2nd Chronicles 32:24, Isaiah 38:14; Hezekiah the Great Reforming King (6) – LORD, UNDERTAKE FOR ME

In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign.

2nd Chronicles 32:24

O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.

Isaiah 38:14

Hezekiah’s fourteenth year as King was one of constant and unending crisis.

He was confronted with the might of the Assyrian Empire, who sought to swallow up his Kingdom, but God defeated the aggressor after Hezekiah and Isaiah prayed together.

It seems, that no sooner had the enemy been vanquished than the King was forced to face another foe; the hand of death itself. He was therefore catapulted from a national crisis to a personal crisis.

During this turbulent period he prayed, the words recorded in Isaiah 38, and in so doing recited his petition, “undertake for me”. They are simple words, yet profound and deep, being full of energy and passion. They are words appropriate for every occasion and are filled with greater meaning the darker and deeper the crisis that we are experiencing.

Hezekiah’s Suffering

In the aftermath of the siege of Jerusalem Hezekiah was struck down with an illness, which is simply described as being “unto death”, what we would call ‘terminal’. The words of Isaiah were of no help whatsoever, confirming his worst fears, striking his heart like an arrow:

Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.

Isaiah 38:1

Bad news comes to everyone in the process of a lifetime. When the moment arrives, it catches us by surprise. For Hezekiah he was on the crest of the wave, enjoying the blessings of answered prayer, yet now he was plunged into the depths of suffering and despair.

This is a reminder that no-one is immune from grief and pain. God in his sovereignty determines these times of trial using them to mould us into the people that he wants us to be. As God was glorified through the Assyrian assault He would be honoured through the King’s suffering; let us learn to accept the lot which providence determines for us.

Hezekiah’s Sorrow

On hearing these words all of Hezekiah’s hopes and aspirations came crashing down like a house of cards.

He felt that he was being treated unfairly:

Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.

Isaiah 38:3

Turning his face against the wall, seeking to be alone the scriptures describes him as weeping “very sore” (Isaiah 38:3). He felt deprived of the remainder of his life (Isaiah 38:9), he saw his life being pulled up like the shepherd’s tent and compared his situation to a savage attack by a wild lion (Isaiah 38:12-13).

His mind was in complete turmoil as he attempted to make sense of this circumstance in which he had been suddenly placed. Looking back over the situation he compared his language to the aimless and incoherent chirping of a wild bird:

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward

Isaiah 38:14

There is no-one who had trodden the valleys of life who will not empathise or understand something of Hezekiah’s grief.

Hezekiah’s Supplication

Despite his turbulence of thought and emotion the King had the spirit to pray. His words perhaps didn’t make a lot of sense, yet they were words framed within the context of prayer.

As he turned his face toward the wall and as he wept very sore, chattering like the wild bird, he was seeking God, praying to Him.

This is certainly a reminder that great prayer isn’t always eloquent, very often the greatest of prayers are unspoken, the murmurings of the broken heart which God will never despise.

At the heart of Hezekiah’s supplication, however, are the words which lie at the heart of this study; “undertake for me”. As an oppressed soul, with the weight of his own mortality pressing down upon him the King simply asked God to undertake for him.

This is the prayer of the orphan and the widow, the prayer of the terminally ill and the mortally wounded, the prayer of the distraught parent praying over a prodigal child, the prayer of the Church for a nation which has turned against God – “undertake for me”. there is no-one who cannot use this prayer; it is practical and relevant for every circumstance large or small, extraordinary or mundane. This is a prayer which acknowledges that God is in control, that He is a gracious father who never neglects His children – the God who undertakes.

For me, it is this prayer that changes and transforms Hezekiah’s attitude. He now turns his mind to the future to praising God as a living man: For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.

Isaiah 38:18-19

My sense is that he desired to be raised up for the glory of God, not for his own gratification. If only we could frame every request with this noble purpose before our minds. In the midst of pain sorrow and grief may God undertake for us so that we would be the living to praise Him.

Hezekiah in praying for God to undertake, realised that God

had already undertaken for him in fulfilling the fundamental and basic need of every man:

Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.

Isaiah 38:17

Potentially he was about to face eternity, yet he did so as a man whose sins were put away to a place where they could not be seen – behind the back.

As a forgiven soul pleading for God to touch him for the glory of Jehovah, Hezekiah anticipated a return to God’s house:

Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?

Isaiah 38:22

Hezekiah’s Sign

The sign that God granted His servant is recorded very clearly in 2nd Kings 20:

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.

2nd Kings 20:8-11

To show Hezekiah how determined He was in healing him, God caused the earth to go backward, effectively altering time. God will quite literally move heaven and earth in order to respond to the prayers of his people.

In one year Hezekiah through prayer saw the Assyrians overcome and death vanquished.

The one lesson we must take from this study is that there is nothing that God cannot do in response to our prayers. As He controls the course of the stars and the galaxies, the power of the weather systems, the rain, the wind and the sea so He harnesses all of that power to come to our aid.

"All things are possible to him
That can in Jesus' Name believe;
Lord, I no more Thy Name blaspheme,
Thy truth I lovingly receive;
I can, I do believe in Thee;
All things are possible to me."

Charles Wesley

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