for a 500 year debt if the shmitas counted as a sabbath but not the jubilee.  Since this prophecy centered on Judah, and Hezekiah had been king only 2 generations before, it seems he did not fulfill his mission as leader in keeping the shmitas.

 

In every way, his prayer for more than what God had ordained lead to heavy troubles for Israel. But this one statement sums up Hezekiah's opinion, “Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days (Isa. 39:8).” So I guess he knew it wouldn't be his problem.