Shortly after the Lord delivered Judah from the attack of Sennacherib, Hezekiah became gravely ill to the point of death. The Lord sent Isaiah the prophet to warn him that he would not recover from this illness, and to get his affairs in order to prepare for his death.
Hezekiah was not at all ready to receive this message. He had just seen the amazing power of prayer in the Lord’s defeat of the Assyrians, a military force much greater than anything Judah could have mustered. So once again, in a desperate position on his sick bed, he turned to the Lord in his distress:
2 Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, 3 “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. 6 And I will add to your days fifteen years.”’ 2 Kings 20:2-6a NKJV
God had compassion on Hezekiah as he bared his soul before Him. The Lord’s heart was touched by Hezekiah’s tears and his faithful pleading, causing Him to change His mind about the appointed hour of Hezekiah’s death. For a second time, Hezekiah laid out his crisis before God, and the Lord heard his prayer.
God certainly was fond of Hezekiah – the king did not accept this amazing offer at face value and requested a sign from God to prove it. The Lord graciously agreed – the shadow on his sundial would move backward ten degrees, around 40 minutes, rather than forward. How God performed this miracle, we do not know, but if He can heal leprosy to renew and restore the skin like that of a baby, He can make a shadow move backwards ten degrees on a sundial.
There was a downside to this blessing. Three years after Hezekiah was healed and spared from death, his son, Manasseh was born. Manasseh would go on to replace Hezekiah as king at the age of twelve and become one of the evilest kings Judah ever had. He undid all of the good and faithful works Hezekiah had done and turned the nation further away from the Lord. He was a key contributor to the ultimate fall of Judah to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.
God tells us that all of our tears will be wiped away in heaven, but He certainly sees them here on earth. In John 11, Jesus wept with the family at the tomb of Lazarus, even knowing that He was about to raise him from the dead.
We are told that we are made in God’s image, and I believe a big part of that is the similarity between our hearts and His. God rejoices with those who rejoice, and weeps with those who weep. He tells us to do the same with our sisters and brothers.
Lord, be with us and comfort us when we are in emotional pain and help us to do the same with one another. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.