The Man Who Lived A Little Longer
How many of you have ever heard the old saying, “When it’s your time to go, death will find you.”
A widow was preparing for her first airplane flight to go see her son and his family, but she was very nervous about flying. As she shared her concerns with her son over the phone, the son remarked, “Well, Mom, you know when it’s your time to go, it doesn’t matter where you are.” To which the mom replied, “I’m not worried about that. What I’m worried about is being stuck on the plane when it’s the pilot’s time to go!”
“When it’s your turn to go, death will find you.” There is some good practical theology in this
old saying. It emphasizes God’s sovereignty over life and death. If God is in charge of when sparrows fall, then surely He is in charge of death’s timing for you and I. If He sets that date, then you can be sure it will be an appointment you will keep.
That’s the rule, but the Bible records some notable exceptions. Genesis tells us Enoch’s
time never came, because God translated him directly into heaven. Centuries later the prophet
Elijah missed his date with death by hitching a ride on a fiery chariot to heaven.
But tonight I’m going to tell you about a man who didn’t miss his appointment with death—he delayed it. Somehow he persuaded God to give him 15 more years of life. He is the Man Who Lived a Little Longer, and I want to introduce him to you to help you and I learn a little more about life, and death, and how to face them both.
His name is Hezekiah, and he is one of the Bible’s good guys. He especially shines bright among the line-up of wicked rulers in the books of King and Chronicles. Hezekiah inherited the throne from his father Ahaz, who led Israel into idolatry and almost to complete ruin.
But Hezekiah turns all that around, reopens the Temple, reassembles all the Levites and priests, reinstitutes the sacrifices of the Mosaic Covenant. He shuts down almost all the idol worship going on, and even manages to take a shot at reuniting the nation of Israel.
More than just a man of accomplishments, Hezekiah is also a man of character. The Bible says about him
2 Ki 18:3, 5 3 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done. 5He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him.
2 Kings 19 describes Hezekiah as a man of prayer and great faith, who asks God for protection when the Assyrians threaten to invade Israel. His trust is not only in soldiers or weapons, but in God.
Hezekiah is the best thing that’s happened to the nation of Israel in many years. Which makes it all the more shocking when in vs. 1 Hezekiah comes down with an illness and God sends the prophet Isaiah with a message: Get your affairs in order. You are about to die.
Die? How can this be? thinks Hezekiah. He’s still a young man, probably around 39 years old. He’s tried to live a good life, tried to do what was right. He’s served the Lord, served his people, tried to make things better. He’s still got ideas and plans for the future, plans which now evaporate like steam into the air. As good and godly a man as Hezekiah is, he cannot escape the cold hard reality of death.
Neither can you or I. In these first few verses Hezekiah faces his mortality, and sooner or later, you and I must face the fact that our days on earth are numbered. In fact, the Bible recommends reminding ourselves of this often in
Ps 90:12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
I don’t believe this means becoming obsessed with death. I don’t think God wants us daily scanning the obituaries and becoming more depressed wondering what they’ll print about us when we die. I don’t believe numbering your days means giving up on life.
On the other hand, you and I don’t need a prophet to come and announce to us the fact that
we will die. Every time you pass the graveyard should remind you of the reality of death. Every
time you glance at a photograph of a loved one who has passed away should remind your turn is coming. The question is not will I die? the question is am I ready to die? Is my house set in order? How can you be ready?
First, being ready for death means being sure you’re right with God. You don’t get any more chances after you die. You have as long as you’re breathing to believe in and received Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. If you don’t do it before you die, you never will. This is why it’s so important that you and I follow the advice of
2 Pe 1:10-11 10Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Peter isn’t suggesting you are saved by works, but he is advising us to be sure where we stand with God before we step out of this life into the next. Be sure you are right with God through faith in Christ.
Second, being ready for death means being sure you’re right with everybody else. Death interrupts our relationships with the people we love. We can buy insurance to help with the financial cost of death, but what about the emotional cost? Are there people you need to be reconciled with? Do it now, before death steals your last chance.
Do the people who mean the most to you know how much you love them? Take time to remind them now, so they won’t have to wonder later.
On a cold winter evening a man suffered a heart attack and after being admitted to the hospital, asked the nurse to call his daughter. He explained, "She is the only family I have." The nurse went to phone the daughter. The daughter was quite upset and shouted, "You must not let him die! You see, Dad and I had a terrible argument almost a year ago. The last thing I said to him was 'I hate you."' The daughter cried and then said, "I'm coming now. I'll be there in thirty minutes."
The patient went into cardiac arrest, and code 99 was alerted. The nurse prayed, "O God, his daughter is coming. Don't let it end this way." The efforts of the medical team to revive the patient were fruitless. The nurse observed one of the doctors talking to the daughter outside the room. She could see the pathetic hurt in her face. The nurse took the daughter aside and said, "I'm sorry." The daughter responded, "I never hated him, you know. I loved him." The nurse took her to the room, and the daughter went to the bed and buried her face in the sheets as she said good-bye to her father. The nurse noticed a scrap of paper on the bed table. She picked it up and read: "My dearest Janie, I forgive you. I pray you will also forgive me. I know that you love me. I love you, too. Daddy."[i]
You may not have time to write that letter. God wants us to know death is certain, and even though He when, we don’t. We need to number our days and get our house in order, as God told Hezekiah to do.
But Hezekiah is not only holy---he’s also human. Vs. 2-3 makes it clear He doesn’t want to die.
The Bible doesn’t tell us where Hezekiah is when Isaiah delivers the bad news, but it’s likely he’s lying on his bed somewhere in the palace, perhaps surrounded by doctors, friends, family. He has plenty of people to comfort him, but Hezekiah turns to the wall for a private consultation with God.
This good king pours out his heart to the Lord, calling on God to remember how he has loved the Lord and tried to do what was right. He never once asks God to give him longer to live, but in the midst of his prayer, he breaks down and weeps bitterly.
Why? Why is Hezekiah so bitter about dying? I suggest to you Hezekiah weeps bitterly because his death doesn’t make sense. He loves the Lord, he’s lived right, tried to do what is good. His theology tells him if God is pleased with you, you can expect Him to bless your life—certainly to give you longer than a mere 39 years on earth.
Hezekiah wants to stay alive not only to keep breathing, but to keep loving the Lord, keep doing what’s right, keep leading Israel to serve God and not idols. In his mind, his life is being cut short---something that happens only to bad people.
Hezekiah cannot reconcile God’s sentence of death and God’s promise to bless His servants with life. He senses there’s something just not right about the death of the righteous.
I don’t know anybody who really wants to die. I’ve heard some say they want to die, and some even take their own lives. But do they really want to die, or are they just trying to escape from their pains, their heartaches, or their problems? I believe even if we know death is inevitable, there is still inside of each of us a desire like Hezekiah’s—a desire to live.
Is it just an instinct for self-preservation? Something God gives us in common with animals that tries to hold on to the last spark of life at all costs? Maybe. Or Maybe it’s something more.
Maybe Hezekiah weeps bitterly because he connects God’s blessing with a long life—a connection made by King David in
Ps 23:4, 6 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
Not just today, or tomorrow, or 40 years from now—but forever. David desires, holds on to the hope that he will live forever with God.
Hezekiah’s prayer is an expression of this deep desire in the human heart to live, and not die. That desire goes beyond just a long life here on earth---it translates into a desire not just for life, but for eternal life.
Ec 3:11 …He has put eternity in their hearts…
This is why Hezekiah wants to live, why he weeps bitterly in the face of death. He wants what we all want---a life that never ends, that cannot be snuffed out by death---a life Jesus Christ promises to all who believe in Him.
Jn 11:25-26 25 …I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…”
This is what Hezekiah really longs for--not just to live a little longer, but to live forever. It’s what you and I long for, too—not just another day of existence, but a life full of God’s presence and joy.
Movie director Woody Allen was once asked how he thought he would be remembered by future generations. "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work," he said. "I want to achieve immortality by not dying."
This is what we all want, don’t we? The question is: is this just a dream, or is there really some hope for this kind of life? Can God really give more life to a person who is dying? Vs. 4-6 answer this question.
While Hezekiah is struggling with his desire to live, Isaiah is making his way out of the palace when God suddenly speaks to his heart, telling him to deliver another message to the king. “Tell him I’ve heard his prayer; I’ve seen his tears, and he has touched My heart. I will heal him, and give him 15 more years of life.”
This is really good news for Hezekiah, but it raises some questions about God’s sovereignty. Did God change His mind about Hezekiah’s deadline with death? Or was it just a matter of God knowing the king would pray, and knowing He would respond this way to the prayer? Does God really change His mind this way, or does He merely appear to change His mind? That’s a little deeper than I want to dive tonight. But there’s another question I do want to deal with: Why? Why did God give Hezekiah 15 more years of life?
I’m sure there were many other good people in those days who were dying who would have liked to live a little longer. I imagine many of them probably asked God for a little more time, but they didn’t get it. Come to think of it, I know some good folks who loved God, who served Him, and who probably would have liked a little more time to live, but they died. Maybe you know younger people whose lives seemed to get cut short by illness, accidents, or even criminal activity. Why did God give Hezekiah more time, and let so many other good people die? Does God play favorites?
I don’t think so. I believe you can draw only one conclusion from this passage: Hezekiah gets to live a little longer because of God’s grace.
God’s extension of Hezekiah’s life was an act of pure grace. Hezekiah doesn’t earn a longer life; God gives him those extra 15 years as a gift, purely out of His grace.
That shouldn’t surprise us, because if you stop and think about it, isn’t all of life a gift of God’s grace? He doesn’t give you and I life because we deserve it, or because He needs us. He gives you and I life as a gift to be cherished and enjoyed in His presence. Every day you live is a gift from the God Who loves you.
This is also certainly true about eternal life. God didn’t wait until we were good enough to send Jesus to die for us.
Ro 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You didn’t earn forgiveness from God. Your ticket to heaven was not purchased by your good works. You received it through God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.
Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the [free] gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God’s grace to Hezekiah is meant to remind you and I: Every moment you live is a gift of God’s grace.
You and I forget this sometimes, don’t we? How many of you wake up every morning with laughter on your lips, eyes shining bright with anticipation, shouting out thanks to God for graciously giving you another day of life?
More often we just crawl out of bed begging for strength to make it through another day.
This is why we need Hezekiah’s story to remind us: all of life is a gift of God’s grace.
I’m sure Hezekiah learned this. I can almost guarantee you that Hezekiah didn’t take a single day of those 15 years for granted. He treasured them as God’s gift of grace to Him. Will we learn from his story to treasure God’s gracious gift of life?
Pastor Bill Hybels recounts: An acquaintance of mine nearly lost his life in a flying accident a few years ago. I had breakfast with him some time after that accident, and I asked him how his accident and his lingering physical problems had affected him. He said, "Bill, I see life so much more clearly now. My relationship with Jesus Christ is now of supreme importance." It hadn't been before. "Now when I hold my wife and when I kiss my children, I realize what a treasure they are." I remember sliding back from the table, thinking, That loss served this brother well. It simplified and clarified what really mattered in life. [ii]
Tonight, let’s be thankful for the lessons from this Man Who Lived a Little Longer.
Death is certain—you need to be ready whenever it comes. Are you ready?
You are meant to live forever---God made a way through Jesus Christ. Have you received eternal life from Him?
Life is a gift of God’s grace---treasure every moment He gives you.
Ps 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
[i] James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 201
[ii] Bill Hybels, "The Often-overlooked Benefits of Losing," Preaching Today, Tape No. 80.