Fr. David's Lent Reflections day 29
Here we come to the 29th day of our Lenten journey, God bless you as you travel the path to the Cross and to our Lord’s resurrection. Our reading from scripture is Isaiah 37:33-38:6
Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the king of the Assyrians, He shall not enter into this city, nor cast a weapon against it, nor bring a shield against it, nor make a rampart round it. 34 But by the way by which he came, by it shall he return, and shall not enter into this city: thus saith the Lord. 35 I will protect this city to save it for my own sake, and for my servant David's sake.
36 And the angel of the Lord went forth, and slew out of the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and eighty-five thousand: and they arose in the morning and found all these bodies dead. 37 And Sennacherim king of the Assyrians turned and departed, and dwelt in Nineve. 38 And while he was worshipping Nasarach his country's god in the house, Adramelech and Sarasar his sons smote him with swords; and they escaped into Armenia: and Asordan his son reigned in his stead. In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amos came to him, and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order; for you shall die, you shall not recover." Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD, and said, "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in thy sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: "Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city.
This is one of the most important scripture readings of Lent, the beginning of chapter 38 of the book of Isaiah. Before this, in the 37th chapter, Hezekiah the king prayed to God for victory over Sennacherib the king of the Assyrians: “And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, who sittest upon the cherubs, thou alone art the God of every kingdom of the world: thou hast made heaven and earth. 17 Incline thine ear, O Lord, hearken, O Lord; open thine eyes, O Lord, look, O Lord: and behold the words of Sennacherim, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 18 For of a truth, Lord, the kings of the Assyrians have laid waste the whole world, and the countries thereof, 19 and have cast their idols into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men's hands, wood and stone; and they have cast them away. 20 But now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hands, that every kingdom of the earth may know that thou art God alone.” In other words, Hezekiah had come to believe in the One God, and decided to give up the worship of all the other gods he had previously prayed to. He had figured out that there is One God Who had punished him and his people for turning their backs on Him - and that to return to this One true God would bring peace.
But then, after Hezekiah repented as king on behalf of his people, and saw the power of God (by Whom the Assyrian attack was indeed repelled), we read about a second repentance, the repentance of Hezekiah as a man. Isaiah came to him to tell him to get his affairs in order, since he would die soon. Getting affairs in order was very important for kings, because succession procedures were often unclear or not followed. But Hezekiah didn’t want to die, and pleaded with God to let him live. God heard him, and gave him another fifteen years of life.
This is one of those passages of scripture where God plans for one thing, but the prayers of a human being change the mind of God, and change the future. We see this in another prophet, Jonah, where he prophesied the destruction of Nineveh, but the Ninevites repented and destruction was averted. Can we change the mind of God, brothers and sisters? What does it take to do that? It seems that we have two examples in the prophets (Isaiah and Jonah) that give us the same answer: repentance.