"O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. Oh restore me [Hezekiah] to health and make me live! 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." - Isaiah 38:16-17
King Hezekiah was very sick and at the point of death (v. 1). He was still at this time relatively young. Sennacherib's 701 bc invasion of Judah hadn't happened yet (v. 6). He was deeply sad because so many of the good things he wanted to do as king of Judah he would not be able to do. His soul was very bitter because of his health problems. If God is good, why would he allow this sickness to interfere with Hezekiah's plans for good? Why does God allow his servants to get sick, even when they are faithful and serve him with a whole heart (v. 3)? In Hezekiah's case, God restored his health and added 15 years to his life (v. 5). But God doesn't always do this.
We must remember that God really does love us, he does reward his faithful servants, and he has the power to heal us and extend our life. In this case, Hezekiah prayed for healing (v. 3), and God delivered him (v. 5). After this Hezekiah went on to have his great shining moment, when he trusted God in the affair with Sennacherib's Assyrian army (Is 36-37). We can and should ask God for healing and to give us longer life so that we can complete our allotted work for him. The bitterness of soul we experience when we are sick can be good for us (v. 17). It teaches us to number our days and to be grateful that God has cast all our sins behind his back (v. 17). Illness can be very good for us, if we respond appropriately to what God is trying to teach us through it.
Father, thank you that you deeply care about us when we are sick and ill and approaching death. You can and do heal your servants in answer to prayer. I want to pray specifically for three people who are ill right now--my wife Averil, my high school classmate Tim, and our sister at church Angie. All three are facing significant health challenges and may feel bitterness, like Hezekiah. May you deliver their lives and give them many years ahead, so that they can serve you and complete their life's work. May the bitterness they feel turn to thankfulness and trust in you as you do your healing work. Cast their sins behind your back, and may the experience of illness and healing give them a greater faith that can be a huge encouragement to others. In Jesus' name, amen.
- Jeff Coleman