Experiencing God’s Mercy
Text 2 Kings 20:1-11; Isaiah 38:1-22
Let me give a little bit of historical background before we begin. The story of King Hezekiah and his illness is found in 2 Kings 20 and again in Isaiah 38, where it is expanded with Hezekiah’s own thoughts on the event. This makes it a very important event in the life of ancient Judah. Hezekiah was an important king, one of only eight kings that the Bible calls goods after the kingdom was split by civil war under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, two of these, Joash and Amaziah, were only good while they were young and under the supervision of others. In the northern kingdom, now called Israel or Samaria, there is not a single king the Bible could say was good.
The Kings of Judah, (good kings in red, mixed in orange)
As you can see Hezekiah is the second to the last good king of Israel, he follows Jehoshaphat that we looked at earlier in this series.
In today’s sermon we are going to be looking at mercy as Hezekiah experienced it from God on his deathbed. As I studied, I began thinking about the mercy and grace. We sometimes used them in the same way, and though they are related, there is a difference.
Grace comes from the Greek word charis, hence its definition in 1 Cor 13 in the King James version as charity. In Christian belief, grace, is the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings. The English word grace is from the Latin gratia meaning favor, charm or thanks. Gratia in turn is derived from gratus meaning free, ready, quick, willing, prompt.
Webster defines grace as the unmerited love and favor of God which is the spring and source of all benefits men receive from Him, including especially His assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification. Grace is a virtue from God influencing man, renewing his heart and restraining him from sin.
Mercy comes from the Greek word eleos. It is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. Mercy is the outward manifestation of pity and assumes need on the part of those who are recipients of the mercy and sufficient resources to meet the need on the part of those who show it.
The idea of mercy is to show kindness or concern for someone in serious need or to give help to the wretched, to relieve the miserable. Here the essential thought is that mercy gives attention to those in misery.
Grace and mercy are closely related as far as God is concerned, one flows from the other, mercy from grace. It is grace that addresses man's sin, while mercy addresses man's misery caused from the guilt and pain of that sin.
You can see both grace and mercy in John 3:16 For God so loved the world (here is the mercy), that He gave His only begotten Son (here is the grace), that the world through Him might be saved.
It has been said that mercy is grace in action.
I. Hezekiah's Prayer Isaiah 38: 1-8
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, 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. And Hezekiah wept sore. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken; Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
A. Facing Death, Hezekiah Calls For Mercy
1. Isaiah, the prophet, in the midst of Hezekiah’s grave illness, comes to him with a message from God. “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.” Hezekiah had been a good king, and God in his favor is telling him, “You are coming home, make your preparations for death.”
2. After Isaiah leaves, Hezekiah is left alone and the first thing he does to set his house in order is to pray to his God. The Bible makes a point of telling us that, “He turns his face to the wall and prayed unto Jehovah.” We get a picture of man who is so sick that he cannot even rise from his bed and kneel, he cannot lift his hands toward heaven, he cannot even bow his head so he looks away from the room toward the wall and there he seeks privacy and an audience with God.
3. And what did Hezekiah prayer for? Did he pray to be healed? Or did he only pray for God to remember the relationship they had shared while he was alive. “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.” Then God’s word tenderly records, “and Hezekiah wept sore.”
4. God hears the prayer of his King and before Isaiah can even get out of the palace, He tell him to go back and tell Hezekiah that God will add 15 years to Hezekiah's life. Even more he offers proof by turning the sundial backward ten degrees. In the account of this in 2 Kings 20, Hezekiah is actually given the choice of making the sundial go forward or backward. He chooses backward.
5. 2 Kings 20:9-11 And Isaiah saith, `This is to thee the sign from Jehovah, that Jehovah doth the thing that He hath spoken--The shadow hath gone on ten degrees, or it doth turn back ten degrees?' And Hezekiah saith, `It hath been light for the shadow to incline ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow turn backward ten degrees.' And Isaiah the prophet calleth unto Jehovah, and He bringeth back the shadow by the degrees that it had gone down in the degrees of Ahaz--backward ten degrees.
6. Hezekiah saw the power of God, in his life over the next 15 years but also now in the movement of the sundial. I don’t know how God performed this miracle. I’m pretty sure he didn’t stop the rotation of the earth and turn it back ten minutes. Wouldn’t that have been something. Some have supposed it was a partial eclipse and the moon passing across a portion of the sun would make the shadow of the sundial to go backward, but we don’t know how. We just know that God gave Hezekiah the choice and then in His omnipotence made it happen. He is the God of creation after all.
B. Facing Death, Facing God
1. When I read this passage, I see a man, brought to the end of life, facing death and in that shocking finality, he calls out to God. Now, I have heard some sermons that criticize Hezekiah as a coward for weeping and not just accepting the news and without a prayer or a tear, just bravely die.
2. But for me, as someone who has not only stood by the deathbed of many of God’s saints but a few years ago was lying upon what I believed was my own deathbed, I understand why Hezekiah called out to God. In fact, I would not criticize the King, I would recommend that anyone facing death do exactly the same thing. Call out to God when you realize death is approaching. You better call out to God and you better weep, because death is a powerful foe and you do not want to face him on your own.
3. Anytime we are confronted by something as overwhelming and powerful as death, serious illness, suffering or catastrophe we had better call out to God and let the tears flow my prayers to God.
4. Psalms 6: 4 Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: oh save me for thy mercies’ sake. 5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? 6 I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears.
C. Illustration: The Thief On The Cross
1. Probably the most famous deathbed prayer wasn’t even delivered from a bed. It was the prayer prayed by the unknown thief on the cross, crucified alongside Jesus. If there was ever a person who know that death was coming, it was that man and when he saw Jesus beside him he called out,
2. Luke 23:42 Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
3. I’ll say it again, when see death is coming, you need call out to God and I will also remind you that for all of us, death is always coming. Perhaps not as close as it was for Hezekiah or for that thief on the cross but we all are facing death and we better be facing it with a prayer on our lips, tears in our eyes and the love of God in our hearts.
D. Transition: The prayer of Hezekiah
1. This event was so important that Isaiah recorded the prayer of Hezekiah and put in his book. This is not found in 2 Kings 20 and it gives us an insight to the very heart of this good man.
II. Hezekiah's Pain Isaiah 38: 9-14
The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness: I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
A. Facing Death, Hezekiah Reveals his Heart
1. There is no pretense in this prayer. No, fakeness, no false bravado. Hezekiah believes that he will die, possibly that very night but at most no longer than a day. He fears the sickness that will take him, a sickness that will sap his strength and dry his bones, a pining sickness the Bible describes it.
2. In the sincerity and honestly of his heart, he calls out for God, “Like a crane or a swallow so did I chatter, I mourn as a dove, mine eyes fail, O Jehovah, I am oppressed, undertake for me!
3. The word translated undertake means “be my surety.”
4. Oh God I have no one else, be my guarantee, my hope, my sure foundation, my strong rock upon which I stand.
B. Facing Death, Facing Your Heart
1. At this time in Hezekiah’s life there was no place for anything but honesty before God. As he faced that wall, there was no one he could impress, no one he had to put on a strong front for. In that time with just himself, death and God, nothing was hidden.
2. All of us at some time in our life will face death. If we are wise and we hear the call of God and respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, then we will face death before it is too late and we will be as honest with God and ourselves as Hezekiah was.
3. There will be no place for feelings of pride, no place for hypocrisy, no place for legalism, or self-righteousness. Our fears and doubt will be exposed in the light of utter weakness and if we have time and if we are wise we will stand honest and helplessness, facing our death and calling out to God.
4. We must quit trying in our own power or strength to fight the battle against sin and death. We must surrender completely and let Jesus do what only He can do, what He did on the cross and in the resurrection. He defeated death, he destroyed sin and now all that is left is for us to call out to Him in faith.
C. Illustration: Graveside Scripture
1. Many times have I stood at the graveside of a person who has been taken by death. It is always a time of sadness, of grief and of loss, but if that person we are gathered there to remember was a child of God, then it is also a time of victory. Victory because there was a time when that believer faced their own death and before it could come and claim them, they called out to God and found hope, and a guarantee of victory through Jesus Christ.
2. The scripture that is read most often at that graveside is from …
3. 1 Corinthians 15: 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The last thing I want us to see is the final result of Hezekiah’s pain and prayer because praise is always sweeter when we pass through the valley of death’s shadow.
III. Hezekiah's Praise Isaiah 38: 15-22
What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul. O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live. 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. 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. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.
A. Facing Death, Hezekiah Praises God
1. This is such a memorable Psalms of praise from Hezekiah, in it we can hear the echoes of his ancestor David.
2. He says I shall go softly all my hears in the bitterness of my soul. He is saying I will live my life from this day forward learning the lesson from the bitterness I went through. For peace I had great bitterness. He had lost hope but God delivered my soul from the pit of corruption. You have cast all my sins behind your back. Forgiven him and put his sins in a place that even God won’t see them anymore.
3. In the Psalms we hear three great themes, God’s power, His passion and of course His praise.
4. We see God's power vs. 15 Isaiah 38:15 What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it.” He healed Hezekiah, and delivered him from death and gave him a miraculous sign.
5. We see God's passion vs. 17 Isaiah 38:17 ..thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
6. And we see God's praise vs. 19-20 Isaiah 38:19 The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. 20 The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.
B. Facing Death, Finding Mercy
1. Quote “The Lord's mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.” - Charles Spurgeon
2. This was certainly true in Hezekiah’s life and I think that often it must be true in our lives as well, before I can find God’s mercy and before I can praise God’s love. I must be brought to a place of affliction, of loss, of sorrow and in that place I will find the mercy of God.
a) In that place I find mercy in God’s power to save. It is there that I realize that only God is strong, only God is able, only God is true, only God is hope, only God is the One who can save.
b) “When you come to the place where all you have is God, then you will realize that God was all you ever needed.”
3. In that place of fear, sorrow or pain, I can understand the passion, the love that God for me. Ephesians 2: 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
4. In that place of surrender and of experiencing God’s mercy, I can finally understand the purpose for which God saved and created me, that I might praise Him.
a) Ephesians 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory...
b) Now God can be glorified through my life. Just as Hezekiah, I can say, “The living, the living shall praise thee as I do this day.”
5. Receiving Yourself in the Fires of Sorrow - Oswald Chambers.
a) We say that there ought to be no sorrow, but there is sorrow, and we have to accept and receive ourselves in its fires. If we try to evade sorrow, refusing to deal with it, we are foolish. Sorrow is one of the biggest facts in life, and there is no use in saying it should not be. Sin, sorrow, and suffering are, and it is not for us to say that God has made a mistake in allowing them.
1. This should be my prayer. O Lord, look upon my heart, and if I need to face death, if I need to deal with affliction, if I need to go through the fires of sorrow to experience your mercy, then Almighty God give me strength and let me know that which will bring me closer to You. Let me surrender myself to Your power and protection, knowing that You love me and that I love you.
2. I will accept the trial, pray for deliverance and wait for the victory. I long to taste the sweetness of mercy and spew out the bitter taste of fear and regret. My Lord let it be that I may live to praise you. Live so that others will see Your power, and strength poured out in my life, my family and my church. Oh Lord raise me to life that I may praise thee.