3rd Sunday of Easter April 15, 2018
2 Kings 20:1-11
202, 193:1-4, 193:5-6, 800 (alt. TLH 50)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Christ Is Risen! He Is Risen, Indeed!
In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’” Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, “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. And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “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. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.” ’” Then Isaiah said, “Take a lump of figs.” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What is the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?” Then Isaiah said, “This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?” And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees.” So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.
In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow Redeemed:
We’re all familiar with a money back guarantee. If you buy something and it fails to meet your expectations, you can return it to the retailer and get your money back. But there’s no guarantee that what you use the money for after that is going to meet your expectations again, and even a lifetime guarantee from a manufacturer has its limitations. They may change the policy, the company may go out of business or change owners. There really are no guarantees, because man has limitations. But the Lord God has no limitations, and neither does “GOD’S GUARANTEE OF LIFE.” In the case of Hezekiah, as well as in our own situation, we have been (1) “HEALED BY THE GRACE OF GOD.”
It’s sometimes said of doctors that they’re not God, they only think that they are. Everyone knows someone who has been told by the doctors that they have only a few months to live, yet has gone on to live for several more years. Of course, the doctors are trying to prepare the person for the worst, and, if it turns out better, then that’s great. This shows that doctors can’t give any definite answer to life expectancy.
Now God does not only think that He knows everything, He really and truly does know all things. He’s omniscient. Furthermore, the Lord says, “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive…” (Dueteronomy 32:39). The psalmist confesses, “My times are in Your hand…” (Psalm 31:15). So, when the thirty-nine year old king of Judah, named Hezekiah, was sick and near death, and the prophet Isaiah came to him with God’s prognosis, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live,’” it was a seriously grave situation.
So Hezekiah did what we all do when we’re told that our sickness will result in death—he prayed to the LORD God. He prayed, “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.” We’re also told that Hezekiah wept bitterly. After all, he had accomplished so much for the LORD, cleaning up the idolatry of the people, cleansing the temple, restoring the Law to God’s people, and many other good things. But he still had much to do!
So he appealed to the LORD on the basis of his faith and the evidence of that faith. He had been loyal to God, walking before Him in truth. Hezekiah had followed God’s Word throughout his life. The evidence was there for all to see in that he had done what was good in the sight of the LORD. So, Hezekiah wasn’t appealing to the LORD on what he had done. He was appealing to the LORD in faith, for he knew that only the LORD could help him. The LORD, who controls life and death, had told him that he would die. Who else could help? So he went to the LORD and asked Him to heal him.
And the LORD heard Hezekiah’s prayer. Before Isaiah had even made it out of the palace of the king, the LORD spoke to him, saying, “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. And I will add to your days fifteen years.” And notice what the LORD bases His answer upon. It was not on the works or even the faith of Hezekiah, this healing was based entirely upon God’s grace. He says, “I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.” The LORD had promised for many years that the Savior from sin would be born from the tribe of Judah. He had specifically promised David that His descendants would sit upon the throne of Judah until the Savior came, and that the Savior’s throne would be an eternal throne. In order for the Scripture to be fulfilled and for God’s plan of salvation for all mankind to be fulfilled, He added fifteen years to Hezekiah’s life, promised to keep Judah safe from her enemies, the Assyrians, and He promised the king that within three days, Hezekiah would walk into the temple of the LORD.
We also had suffered from a life threatening ailment. In fact, our ailment was guaranteed to end in death, not only in this world, but in eternity as well. Because of our sin, God says in His Law, “You shall die, and not live.” But God had mercy on us. He has brought us to tears of repentance and has also worked faith in our hearts that trusts in God alone for our salvation. And, out of His grace, He has healed us from our disease of sin by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to take our sins upon Himself, to pay for those sins, and to win for us the full forgiveness of sins. He has not only conquered sin and death, but He has also conquered the devil, taking away the devil’s power to accuse us before God. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, the Apostle can assure us that, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies” (Romans 8:31ff). As if that weren’t enough, the LORD also promises us that we shall not die in our sins, but that we will dwell in the house of the LORD forever! How do we know this? Because God says so in His Word.
After Isaiah brought the Word of the LORD to Hezekiah, Isaiah said, “‘Take a lump of figs.’” So they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.” This was a miracle of healing. If you have an infected boil, laying figs on it is not going to heal it. God healed Hezekiah.
After his miraculous recovery, Hezekiah was still worried. Forget the fifteen years. How did he know that he would live to go into the house of the LORD in three days? In order to reassure Hezekiah, the LORD (2) “SEALED IT WITH A MIRACLE.”
Imagine if a doctor could not only assure you that you won’t die from your illness, but could assure you that you would live for fifteen more years, guaranteed! That would be a miracle.
But, a miracle is something that only God can do. In order to assure Hezekiah of His Word, the LORD guaranteed one miracle with another greater miracle. Think about it: who could make the sun go backwards ten degrees? Man can barely influence the environment around him. Billions of dollars have been spent on studies trying to determine what we can do to avert stray asteroids that may be on a collision course with earth. Yet the LORD moved the sun back in the sky with only His Word, to prove to Hezekiah that what He said was true. Hezekiah would go into the house of the LORD in three days, and, after that, would live another fifteen years. God gave Hezekiah His divine guarantee.
When we sin, we may wonder about God’s assurance that our sins are forgiven. When we face death, we may worry that eternal life is not awaiting us on the other side. God has given us His Word that, not only has He miraculously healed us of sin through Christ, at the cross, paying for all sin, and in the Means of Grace, assuring us that our own sins have been forgiven.
But we still doubt. We see how the Church suffers in this world. We see believers lose their lives or their livelihood because of their faith in Christ. How do we know that we are not still in our sins? Paul says, “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” But Paul doesn’t stop there. He continues, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:36f).
We are more than conquerors because God gives us a miraculous guarantee. He did something that only God can do, and He did it for the express purpose of guaranteeing that we have the forgiveness of sins and that we will have eternal life. It is written, “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). Christ is risen from the dead. He has become the firstfruits of those who sleep in Him! Because He lives, we will live also! We don’t have to wonder how or if Christ will return at the Last Day to raise us from the dead, for, “[God] has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Three days after Christ paid for sin and won our forgiveness, He rose bodily from the grave. God put His divine seal of approval on Christ’s work by raising Him from the dead. God put His divine guarantee on the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life for us sinners by this miracle.
For Hezekiah, the sun dial moved backward ten degrees, the guarantee from God that he would walk into the house of the LORD in three days and would live another fifteen years. For us, the dead Son of God rose from the dead three days after His death on the cross, God’s divine guarantee that, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever!” Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.