The Shadow Moves
For those who do not know me well, I am a fan of science fiction. I was reading Isaac Asimov in high school. When I discovered C. S. Lewis, my split personality was healed by the coming together of Christianity and science fiction.
Bible stories like the one we find here in Isaiah 38 confirm for me the truths taught in the Bible, and the truths of science. As we look at this passage, think about what God would have had to do to perform the miracle contained in this passage.
38:1 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'" 2 Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, 3 and said, "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Thy sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah, saying, 5 "Go and say to Hezekiah, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David," I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 "And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city."' 7 "And this shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that He has spoken: 8 "Behold, I will cause the shadow on the stairway, which has gone down with the sun on the stairway of Ahaz, to go back ten steps." So the sun's shadow went back ten steps on the stairway on which it had gone down.
For the sun to go back 10 steps on a stairway, what would have had to take place? I see a couple of possibilities. If it was a local event, just occurring in Jerusalem, for instance. Some source of light, that took the sun's place, and gave the appearance that the shadow cast by the sun had moved back 10 steps. That, in itself, would have been an unbelievable event in Hezekiah's time.
For the sun to have actually moved back, this event would have been evident over at least half of the world. Actually, the earth would have had to move back in it's rotation. For those on the dark side of the earth at that time, it may not have been as noticeable. Night would have been longer. For those out working in the heat of the day, their work day would have been extended. Perhaps some would have just thought they were tired and the day seemed longer.
Hollywood today, could probably film such an event or re-create it with computer generated graphics and make it somewhat believable. But for it to really have happened, as those, like me, believe it did actually occur, this was a monumental event, a bonafide miracle.
Of course, you can only believe this to be true, if God really is capable of performing miracles. You have to believe that He can cause things to happen that are beyond the ability of science to prove, or duplicate, or explain.
This is the God that I serve. I believe God created the world, the universe, by speaking it into existence. He spoke and it came to be. He sustains it and keeps it running and He is able to supersede the laws of nature and do whatever He wants to do.
Now if you believe in such a being, what is He like? Is He good or evil? Does He care about us? Does He care about me?
I have come to believe that two things sum up what we need to know about God to live in a relationship with Him. First He loves me. He wants to be part of my life and to have a relationship with me. Second, He is my Lord.
The writer to the Hebrews in the early church said that in order to please God, we must believe that He exists, and that He rewards those who seek Him.
His Lordship is irrevocable. If we are to accept Him we must accept Him as Lord. Admit to Him that we accept that to be true and begin living out that truth in our everyday lives. God loves me and He is Lord. If I believe what I read in the Bible, these are the two things that must shape my life; they must rule in every decision I make.
Some would say that many of the Bible stories would indicate that He is not loving in His relationships with some people. As I read them through the lens of these two truths, I can see why He did what He did in those stories. His judgment is a consequence of those who have refused to accept that He loves us and that what He wants for us is best for us, even when it does not feel that way to us.
He is the infinite, all-knowing God and He alone can determine what is just and what is not. I believe there is a hell prepared for those who reject His love and His lordship. I also believe that God grieves the loss of every soul that ends up there, and that He will grieve that loss for all of eternity.
Hezekiah recovered from his illness. God granted him an extra 15 years of life. There is some question about whether that was a good thing for Hezekiah or not. Hezekiah had turned to the Lord and prayed for God's deliverance from his enemies in the world and God answered. The Assyrians would not destroy the last walled city in Judah. Sennacherib went home and was killed by his sons. That empire diminished.
Hezekiah prayed that God would extend his life and God listened. Isaiah has told us that it was not for Hezekiah's sake that God did so,but for God's own reputation in the world. God was keeping his word to his servant David, a man after God's own heart.
We are here, not for our good, but to be a blessing to God, and to other people. Why did Jesus say the two greatest of God's rules for mankind are first, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and second, to love others as God loves us? These rules are to be the basis, the bed-rock, on which we are to build our lives. All of God's other rules assist us to carry out the two greatest ones.
We must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him. He wants to have a relationship with us, but it must be on His terms. He must be first in our lives. He must be Lord of our lives. He is Lord. To accept Him, is to accept this truth. To accept Him on our terms, is to refuse to truly accept Him at all.
Look at Hezekiah's prayer in the midst of all this. Pick up reading in verse 9.
9 A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after his illness and recovery:
10 I said, "In the middle of my life I am to enter the gates of Sheol (that is another word for death, or the grave); I am to be deprived of the rest of my years." 11 I said, "I shall not see the Lord, The Lord in the land of the living; I shall look on man no more among the inhabitants of the world. 12 "Like a shepherd's tent my dwelling is pulled up and removed from me; As a weaver I rolled up my life. He cuts me off from the loom; From day until night Thou dost make an end of me. 13 "I composed my soul until morning. Like a lion — so He breaks all my bones, From day until night Thou dost make an end of me. 14 "Like a swallow, like a crane, so I twitter; I moan like a dove; My eyes look wistfully to the heights; O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security. 15 "What shall I say? For He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done it; I shall wander about all my years because of the bitterness of my soul. 16 "O Lord, by these things men live; And in all these is the life of my spirit; O restore me to health, and let me live! 17 "Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; It is Thou who hast kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back. 18 "For Sheol cannot thank Thee, Death cannot praise Thee; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Thy faithfulness. 19 "It is the living who give thanks to Thee, as I do today; A father tells his sons about Thy faithfulness. 20 "The Lord will surely save me; So we will play my songs on stringed instruments All the days of our life at the house of the Lord."
21 Now Isaiah had said, "Let them take a cake of figs, and apply it to the boil, that he may recover." 22 Then Hezekiah had said, "What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?" NASB
What is the sign. The sign was stated earlier, the shadow would move back ten steps on the stairwell. God told Isaiah how to treat the disease that Hezekiah was suffering from and that he would recover.
What was the greater miracle? The sun going back several degrees in the sky, or Hezekiah recovering from what God had said was a fatal disease?
Some of what we call miracles are just incredible things that happen that we may not understand. I believe that God intervenes in the affairs of men at times. These are true miracles. Some miracles defy the laws of nature. Some miracles are God working in the normal circumstances of life, attempting to prove to us that He loves us and that it is a good thing that He is Lord.
When God speaks to a heart and shows them their sin it is a miracle. Some may say, it is just the conscience of people that was speaking to them and causing them to change. But the one to whom God spoke, he, or she, knows God spoke to them. The longer they assert that it was God, the surer they are of the miracle. If he listens to the enemy, he will begin to doubt and could eventually lose his faith in God.
Grace is what God does in and through us. Faith is our response to His work. When we believe, we begin to obey, because we believe God loves us and that it is a good thing that He is Lord and we are His servants.
God's glory and honor are at stake as we decide whether or not we will put our faith in Him, or refuse to do so and miss out on the blessing of knowing that we are walking in a relationship with the God who created us and loves us.
The next time you see the shadow cast by the sun, think of God working in your life, to prove that He loves you and that He has a great plan for your life.