Be careful what you pray for ∙
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. – Psalm 139:16
1 About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: This is what the LORD says: “Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.”
2 When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD,
3 “Remember, O LORD, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.
4 Then this message came to Isaiah from the LORD:
5 “Go back to Hezekiah and tell him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life.’”
“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there” (Yogi Berra). “Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful” (John Wooden).
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you” (Carl Sandburg). “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business” (Michael J. Fox).
Sometimes due to our love, compassion, and desire to ease the suffering of others, we mistakenly pray for the wrong things. We pray for what we think is best, rather than praying for what the Father knows is best.
Earlier in my life when I found out that a good friend or family member had a terrible illness or disease that might lead to death, my first instinct was to pray for healing. Somehow, we naturally think that death is a bad thing and should be avoided at all costs. This is not what the Scriptures teach. Death is simply a part of life, and each of our days has been numbered. The Father has appointed a day for each of us to die.
Psalm 139:16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
2 A time to be born and a time to die.
Children of the King have a promise from the Father that every day of their lives, from birth to death has been recorded in His book. This is the source of peace, comfort, and security. There is no reason to fear death. Rather, our concern should be that we have left undone some of what He desires for us to do. Perhaps we could have been more diligent and faithful. All of our efforts or lack thereof are known to the Father before were ever born.
Hezekiah was the best of the kings of Judah, the southern kingdom. His reputation was stellar.
2 Kings 18:5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time.
Around 700 BC, life was good for Hezekiah. But suddenly things took a turn for the worst. Hezekiah became terminally ill. The Father sent His servant the prophet Isaiah to disclose what was about to happen. The message was short, blunt, and terrifying. “Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness” (Isaiah 38:1).
Hezekiah was panic-stricken. He turned to the Father in prayer. Weeping bitterly, he reminded the Father of his faithfulness to Him.
But ponder for a moment. Hadn’t the Father just told Hezekiah that he was going to die? Therefore Hezekiah’s death was the Father’s will for his life. But at that moment, Hezekiah was not concerned about the will of the Father. He was only concerned about himself. I imagine there was a bit of begging, pleading, and bargaining going on that was not recorded for us.
Remarkably, the Father sent Isaiah again with a revised message. Change in plans. “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life” (Isaiah 38:5).
If we were there, we would have been shouting, “Praise the Lord!” (Isaiah 38:1) “Who is like you among the gods, O LORD – glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)
I identify with Hezekiah. If I were in his situation, I would probably react in the same way to the news of my impending death. What about you?
REFLECT & PRAY
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle” (Albert Einstein).
Father thank You that You have already provided what we need to live for You and die well. Your truth is the foundation of our lives, the reality of Your Spirit within allows us to live above our circumstances.
The Father is magnanimous when it comes to second chances. He turned back the clock of Hezekiah’s life. When children of the King are given second chances, what we do with the gracious opportunities he provides. How we respond reveals what is in our hearts. Hezekiah’s near-death experience and remarkable recovery did not bode well for him. Hezekiah changed for the worst.
2 Chronicles 32:25 But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud.
What did Hezekiah do with the privilege of his added years?
The word of Hezekiah’s illness and remarkable recovery because of the father’s intervention, spread far and wide. Nations all around Judah had planned to send representatives to pay their last respects at a funeral. But now they sent them to celebrate the extension of Hezekiah’s life.
Envoys came from as far away as Babylon. Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters of congratulations to Hezekiah. Sadly, while Hezekiah had successfully stood firm against the intimidation of the Assyrians. But he could not resist the flattery of the Babylonians.
Hezekiah was delighted. He caved. And his brain went into neutral. No doubt, he was puffed up from all of the attention he received. He was beaming with self-importance and pride. He welcomed them with open arms and showed off all that he had. There was nothing in his house or all of his realm that he did not make available to his Babylonian guests.
Hezekiah showed them everything in his treasure-houses – the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them (Isaiah 39:2).
It never occurred to Hezekiah for a moment to ask the Father about how to react to the adulation of his visitors. This was a tragic, deadly mistake. Babylon was no friend of the Jews. No doubt the Babylonians were taking inventory of all the booty that would soon be theirs. On top of that, surely they were taking notes regarding Jerusalem’s fortifications, strengths, and weaknesses.
What happens next is predictable. The Father sent Isaiah the prophet to confront Hezekiah. Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did those men want? Where were they from?” Hezekiah replied, “They came from the distant land of Babylon” (Isaiah 39:3)
I can only imagine the expression on Isaiah’s blazing crimson, furious, indignant face. With burning, penetrating eyes, Isaiah proclaimed the Father’s message of judgment.
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Listen to this message from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies:
6 ‘The time is coming when everything in your palace – all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now – will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left,’ says the LORD.
7 ‘Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king.’”
It’s never a very good idea to reveal to your enemy the best way to defeat you, and the spoils and wealth that they will acquire when they do.
But there’s more. During Hezekiah’s extra 15 years, he had a son named Manasseh. Upon Hezekiah’s death, Manasseh became the king. Manasseh turned out to be the evilest of all of the kings of Judah.
2 Kings 20:21 So Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and Manasseh his son became king in his place.
Hezekiah’s self-serving prayer was graciously answered. The Father gave Hezekiah what he wanted. But collateral damage was horrific.
In the wilderness, the children of Israel wanted meat, not manna. They whined and complained. They cried out to the Father. The Father gave them what they prayed for and met their fleshly desire. Their bodies were full and satisfied. But their souls became lean. What an abhorrent trade-off.
Psalms 106:15 he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul (KJV).
“We should thank God regularly that He doesn’t answer many of our prayers. When the Israelites demanded meat in the desert, God gave them what they asked for – but the request ended up killing thousands of them” (Stanley).
Be careful what you pray for! Be careful who you trust, the devil was once an angel.
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