WE remember the time when the children of Israel were one kingdom, under Saul, and David, and Solomon. Afterwards the people were divided, and since the division, we have been following the story of the kingdom of Israel in the northern part of the land. During all this time, some two hundred and fifty years, the kingdom of Judah, with its great city Jerusalem, was the neighbor of Israel on the south. The Assyrians who carried the people of the northern kingdom captive also threatened Jerusalem and made its kings pay a heavy tribute; but the city was not destroyed, and the kingdom of Judah continued another hundred and fifty years after Israel came to an end.
At the time that Samaria was destroyed and the people of Israel were taken captive, Hezekiah was king in Jerusalem. Many of the kings of Judah were bad kings and worshipped idols, but Hezekiah was a good king and trusted in the Lord. The prophet Isaiah was living in Jerusalem in those days; Hezekiah turned to him in his troubles, and he told the king from the Lord that lie should not be afraid.
Let us read a part of the story of Hezekiah which tells how the king was sick, and how the Lord gave him a sign that his life should be lengthened. Hezekiah was given his choice of a sign: should the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps, on the steps of Ahaz! Our translation calls it a dial. It was perhaps a flight of steps in the court of the palace, built by Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah, with a column or pole so placed that as the shadow lengthened or shortened it fell higher or lower upon the steps. The Lord made the shadow go backward as if to lengthen the day. It was a sign that the king’s life would be lengthened.
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now 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. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And I will add unto thy 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 for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.—2 Kings XX. 1-11.
You can read the story of Hezekiah’s sickness also in the Book of Isaiah, chapter xxxviii. From the days of Elijah and Elisha on, the Lord sent prophets to speak messages of warning and encouragement to the people of Israel and Judah, and many of their words were written down to become a part of our Bible. Amos and Hosea, in the kingdom of Israel before its fall; Isaiah and Micah, in Jerusalem in the days of Hezekiah; and Habakkuk and Zephaniah and Jeremiah, in the last sad days of Judah, help to bring the times before us and to make more full the history which is told us in the Books of Kings. But the prophets spoke the Lord’s words, not their own, and they are for the warning and encouragement, of the people in all times. In those dark days when there was little hope which men could see, the Lord led the prophets to look beyond human aid and to declare His infinite loving care. Especially by their lips he foretold His coming into the world with Divine power to save.
Let us read one of these glorious prophecies from Isaiah.
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand upon Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them. And the LORD shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dryshod. And there shall be an highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.
And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.—Isaiah XI.; XII
Author: William L. Worcester 1904
Sickness of Hezekiah >> Languishing of Spiritual life by people when spiritual idolatries prevail and threaten the soul
Hezekiah turning to the wall, prayers, tears >> Humility before the Lord
Figs heal sore >> Simple good life heals soul
Sweet nourishing figs, fruit of a low-spreading tree >> Works of natural goodness and humility
Sunshine >> Love and Goodness
Shadow falls >> Lack of love and goodness
Shadow is turned backward >> Love and goodness prolong life
2 KINGS XX
1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
1 When the celestial church is near to its consummation, there is deficiency of spiritual life. Wherefore the man of the church is admonished from the Word, that it is according to Divine Good that corrupted states should be vastated.
2 Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying,
2 And there is a state of infestation from external things by which the interior life is obscured, while yet there is communication with the Lord and revelation, giving the perception,
3 I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now 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.
3 That, from the Lord, the good man is and has been, receptive of the life of truth and the life of love, and thence of obedience, by which the conjunction of good and truth is effected. But nevertheless there is a state of grief and distress on account of the deficiency of truth.
4 And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,
4 And it happens, in this case, that while there is fluctuation of state as to the perception of true doctrine from inmost good, yet there is consolation and thence further perception,
5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
5 That they who are in good, from the Lord, are really in primary truths, and therefore also, from the Lord, by virtue of His Glorification, there is conjunction with Him, and knowledge from Him concerning the deficiency of truth; also confidence that He will save, and that the new church shall be established at the consummation of the age.
6 And I will add unto thy 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 for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
6 Also the church continues as long as good is sufficient for that purpose with its members, neither does the corrupted rational faculty destroy its state of good and thence of truth: for it is protected by the Lord from Divine Love and by means of Divine Truth.
7 And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
7 And this specifically through the Word applied to a state of natural good, which removes the evil of inflamed and perverted natural affection, and thus preserves the church.
8 And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?
8 But in such a state the man of the church is in uncertainty as to the removal of evil and the revival of good in the consummation of the age.
9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees?
9 For which reason instruction is given from the Word which testifies of the truth, that the Lord will certainly restore the church, when doubt prevails as to its progress towards consummation, or as to the temporary revival of good.
10 And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees.
10 And there is perception that a sudden lapse into evil in a declining general state at the church is not surprising, but that a sudden revival surely indicates that permanent good is possible.
11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.
11 For through the influence of those who are taught by the Word, and who are at the same time in good, a revival of the church previously to its consummation, does actually take place, by the operation of the Lord on remains which have been reserved during a state of corruption.
Author: Rev. HENRY MACLAGAN (1905)