On Added Days and Sins Behind the Back

A story I came across in my Isaiah reading this morning made me smile. Not that it was a funny or amusing or light story. But that it was a story that reminded that God cannot be put into a box . . . even a box we define biblically. Here’s the deal . . .

The king, Hezekiah, is sick. Real sick! So sick the Spirit records that he “was at the point of death.” And the prophet Isaiah confirms the diagnosis. He goes to the king with a message from the LORD, “Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover” (Isa. 38:1). Sounds pretty much like a done deal to me. But Hezekiah prays to the LORD in bitterness of soul and literally pleads for his life. And this is where it gets intriguing for me.

You see, if we believe that God has numbered our days — and so often we say we do based on verses like Psalm 139:16: “In Your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them” — then I’m thinking that, while God will answer Hezekiah’s prayer, it will be with a gentle, but preordained, “No.” God saying, in effect, I’ve counted your days . . . they’re up . . . go get your affairs in order.

But that’s not what happens. Instead, the LORD sends Isaiah back to the king with a message: “I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Behold, I will add fifteen years to your life” (38:5). Really?!? Fifteen more years? 5,400 more days? So what number was written in the book?

Was God just kidding when He told Isaiah to tell Hezekiah to sign his will because he wasn’t going to recover from his illness? I don’t think so. Was God surprised by Hezekiah’s prayer? No, I don’t think that either. So did God “call an audible” . . . tack on 15 years . . . and scratch out the number written before the king’s birth and update it with a “new and improved” number? Can an all-knowing, sovereign, and immutable God change His mind? I wouldn’t think so . . . but it appears so. Boom! There goes the box!

And I sit back in awe. I smile in wonder. As much as God reveals Himself to us, He is still Almighty God and nothing less . . . and we are still men and women and nothing more.  Despite our systematic theology, God reminds us that He is not bound to our systems. No matter how much illumination He provides concerning His ways, we are repeatedly reminded that they are not our ways and don’t always fit tidily in our brains.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.   (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

And this little story set me up for another can’t-wrap-my-head-around-it truth. Hezekiah is journaling after he recovers and in his entry he pens this:

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 38:17 ESV)

Hezekiah knew that the fifteen years added to “the days that were formed” for him weren’t given because he deserved it. It wasn’t because of his righteousness . . . not repayment for his merit. Rather, it was solely because of the love of a sovereign God who, for His purposes and Hezekiah’s blessing, determined to cast all Hezekiah’s sins behind His back. Having determined to deal with them through the cross of His Son, God shows not only compassion and mercy, but amazing grace. Having dealt not only with his physical sickness, God addresses the healing of his terminal spiritual condition, as well. And that too blows up the box!

Be in awe. Bow before the Maker. Wonder at His ways above our ways . . . do so all the days that are formed for us . . . and maybe the days that will be added to us.

Because of grace . . . for His glory.

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