This will be a sign to you from the LORD that He will do what He has promised:
In this case, as in that of Gideon, God granted signs. For the people of Palestine, and for his disciples, our Lord wrought miracles, which were signs; but he utterly refused to meet the demand of the Pharisees. "There shall no sign be given you." Our Lord, however, reproved the desire for signs as showing some weakness of character in those who desired them. "Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe." Exactly what the sign granted to Hezekiah was cannot certainly be ascertained. The shadow passing back on the dial may have suggested God's putting back the death-angel for a while. Probably a shadow cast on a staircase by a column showed the height of the sun in the heavens. This shadow would travel upward as the day advanced, and its return down ten steps, beheld from Hezekiah's sick-chamber, would be the most impressive emblem of the new lease of life bestowed. Miracles are never spoken of as mere wonders; they are signs, and have for their object to manifest forth God's glory. They have been wrought in every age of the world. They would cease to do their work if they became ordinary Divine operations. We note that -
I. DIVINE SIGNS ARE NOT FOR THE CONVINCEMENT OF SCEPTICS. This our Lord declared in his refusal to do mighty works for the Pharisees, and illustrated in the parable of Dives and Lazarus. Dives wanted one from the dead to go and warn his brethren. Christ plainly intimated that the man who can put away ordinary influences wilt find out how to resist special ones. No miracle could be wrought which a man of sceptical disposition could not explain away. We should speak very guardedly of miracles as Christian evidences. They are to those in right moods of mind.
II. DIVINE SIGNS ARE FOR THE PERSUASION OF THE WILLING AND OBEDIENT. "If a man is willing, he shall know of the doctrine." In some places our Lord "could not do many mighty works because of the unbelief." There are proper relations in which creatures should stand to their Creator, children to their parents, and men to God. Out of relations man's wilfulness may resist anything and everything. The teacher demands a teachable spirit in the scholars; the master expects a willingness to learn in his apprentice; and God asks for "willingness and obedience," proper attitudes of mind and feeling, in those to whom he reveals himself. There is a proper "receptive mood."
III. DIVINE SIGNS ARE FOR THE STRENGTHENING AND CHEERING OF GOD'S PEOPLE. They are the Divine response to those who unite firmness of will with frailty of body and mind, who are set on God, but battle hard with flesh and blood. "To will is present with them, but how to perform they find not." Gideon wanted to trust God and serve him, but circumstances made the commission entrusted to him most perilous; therefore God encouraged him with a sign. Hezekiah wanted to accept the Divine assurance, but the pain and depression of disease made trust nearly impossible, so God strengthened him with a sign. - R.T.
Was it this, I wonder, that evoked from Isaiah that unwonted outburst of enthusiasm in the chapter beginning, "Arise, shine, for thy Light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee"? "Thy sun shall no more go down... for Jehovah shall be unto thee an everlasting Light, and thy God thy glory"? If so, how appropriate the words to the occasion. It is easy to identify the Light of Israel with Christ, the Light of the world.
And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord.
We are not to imagine that in this miracle any effect was wrought upon the motion of the earth round its axis. A miraculous refraction of the sun's rays was effected by God on a particular sun-dial, at the prayer of King Hezekiah. It was a miracle, wrought on a particular dial, in a particular place, showing that it concerned a particular person; and it was not wrought on the solar orb, but on the solar light.
This astounding miracle could only have been affected by a light. "brighter than the sun," rising on the other side of the sun-dial. We all know how electric light reverses the shadow of gas light. At St. Paul's conversion, "the light from heaven," the Shechinah brightness of Immanuel, outshone the splendour of the noonday sun. In the heavenly city there is no need of the sun to shine on it, nor of the moon to lighten it, for the glory of God and the Lamb is the light thereof. Unfortunately, we cannot tell on which side of the temple at Jerusalem the sun-dial of Ahaz was situated. It was probably a monolith or obelisk, resembling that on the Thames embankment, elevated on steps — translated "degrees" — and intended to regulate the hours of public worship. The setting sun had thrown the shadow across the steps; it had gone down ten degrees, when suddenly from the gate or window from the mercy-seat behind the veil of the naos
, or temple proper, there flashed forth the majestic light of Divine glory that dwelt between the cherubim, reversing the shadow of the natural sun, and converting for Hezekiah the shadow of death into morning.
To the ardent eyes of the old prophet the light that had reversed the shadow on the sundial was the old "Light" of the Mosaic past. It had illumined the land of Goshen in the days of supernatural darkness that overspread the rest of Egypt. It had flashed out with more than electric brightness upon the hosts of Israel as they struggled on through the night and the sea to escape the pursuing army of the Pharaoh. It had "glided" as a fiery pillar before the tribes through the rocky desert, warning off their enemies, and guiding the pilgrim army homeward to the fatherland. It had synchronised their movements with those convulsions of nature that arrested the Jordan at harvest flood, and shook down the walls of Jericho at the moment when they were prepared to cross and capture the devoted city. And it had stood over Gibeon as a sun that would not go down, and as a moon that would not withdraw, while Jehovah fought for Israel, and gave them their "crowning victory" over the idolatrous Canaanites. Isaiah knew the Light.
()I do not consider that I am putting any undue strain upon the text in applying it to Christ. The Shechinah was the recognised token to Israel of the presence of her covenant God. It led the Magi to Bethlehem. It shone around the shepherds on the night of the nativity. It overwhelmed Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus. Christ is the Light that dispels and reverses our shadows. Christ has dispelled and reversed —
I. THE SHADOW OF, SIN.
II. THE SHADOW OF GRIEF.
III. THE SHADOW OF DEATH. "If He be in thee," wrote John Pulsford, "who is the Light of Life, very Light and very Life, then, when the candlelight of ,thy body's life goes out, the sunlight of thy soul's life shall be bright about thee. '
()The miracle is how God Himself began. Why will men always attack the wrong point, as if it were a wonderful thing that a man should have fifteen years added to his life; and yet we omit the stupendous miracle that man ever began to live. Thus attack what mystery we may we only go backward and upward until we come to Deity Himself. That is the great mystery, and there is none other.
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