Hezekiah is dying, a fact that Isaiah confirms prior to the above. Hezekiah pleads to the Lord for more time, and the Lord grants his request, instructing Isaiah to inform the king he’ll have another fifteen years on earth (2 Kings 20:5). On hearing the news, Hezekiah, rather than being filled with gratitude, asks for a miraculous confirmation of the prophecy.
My personal theory is that Isaiah here responds with a common-sense analogy that is meant only to convey a point. He’s not offering to perform a miracle, but telling the king to give his head a shake: “Time moves forward, not backward. Cause precedes effect. You’ll have your sign when you receive your healing.” Or more directly: “God granted your request, don’t be greedy.”
Ahaz completely misses the point, and perceives instead that Isaiah has offered him a choice in miracles; would you like the shadow on the sundial to go forward or backward, to suit my liege’s command? What arrogance!
What’s remarkable about this story, though, is that Isaiah, confident in God’s faithfulness, facilitates the requested miracle nonetheless. There is no mention of Isaiah going back into the Lord’s presence to deliberate, he just does it. God, through Isaiah, accommodates Hezekiah’s somewhat childish follow-up petition and performs an outright miracle.
The application for today?
As ministers of the Lord, we should expect those to whom we minister to behave in silly ways, even when the glory of God has already been manifested.
Hezekiah is all-too-ready to take Isaiah at his word when the pronouncement is death. One would think that, after an earnest plea for mercy, the prophet returning to his room to reverse his former communication would suffice. No dice. Hezekiah has now risen from his supplications, and gone back to making demands, in the blink of an eye.
We should expect that, even when the people to whom we minister behave in silly ways, God will act.
If our Lord waited for us to say and do the right things before manifesting His glory, we’d be waiting an awfully long time. There are times, yes, when God makes the miraculous happen because He’s pleased with a particular petition (Matthew 8:10-13, Luke 8:48, Mark 7:29). But He also blesses us when we miss the mark (Luke 22:49-51, Matthew 17:27, Mark 4:39). This is called grace.
When we’re about His business, God has our backs
As Christians we might be tempted to put ourselves into Hezekiah’s shoes in this story, rather than Hezekiah’s. Hezekiah seems more fallible, somehow, less “chosen”. But we ought to put ourselves in Isaiah’s shoes. If we’re Christians, we are:
A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
- 1 Peter 2:9
In this story I am Isaiah, and I need to know that I can trust God to back my play, providing of course that I am truly acting as His ambassador, serving His interests, and building His Kingdom. Note that Isaiah was called to have this conversation to begin with. He doesn’t veer out of his swim lane to offer a miracle. He’s exactly where he’s supposed to be; and within that context, he decides to trust God to hit the curve ball Hezekiah just threw in his direction.
Life is messy, and it doesn’t always go according to plan. But if we’re certain we’re about His business, we ought not to be uncertain in carrying it out.
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
- Deuteronomy 31:6
Colin McComb lives in Edson, Alberta with his wife, Gail, and their three lovely children.