1. Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock
A significant portion of 2 Kings tells about King Hezekiah, and for good reason. In a stretch of time where good leadership was hard to find (like really, really hard), Jeremiah (who wrote 1 Kings and 2 Kings) states, "Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him." (2 Kings 18:5)
However, like every human, Hezekiah had a limited time on earth. 2 King 20:1 quotes a prophet telling Hezekiah to “put your house in order” because he was going to die. This is where the nuance of the story gets interesting.
To get the full effect of the story, we have to remember this was the Old Testament. Jesus had not come yet, and there was no certain way to know where you were going in the afterlife. So, when Hezekiah heard this, he was devastated. He took it as a sign that God was punishing him. Then he cries out to God and asks to be spared.
God hears Hezekiah and the prophet tells him what he should do to heal his illness. However, still shaken from the trauma, Hezekiah asks for a sign that God will give him more time on this earth. God’s response is both poetic, powerful, appropriate, and beautiful.
"Then the prophet Isaiah called on the LORD, and the LORD made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz." -2 Kings 20:11
To put it simply, God made the shadow go backward on the sundial. He physically gave more time to that day, and used that to represent the time he was giving to Hezekiah. God turned back time to show Hezekiah that he heard him, that he loves him, and that he’s blessing him.
2. Early Engineering
The second to last verse in the tale of Hezekiah tells us about one of the greatest engineering feats we will read of in the Bible.
"As for the other events of Hezekiah’s reign, all his achievements and how he made the pool and the tunnel by which he brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?" -2 Kings 20:20
While this is a footnote in the Bible (a book in which God performs miracles on a regular basis and preaches that nothing is impossible through Him), this note at the end of the chapter also shows the wisdom and intelligence Hezekiah was blessed with during his time as king. In an age where sieges were the preferred choice of concurring a city and plagues were a great threat, Hezekiah’s ability to install running water in Jerusalem was cutting edge science and a huge benefit to his kingdom.
3. Branch of the Lord
"In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel." -Isaiah 4:2
The prophet Isaiah wrote his book while addressing Israel for forty years. He prophesied many things during that time (most of it foretelling of suffering and judgments from God), but this verse stands out amongst all of them.
When Isaiah speaks of “the Branch of the Lord”, he is actually speaking of Jesus. Similar phrases are used to refer to Jesus (or the coming of a Messiah) in Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 33:15, and Zechariah 3:8. Jesus himself even uses a similar illustration, saying:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” –John 15:5
This is important because Isaiah isn’t telling Israel that Jesus will come during their suffering, nor is he telling them that he will save all of Israel (see “survivors in Israel”), but what he is promising is hope. He is telling people about the promise of the Messiah and that He will be even more “beautiful and glorious” even in the midst of their sorrows.
What were your thoughts on this week’s reading? Did anything catch your eye? Let us know your thoughts.