In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him and said, "This is what the LORD says: 'Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.'"
I. A SOLEMN MESSAGE. "Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live."
1. It was a solemn message for Hezekiah. His kingdom seemed now to be securely established. God had helped him against the Philistines, and had overthrown them. He was doubtless looking forward to many years of rest and quietness, when he might enjoy for himself the benefits of peace, and develop the resources of the nation, so long desolated by invading armies. How startling, then, the announcement of his approaching death!
2. It is a solemn message for every one. It is a solemn thing for a human soul to pass from time into eternity, to enter into the immediate presence of the Eternal, to stand before God.
3. It is a message which may be truly spoken to every one. "Thou shalt die, and not live," There is an hour of death in store for every one of us. Somewhere in the unknown future there waits for us -
"The shadow feared of man." We know not what a day may bring forth. "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." 4. The certainty of death suggests the necessity for immediate preparation. "Set thine house in order." Can you say that you are prepared to meet your God? Is your heart right with God? Have you set your house in order? The time for preparation is "now." Scripture is very clear on that point. It is nowhere said, "See that you make ready when death comes." It is nowhere said," Look forward to being prepared for death" No; that would only be deceiving us, because death might come before we were prepared, though we might intend to be prepared, if we knew that death was near. No; but it is said, "Be ready." It is said, "Prepare to meet thy God." "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." II. A SORROWFUL KING. "Hezekiah wept sore." 1. He was not sorrowful because of a guilty conscience. He had endeavored to serve God faithfully. No doubt he had made mistakes. But his heart was right with God. "I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight." It is well to have a good conscience when the hour of death draws nigh. It is well when we can say with St. Paul, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men." Such a man is always "ready to depart." 2. He was sorrowful only because of the shortening of his life. How little we know what is best for us! It was after this that Hezekiah was led astray, as we shall see, by the pride of his heart. Though God lengthened Hezekiah's life in answer to his piteous request, perhaps it would have been better for him if he had been content to go when God first sent for him. There is often a great mystery to us when good men seem prematurely taken away. But God knows the reason why, and he doeth all things well. Let us leave the time of our own departure, and the departure of our friends, contentedly in God's hands. III. A SPARED LIFE. The life was spared in answer to prayer; and yet this ease gives no encouragement to what is commonly known as "healing by faith." Isaiah directed the attendants to take a lump of figs and lay it for a plaster on the boil, and Hezekiah recovered (ver. 7; Isaiah 38:21). We believe in the power of faith and prayer to heal the sick, and yet we believe in using the means. We use food to preserve and sustain our life from day to day. There is no lack of faith in that. And it shows no lack of faith if we use means to restore our life, asking all the time that God's blessing may accompany the means we use. How many of our lives has God spared? How many of us has he brought back again from the gates of death? Let the goodness of God lead us to repentance. Let the lives that he has spared be dedicated to him - C.H.I.
4. The certainty of death suggests the necessity for immediate preparation. "Set thine house in order." Can you say that you are prepared to meet your God? Is your heart right with God? Have you set your house in order? The time for preparation is "now." Scripture is very clear on that point. It is nowhere said, "See that you make ready when death comes." It is nowhere said," Look forward to being prepared for death" No; that would only be deceiving us, because death might come before we were prepared, though we might intend to be prepared, if we knew that death was near. No; but it is said, "Be ready." It is said, "Prepare to meet thy God." "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation."
II. A SORROWFUL KING. "Hezekiah wept sore."
1. He was not sorrowful because of a guilty conscience. He had endeavored to serve God faithfully. No doubt he had made mistakes. But his heart was right with God. "I beseech thee, O Lord, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight." It is well to have a good conscience when the hour of death draws nigh. It is well when we can say with St. Paul, "Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men." Such a man is always "ready to depart."
2. He was sorrowful only because of the shortening of his life. How little we know what is best for us! It was after this that Hezekiah was led astray, as we shall see, by the pride of his heart. Though God lengthened Hezekiah's life in answer to his piteous request, perhaps it would have been better for him if he had been content to go when God first sent for him. There is often a great mystery to us when good men seem prematurely taken away. But God knows the reason why, and he doeth all things well. Let us leave the time of our own departure, and the departure of our friends, contentedly in God's hands.
III. A SPARED LIFE. The life was spared in answer to prayer; and yet this ease gives no encouragement to what is commonly known as "healing by faith." Isaiah directed the attendants to take a lump of figs and lay it for a plaster on the boil, and Hezekiah recovered (ver. 7; Isaiah 38:21). We believe in the power of faith and prayer to heal the sick, and yet we believe in using the means. We use food to preserve and sustain our life from day to day. There is no lack of faith in that. And it shows no lack of faith if we use means to restore our life, asking all the time that God's blessing may accompany the means we use. How many of our lives has God spared? How many of us has he brought back again from the gates of death? Let the goodness of God lead us to repentance. Let the lives that he has spared be dedicated to him - C.H.I.
In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death.
I. AS CONSCIOUSLY APPROACHING. Mark here three things —
1. When he became conscious of its approach.
2. How he become conscious of its approach. It needs no Isaiah, or any other prophet, to deliver this message to man. It comes to him from all history, from every graveyard, from every funeral procession, as well as from the inexorable law of decay working ever in his constitution.(1) Men have much to do in this life. The "house" is out of order.(2) Unless the work is done here it will not be done yonder.
3. How he felt in the consciousness of its approach.(1) He seems to have been overwhelmingly distressed. "He wept sore."(2) He cried earnestly to heaven. In his prayer we note the cry of nature. All men, even those who are atheistic in theory, are urged by the law of their spiritual nature to cry to heaven in great and conscious danger. In his prayer, we also note the breath of self-righteousness.
II. AS TEMPORARILY ARRESTED. Five things are to be observed here —
1. The primary Author of its arrest.
2. The secondary means of its arrest.
3. The extraordinary sign of its arrest.
4. The exact extension of its arrest.
5. The mental inefficiency of its arrest.What spiritual good did these additional fifteen years accomplish for the king? They might have done much, they ought to have done much.
III. AS ULTIMATELY TRIUMPHANT. "And Hezekiah slept with his fathers." The end of the fifteen years came, and he meets with the common destiny of all. The unconquered conqueror is not to be defrauded of his prey, however long delayed.
(David Thomas, D. D.).
Monday Club Sermons.The prayer of Hezekiah thus signally answered gives us instruction upon several points, of which this is —
1. TO LOVE LIFE IS A DUTY. Of course, Hezekiah's anxiety to live does not prove this. Good men are not so good that we can be sure of the rectitude of all their desires. They may be over-anxious to live, as they may be too ready to die. Luther and Whitefield erred upon the side of over-willingness to die. But the fact that God respected Hezekiah's wish to live proves that his wish was dutiful and right. His love of life was not weakness; it was not self-will; it was not the mere wish for a longer experience of accustomed pleasure. Had it been any of these, his prayer would have been unheard. He sought for life because life was worth living; he had a motive for life. It was for him a great opportunity. Nothing in the New Testament reverses or modifies the teaching of the Old Testament, that long life is a blessing, a gift of God, a mark of Divine favour. It is said of the godly man: "Because he hath set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him My salvation." When queenly Wisdom stretches forth her hands to give rewards to her loving and loyal subjects, "Length of days is in her right hand," as her most excellent gift. There is in the Bible no pessimistic philosophy of life. It is true that the Bible dwells much upon the shortness of life. Death is a fact which it will not let us forget. But Scriptural reflections upon the littleness of life and the nearness of its end are not intended to lessen our love of life, or to make us look upon it as unimportant. Their purpose is to counteract such views. They teach us to "number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Long life is not too long for the full accomplishment of life's great end. There is nothing in the approach of age which ought to lessen the love of life, if life's powers remain. The good workman glances now and then at the sun sinking in the west as day declines, only that he may set a higher value upon the remaining minutes, because they are few. He wishes for a full day, and the lengthening shadows set him the more zealously about remaining tasks. The biographers of Lyman Beecher have said of him: "He was so hungry to do the work of Him that sent him that he really seemed sometimes to have little appetite for heaven. Thus, after he was seventy years old, one of his children congratulated him that his labours were nearly over, and that he would soon be at rest. To his son's surprise the old man replied quickly, 'I don't thank my children for sending me to heaven till God does.'" In the lecture-room of Plymouth Church, when very near the end of his life, he said, "If God should tell me that I might choose... that is, if God said it was His will that I should choose, whether to die and go to heaven, or to begin my life over again, I would enlist again in a minute." We are not called upon to love life less because power fails, and we must lay aside accustomed tasks. Let us not measure life by the strength with which we pursue an earthly career. The refining of character may go on better when life's active powers decline. As we ponder the prayer of Hezekiah, a second thought arises:
II. SUBMISSION TO THE WILL OF GOD IN REGARD TO THE TERM OF LIFE IS A MODERATE WISH TO LIVE AS LONG AS WE CAN. It is easy to mistake the true nature of resignation, and to give it a meaning which it should not have. Submission to God's will is not the suspension of personal will-power. It is not the absence of choice or preference. Holiness is not passivity. Richard Baxter once wrote: —
Lord it belongs not to my care
Whether I live or die.Perhaps an utterance which is poetic, or at least metrical, ought not to be judged by prosaic rules; but as an unguarded statement its sentiment is false. It ought to have been a part of his care to live long and well. In so doing he would have been submissive to the will of God. There are means to be used to keep life and health. We ought to use them not unconcernedly, but with a strong wish to live. This is resignation to God's will. In "desiring life," and "loving" many days that he might see good, Hezekiah did not feel that he was disobedient or un-submissive.
III. Hezekiah's plea that he had lived a good life was AN ARGUMENT THAT PREVAILED WITH GOD. It is worthy of remark that the prayers recorded in the Old Testament are full of argument. Men approach God with reasons. They tell Him why He should grant their requests. Evidently they think Divine wisdom "easy to be entreated." They recount mercies past as a reason for expecting renewed favours. They speak of His goodness. Of their great needs they make a plea. By the littleness and brevity of life they lay claim to mercy. So Hezekiah did not hesitate to find in his past life reasons for its continuance. Evidently he did not think that goodness makes the term of life shorter, or more uncertain. "Whom the gods love die young," is not a Christian proverb, but its sentiment is to be found in many sayings current among us. Now there are saintly souls living upon the earth "of whom the world" is "not worthy." But so much the greater the world's need of their saintly lives. And God has great consideration for the world's need. The answer to Hezekiah's prayer suggests a fourth consideration:
IV. THE GOOD PHYSICIAN HAS NO CONTROVERSY WITH THE EARTHLY PHYSICIAN IN THE WISE USE OF MEANS. Isaiah practised the art of healing. He followed the best medical knowledge of his time. He caused the attendants to take a lump of figs and place it upon the sore, and Hezekiah recovered. He applied a well-known and useful remedy. No doubt there are persons who would be better satisfied with the record of this case of healing if the lump of figs had been left. out. They fear that every case of healing claimed by science must be surrendered by religion, and that, when other means are efficacious, prayer is obviously of no avail. They make haste to conclude that, if the lump of figs healed Hezekiah, then God did not. The inspired record is not solicitous about entrenching religion against the attacks of science. If religion should say that prayer worked the healing, and that means were of no use: and if science should say that the lump of figs wrought the cure, and that prayer was of no avail — both would be right in what they asserted, and no less would both be wrong in what they refused to admit. Had Isaiah known that the remedy would have cured without prayer, his delay in using it would have been inexcusable. Had he known that prayer would have been as efficacious without the remedy, he had no sufficient reason for making use of the lump of figs at last. The healing was wrought by the Lord of Life; and not less by Him that He chose to work through the ordinary appointed means.
V. THE BEST RESULTS OF HEZEKIAH'S PRAYER ARE UNRECORDED. We find a hint of them in the broken sentences of Isaiah's page. "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. The Lord was ready to save me; therefore will we sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord." He walked before the Lord in solemn gladness. In those remaining years God was nearer to him than before. He knew the tenderness of God, who had heard his prayers and had seen his tears. He knew the grace of God, for by His favour he walked in newness of life. He knew the power of God, whose high prerogative it was to turn backward or forward at His will the dial of his life. How great, the power of prayer, which still appeals to the heart of God and persuades Him to make known His way "upon earth," His "saving health among all nations." And how infinite the grace of God, who in time past for this chosen servant turned backward for an hour the shadow of the sun, but who, in these last days, has set for ever in the spiritual heavens, above the horizon and within the field of vision for those who look in faith, the blessed "sign of the Son of Man."
(Monday Club Sermons.)
Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live
I. I would observe that IT IS NECESSARY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF A HOUSE, THAT IT BE BUILT UPON A GOOD FOUNDATION, and not upon a sandy soil; so is it equally necessary that the foundation upon which the believer places the eternal interest of his soul be built upon the best of all foundations, even Jesus Christ; "for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." Consider what it is to build upon Him. To have our foundation on Jesus Christ is not to hope that we may attain heaven and happiness by a partial conformity with the will of the Saviour, whilst we are at the same time devoting ourselves to the pleasures of the world; it is to feel that we are vile, worthless, and polluted creatures of the earth, whose very best action in itself has the nature of sin; it is to be so assured that our works can have no part in obtaining salvation as to strip us of all self-confidence and conceit, and lead us to place our whole dependence on the finished work, and the all-sufficient righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. But I observe, THAT AFTER A HOUSE IS ERECTED, HOWEVER WELL AND COSTLY IT MAY BE BUILT, IT REQUIRES TO BE KEPT IN GOOD ORDER, AND IN CONSTANT REPAIR. So it is with the soul, wonderful in its origin, for it was made by God; and majestic even in its ruins, through the fall of man.: "redeemed not with corruptible things, such as with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of the adorable Saviour."
III. I observe, THAT LIGHT IS ESSENTIAL TO A HOUSE. The clearer the glass of which the windows are composed, and the less obstruction there is, the sooner will be discovered the slightest particle of dust, and every flaw in the dwelling. So it is with the soul; the clearer the light of the Holy Spirit shines into the conscience the more accurately will sin be detected; that which was thought a trifling and innocent thing before, through the illumination of the Holy Spirit will appear in its true light, as defiled and destructive.
IV. NO HABITATION WOULD BE COMPLETE UNLESS SUPPLIED WITH WATER; TO CLEANSE AND PURIFY IT, as also to refresh its inhabitants, and to administer to their comforts. And how can the soul thirsting after the water of life be satisfied without a fresh and daily supply from the Fountain of living waters, even that water which Christ has given him — a well springing up unto everlasting life.
V. I would observe THAT MUCH OF THE COMFORT OF A HOUSEHOLD DEPENDS ON EVERYTHING BEING REGULATED BY JUDICIOUS AND CAREFUL MANAGEMENT. So it is with the soul. "Let everything be done decently and in order," is the apostle's injunction; and of how much more importance is it, that the spiritual exercises of the child of God should be under the control of a wise and well directed judgment.
VI. I would observe THAT IN THE ANCIENT MANSIONS OF THE GREAT, THE HALL WAS APPROPRIATED TO THE ARMOURY, which was kept clean, bright, and ready for the master's use. This reminds us of the Christian's armour: his weapons are not carnal, but spiritual; not weak, but mighty through God to the pulling down the strongholds of Satan; nevertheless, they must not only be keep bright, but constantly worn. VII. I would remark THAT IN A HOUSE THERE IS A NECESSITY FOR FIRE. In the same manner in the soul there ought to be a flame of holy love, a zeal for God's truth.
(J. R. Starey.)
1. What views and FEELINGS NATURALLY POSSESS A MAN WHO IS CONSCIOUS THAT HIS END IS NEAR. If his mind has an ordinary share of sensibility, he will dismiss his worldly cares and turn his thoughts to the contemplation of eternity. He is no longer interested in a world he is so soon to leave. The calculations and pursuits of men, their joys, their griefs, their disappointments, their success, their hurry, their hopes, their fears, an appear as idle as the sports of children. The world is lighter to him than a feather. Neither losses nor disappointments nor prosperity has power to affect him. You see him not pressing from business, to business in a rage to be rich. You see him not stretching after preferment. His pride is reduced. You see him no longer assuming haughty airs, no longer fretted at every supposed neglect. Meekness and gentleness mark his deportment. No longer can unbelief or the world hide a prospect of death. or seduce his thoughts from God. He looks death in the face. He turns his anxious eye to explore eternal objects. He raises an earnest look to heaven. He ardently betakes himself to prayer and to reading his Bible. All his anxiety is to prepare for his approaching fate. You all perceive that these are rational exercises for a dying man; why then not for you? It is to dying men that I am speaking. I can say to you all, "As the Lord liveth," and "as your soul liveth, there is but a step between you and death."
II. Let us consider WHAT MEASURES A MAN WILL NATURALLY TAKE TO SET HIS HOUSE IN ORDER, who, with proper views, is conscious that his end is near.
1. It would be natural for him, as an honest man, to wish to settle all his accounts. This might be necessary to secure his creditors and to prevent insolvency.
2. A dying man, in setting his house in order, would be desirous to dispatch all important, unfinished business, which could not be accomplished by others after his death. So do you.
3. It is common for dying Christians to call their families around them and impart to them their final counsel. Thus do ye.
4. It is customary for men, when setting their house in order, to make their wills. I have no advice to give as to the dispositon of your worldly estate. But I solemnly charge you to bequeath to God your immortal souls with all their faculties, and your bodies, to sleep in His arms, in expectation of a joyful resurrection.
5. It is not uncommon for people, when they view their end approaching, to prepare their shroud, and make every provision for their funeral obsequies, that nothing may be left to be done in the distress and confusion of the mournful day.
(E. D. Griffin, D. D.)
All that remains for me
Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come
To bear me to their King.I want your house to be in order, your business to be in order, your church and Christian work to be in order, and I want most of all for all my hearers that their hearts shall be in order.
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