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A Lesson from Hezekiah's Life

…Thus says the Lord: "Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live." -2 Kings 20:1

What immediate thoughts would race through our minds if we were to receive such a message from the Lord? To Hezekiah, it was so shattering that he broke down and wept bitterly. Immediately, memories of his faithful service to the Lord surfaced as he pleaded with Him (2Kgs 20:2-3). Indeed, Hezekiah had been a good king who had served God faithfully and revived the faith of the people (2 Kgs 18:1-5). God's forewarning of his impending death was, therefore, special grace to a faithful servant, for how many in history have had the blessing of knowing when they would depart? Ironically, instead of appreciating this special grace, he felt as though God had cursed him. Instead of preparing to meet his Lord to receive the rewards of his labor, he wept bitterly.

Though once a faithful servant, Hezekiah resisted the will of God over this matter. God relented and extended his life for 15 years (2 Kgs 20:4-6). But why was Hezekiah unwilling to leave? Surely it was not because he had been unfaithful and was thus unsure of where he would end up? Was there any work yet undone? Was it his people that he could not bear to leave?

Unfortunately, it was not a noble reason that prompted Hezekiah to resist God's will for him to depart. His additional 15 years were a far cry from the former decades of his life. Instead of devoting the precious time to accomplishing more for the Lord, glorifying God and edifying man, Hezekiah squandered his extended life glorifying himself. When some ambassadors from Babylon visited him, God tested what was in his heart (2 Chr 32:31), and he failed the test. He did not attribute the nation's peace and prosperity to God. Instead he took the opportunity to exalt himself by displaying all the treasures he had acquired, and in so doing, incurred God's wrath (2 Kgs 20:12-18; 2 Chr 32:25).

Suddenly, the reason for Hezekiah's reluctance to die became clear. If he had to die, his greatest regret would not be any unaccomplished task of the Lord, but rather, his unsatisfied ego. He had spent much effort reviving his people's faith and strengthening his nation. By God's grace, he had accomplished this arduous task. Yet just when he thought he could enjoy the fruits of his labor, he received the untimely message of his impending death! He did not understand and was totally unprepared. He had, for all his life, walked in line with the will of God. Yet over the matter of his death he adamantly resisted God's will.

Not surprisingly, the additional 15 years of his life were hardly in line with God's will. He did more to incur the wrath of God than to win His favor. He lived for himself rather than for God. Though he had pleaded so vehemently with God and received the special grace of another 15 years, he ironically squandered every minute of it!

Hezekiah's life has indeed left an important message for us. Do we assume, albeit subconsciously, as we retire to bed each night, that we will surely be able to greet dawn the next day? Have we ever considered that each new day is indeed special grace from God? If the Lord does not allow it, none of us can boast of living another day or plan to do this or that (Jas 4:13-15). The message to Hezekiah of his impending death is also relevant to us today since all our days are numbered. In fact, we could have died yesterday. We could die any time now! Hence we must view each new day as a special God-granted extension of our lives. But how have we conducted our grace of God, the additional day that He adds to our lives? How would we react if we were to receive a similar message as Hezekiah?

If we knew that we would die very soon, we would probably realize that we have squandered much of our time on things that do not really matter. The movie ticket for which we had spent hours in line, the round-the-world tour which we had taken much pains to plan, the coming exams that had burdened us so much, the wealth we had exhausted so much energy to accumulate, and the career which we had devoted our lives to build — all of these would suddenly become of no value. More so, the petty argument with our spouse or the irreconciliable difference with some church brethren would become meaningless. Our salvation which we have taken for granted… the bad and unspiritual habits with which we have known we cannot meet the Lord… the work in church which we have never had the time to accomplish… our loved ones who are yet unsaved… the friends which we have repeatedly told ourselves we will preach to the next time we meet--this unending train of thoughts would probably plague our minds. There is just too much that we should have done! In deepest remorse and regret, our hearts would probably cry out as loudly as Hezekiah. With all sincerity, we may plead with God to extend our lives, and we would surely reexamine the way we live, and devote our time to things that really matter.

Indeed God continually heeds our plea with each new dawn that greets us. Each new day is an extension of our lives which God has granted just as He had to Hezekiah. The only difference is that Hezekiah was given another 15 years whereas we may be given more or less. Yet the number of years is not important. What is important is how we use this special grace of God. Hezekiah squandered the additional 15 years of his life satisfying his personal ego. How do we deal with our lives?

The greatest regret of an unbelieving, dying artist may be an unfinished masterpiece, and his (only) wish an extension of his life to be squandered on applying the final stroke of the brush. Likewise, a dying novelist may seek to extend his life only to squander it on the concluding passage of his novel. As God continues to extend our lives today, let us examine what really matters. Let us devote God's special grace to matters that He has appointed us to accomplish, as did Paul, who chose to remain only because it was more needful for the believers (Phil 1:24), though he was ready and desired to depart to be with Christ, knowing and believing that it was far better (Phil 1:23).

Publisher: True Jesus Church