Open Your Bible
2 Kings 19:8-19, 2 Kings 19:35-37, Isaiah 38:1-20
In December 2015, a group of archeologists led by Dr. Eliat Mazar announced that they had found a bulla in an excavation site near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The bulla, a clay seal stamped with Hebrew characters, had belonged to King Hezekiah, a good king of Judah who reigned in the 7th and 8th centuries BC. I know very, very little about biblical archeology, but when I found dozens of old news articles about this little 1/2” clay circle, I thought it was pretty cool.
Hezekiah was a real person. He lived in a real palace, was served by the real prophet Isaiah, and he prayed real prayers to our real God. And almost three thousand years later, utilizing a method called “wet sifting” (an archeological process using mesh trays flooded with water), someone discovered an impression in clay made by King Hezekiah’s royal seal.
The two prayers from today’s reading in 2 Kings and Isaiah reveal much about Hezekiah’s character, and his real, flesh-and-bone existence. But they also reveal his utter dependence upon a very real God. In his first prayer, Hezekiah cried out before the Lord when he heard that King Sennacherib of Assyria had mocked God and threatened the kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 19:14–19; Isaiah 37:14–20). Hezekiah’s second prayer came after he’d become very sick and was told he would die. He wept and prayed, asking the Lord to deliver him from his illness (Isaiah 38).
Twice, Hezekiah prayed for God’s deliverance, and twice God delivered him; Sennacherib was defeated, and Hezekiah was healed. His third prayer is a poem of reflection about his experience of being so near imminent death, about feeling the brittleness of his bones and the fragility of his flesh:
“I waited patiently till dawn,
but like a lion he broke all my bones;
day and night you made an end of me.
I cried like a swift or thrush,
I moaned like a mourning dove.
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens.
I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid!”
– Isaiah 38:13–14 (NIV)
In reflecting upon his own emotional state while facing death, Hezekiah conceded, “Indeed it was for my own well-being that I had such intense bitterness” (v.17). In the face of death and destruction, both external (at the hands of Sennacherib) and internal (because of his own illness), Hezekiah trusted in, relied upon, and sought the favor of the immortal, all-powerful, very real God.
So often, I try to find my security and safety in the physical, but Hezekiah’s story—his real, lived, embodied, true story—reminds me that whatever I face in life or death, I can rely on the same immortal, all-powerful God. This is a God for whom evidence cannot be sifted out of trays doused in water, but a God who has proven Himself to be real, time and time again through His Word, His faithfulness, His miraculous work, and by His Son. A God who so loved us that He came to earth, flesh and blood, incarnate and holy, real, to prove that love.