This morning as I read through Isaiah, chapters 36 through 40, a powerful scenario jumped out. King Hezekiah cries out to God twice. In the first instance, he is getting ready to be destroyed by Assyria. He takes the letter from the enemy and lays it out before God and prays this (Isaiah 37:16-20):
“O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.”
What I find fascinating is just how real his prayer is to God. He starts out praising God, and finishes with a cry of deliverance and protection. He did not go on and on about his situation, but simply put it in God’s hands and expected God to show up! Simple prayer, powerful faith. I know it is long, but check out God’s response (Isaiah 37:22-29):
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria,
This is the word that the Lord has spoken concerning him:
“She despises you, she scorns you—
the virgin daughter of Zion;
she wags her head behind you—
the daughter of Jerusalem.
“Whom have you mocked and reviled?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes to the heights?
Against the Holy One of Israel!
By your servants you have mocked the Lord,
and you have said, With my many chariots
I have gone up the heights of the mountains,
to the far recesses of Lebanon,
to cut down its tallest cedars,
its choicest cypresses,
to come to its remotest height,
its most fruitful forest.
I dug wells
and drank waters,
to dry up with the sole of my foot
all the streams of Egypt.
Have you not heard
that I determined it long ago?
I planned from days of old
what now I bring to pass,
that you should make fortified cities
crash into heaps of ruins,
while their inhabitants, shorn of strength,
are dismayed and confounded,
and have become like plants of the field
and like tender grass,
like grass on the housetops,
blightedt before it is grown.
I know your sitting down
and your going out and coming in,
and your raging against me.
Because you have raged against me
and your complacency has come to my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will turn you back on the way
by which you came.”
No where in that did I see God waste any time to show up. He heard Hezekiah’s prayer and promised him deliverance and affirmative action! I have come to the firm conclusion that God never waits to hear our prayers. He is a God of action, always moving. When we feel distant and far away, the reason is most likely going to be on our end. What attitude or action do we have standing in the way, cutting off our ability to hear the quiet voice of God? This has been a huge challenge to me lately. Hezekiah was willing to surrender the trials he was facing. As he laid it down, God picked it up and ran with it!
Let’s take a look at Hezekiah’s second prayer to God (Isaiah 38:3):
“Please, O Lord, remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Again, we see a very simple prayer, but a sincere heart. He cried out, seeking the heart of God who had already told him a few verses earlier he was going to die. Now look at part of God’s responds (Isaiah 38:4-6):
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah:
“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and will defend this city…”
Wow, talk about some mercy! No beating around the bush on either side. We still have not reached the amazing part yet! Hezekiah responds to God (Isaiah 38:10-20), and I will just summarize what he said. Basically he cries out, praising God! He goes into descriptive detail reviewing where his position was when he confronted God, then he openly praises God for his deliverance. If you read carefully, I think it is very important to zero in on verse 17:
Behold, it was for my welfare
that I had great bitterness;
but in love you have delivered my life
from the pit of destruction,
for you have cast all my sins
behind your back.
Bitterness is the key word. Hezekiah new there was something that stood between him and his Deliverer. It is clear by his response he surrendered that bitterness to God. In God’s healing and restoration He shows us other areas that need to be cleaned up.
So often, especially in today’s society, we expect immediate change without having to work to hard for it. I do not know about you, but in my life it is very hard and painful work to let go of certain areas in our lives that act as spiritual growth barriers. This year as I have increased my drive to know the heart of God and take it as my own, there have been many changes I have made. As I continue this never ending process, I see more areas that have to change.
It is so important to remember that we are not called to change before we actively follow Christ. He has called us to follow Him, and in responding to His call He makes the necessary changes along the way. I hear a lot of people say they need to change some specific thing before answering the call, but that only puts an emphasis on what YOU can do, not what Christ can do.
Surrendering your heart, mind, soul, and emotions is the key. The outflow of those four will be absolute surrender of your life, situations, and circumstances. The result is a Christ centered, joyful, and fulfilled life. That is the path I trek.