Not all prayers need to be answered yes. Numerous prayers are actually better off being answered no, particularly when they are requested solely to gratify our human desires. Typically, our vision is limited to our personal interests, to the extent that we may even pray solely for the fulfillment of our own desires.
The response from God to our prayers is commonly summarized in three ways: yes, no, and wait. While we typically comprehend the meaning of a positive answer, we often struggle to accept a response of “wait” or “no.” Interestingly, many of us do grasp the reasons behind receiving these answers, yet we still find it challenging to fully embrace them. It is not uncommon for us to question and even perceive God as being mistaken in His decisions.
In the biblical accounts of 2 Kings 20:1-11, Isaiah 38:1-8, and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26, the opening verse describes a significant event where in those days (king) Hezekiah fell sick and nearly died. Hezekiah, who was the 13th king of the Kingdom of Judah in the southern region of Israel, was known for his reverence and fear of God. According to 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, Hezekiah was considered an exceptionally righteous king. In fact, 2 Kings 18:5 states that he believes in the LORD God of Israel, and of all the kings of Judah, whether after him or before him, there is none like him. Verse 6 in TLV Bible said For he clung to Adonai. The word clung is an attitude of a fully dependent child to his/her father.
At one point Hezekiah experienced a significant illness, and it was a severe condition indeed. While the Bible mentions that he came close to dying from the illness, it does not explicitly state that his death was inevitable because of it. We are aware of the outcome of this situation from the Bible itself, where Hezekiah was ultimately healed. Additionally, the details of this event are covered in just 10 verses at most, found in the three Bible passages of 2 Kings 20:1-11, Isaiah 38:1-8, and 2 Chronicles 32:24-26. It would take approximately 2-3 minutes, or at most 4 minutes, to read through these 10 verses. Consequently, for us, this is not a matter that should cause undue worry or concern.
When Hezekiah went through the ordeal of his illness, he was unaware of the ultimate outcome that awaited him. In that moment, he must have been filled with confusion and wonder, questioning the reason behind his sudden illness. He might have pondered what he had done wrong and where he had erred. It is evident from 2 Kings 20:3 that Hezekiah believed I have lived before You faithfully and with a sincere heart and that I have done what is good in Your eyes. In similar situations, we often find ourselves reacting in a similar manner. We ask God why we are suffering, questioning if there is anything we have done to displease Him. We cry out, seeking understanding and seeking to align ourselves with His will.
Such reactions are usually born of those who follow God obediently. God indeed wants us to live in obedience, following His commands. But often, this obedience creates a sense of righteousness in us rather than simply obeying Him because of our love for Him. When we fall in love with someone, we will follow whatever that person asks us to do. Likewise with God, when we fell in love with Him for the first time. But over time, our obedience often changes to be a feeling of self-righteousness, to become I am right because I obey Him. Even to the point of I will no longer suffer misfortunes because I have followed what He wants. So when something goes wrong, we react immediately, why Lord? Haven’t I lived before You faithfully with a sincere heart, and haven’t I done all good in Your eyes?
Unbeknownst to us, our obedience can gradually lead us into a state of legalism. This transforms us into individuals who solely adhere to a rigid set of right and wrong rules. We begin to view everything solely from this perspective: if we live according to the rules, we are saved. Consequently, when we encounter misfortune or disaster, our initial reaction is to assume that something must be wrong or lacking in our obedience. This attitude not only inclines us to judge others, but it also places unnecessary burdens upon ourselves. It’s important to recognize that when our obedience reaches this point, it is driven by fear rather than genuine love for God, as it was initially. We have lost our initial fervor and passion, known as our first love.
Indeed, it is important for us to have a reverential fear of God, as it serves as a guide to keep us on the right path. Job 28:28 and Proverbs 8:13, to fear the LORD is to hate evil. However, we must be cautious not to fall into the trap of legalism. When faced with challenging situations, it is crucial to cultivate a heart of mercy and grace towards others instead of reacting judgmentally. This aligns with Jesus’ teaching in Luke 7:47, where he explains that those who have received much forgiveness will show much love, while those who have been forgiven less will display less love. Many individuals in our churches or Christian communities do not come from (bad or evil) backgrounds where they feel they have needed to be forgiven significantly. As a result, those who have experienced extensive forgiveness often face challenges integrating into these communities. Unfortunately, without realizing it, our communities can become more legalistic rather than fostering an environment of grace. Consequently, we struggle to extend love and forgiveness to others. When something goes wrong, discipline is swiftly administered, and individuals may even face expulsion. This often occurs because we have not experienced or embraced the depth of forgiveness that enables us to extend the same grace to others.
In 2 Kings 20:3, it is mentioned that after Hezekiah cried out, he proceeded to weep bitterly. The preceding verse, verse 2, indicates that he did this while turning towards the wall. If you have ever witnessed a child sobbing while facing a wall and perhaps even banging their hands against it, you may have observed that their reasons for crying in such a manner can be as simple as not receiving a desired candy or not getting what they wanted exactly as they wanted it. While not intending to diminish the status of a king, the original translation of verse 3 conveys that Hezekiah wept with a bitter heart. He cried until he sobbed, expressing his deep lamentation and frustration. In a sense, he may have expressed his dissatisfaction or grievances, akin to a whimper.
Take another look at what Hezekiah cried out in 2 Kings 20 verse 3, O LORD, please remember that I have lived faithfully and sincerely before you and that I have done what is good in your eyes. The question posed is this: Is there anything we have done in this world that is so exceptional and praiseworthy to God? Something that would cause Him to rise from His throne, cheering and applauding us? Something so extraordinary that it entitles us to claim a debt from God? We fail to recognize that our very breath of life comes from Him, and even our faith originates from Him in the first place. Why then do we believe that by acting rightly and sincerely, we are obligating Him? Have we forgotten that everything is a result of His grace? If so, why do we cry out like whiny children?
2 Kings 20:4-6 shows a tremendous help and miracle which Hezekiah later experienced. He recovered and his age was added another 15 years. And during those years, a son was born to him. His son was named Manasseh. Was Hezekiah’s prayer in verses 2 and 3 so effective? Being a whiny child will make Him do what we want?
Interestingly, in Jeremiah 15:4, the Word of God speaks to the prophet Jeremiah, stating, I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem. This reveals the intense anger and displeasure of God towards Israel and the Kingdom of Judah, to the extent that He brought destruction upon them and allowed them to be exiled to Babylon for 70 years. So, who was this Manasseh that provoked such wrath from the Lord upon all of Israel? According to 2 Kings 21:1, Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king and he reigned over fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He was Hezekiah’s son, born during the additional fifteen years of life granted to Hezekiah, and succeeded his father as king after Hezekiah’s death, as mentioned in 2 Kings 20:21.
But Manasseh was nothing like Hezekiah. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominable deeds of the nations that the LORD had driven out from before the Israelites. 2 Kings 21:2 and verse 3, and so on, even up to verse 9 tells us how evil this king was to God, he reversed all what Hezekiah had done and was very unfaithful. Even though God’s warning came to him in verses 10 to 15, verse 16 actually shows how he even shed so much more innocent blood. 2 Chronicles 33:6 shows that he sacrificed his own children to the god of Moloch. Did you also know that Manasseh was the one who gave the order to kill the prophet Isaiah by cutting him into 2 halves at his stomach? The prophet whom God used to perform a miracle for his father Hezekiah, extending his life by 15 years so that Manasseh would be born in the 3rd year of this 15-year period?
Did you know that because of Manasseh’s sin in his 55-year reign over the Kingdom of Judah, as God would not punish him directly, had made Israel so stubborn that the result of the ministry of the prophet Jeremiah had no single soul repented and turned to the Lord? No wonder he wrote Lamentations, Jeremiah lamented the stubbornness of Israel and the fate they had to suffer cause of the exile.
If God knew all of this, why did He answer Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 20? Isn’t He All-Knowing and powerful God even to arrange and plan our future? To think about this, if God would not extend Hezekiah’s life by another 15 years, wouldn’t all this have happened?
Look at 2 Kings 20:1 again. It reads like this, in those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went and said to him, Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’
In many different translations of the Bible, 2 Kings 20 is written under the title of The Life of Hezekiah extended. Even the KJV and NKJV also give this title. This title distracts our minds to see what really should happen in verse 1, 2 Kings 20. We only focus on what is happening then in the entire 2 Kings 20 passage.
In those days, Hezekiah unexpectedly fell seriously ill without any apparent reason or cause. The illness progressed to the point where he was on the brink of death. To compound the situation, the prophet Isaiah arrived with a prophecy that added to the severity of the circumstances, give your last message to your family, for you will die, not be healed again. The KJV said, manage your household well, you will die, and you will not live again.
Hezekiah may have initially felt a glimmer of hope when he saw Isaiah enter the King’s Chamber where he lay dying. He likely anticipated that his healing was at hand, believing that God’s servant had come to bring good news. However, to his surprise, the message he received from Isaiah was quite the opposite. Upon delivering the message, Isaiah quickly made his exit from the central court of the Palace. It is understandable that Isaiah would want to leave promptly after delivering such distressing news. Verse 4 indicates that he departed immediately after conveying the message.
Verse 1 reveals that God was orchestrating a better future for the Kingdom of Judah, the southern part of Israel. God, who sees the future and knows what is best, was carefully weaving the lives of the people during that time. However, in order to bring about that future, Hezekiah’s life had to be cut short. Hezekiah became the sacrifice for a future without Manasseh. Despite this, like many of us, Hezekiah was unwilling to accept his fate and desired to be healed. Perhaps God could have revealed the full extent of what would happen if Hezekiah were healed and the consequences that all of Israel would bear as a result. Yet, God chose to remain silent and did not disclose anything to Isaiah to convey to Hezekiah. It is possible that if God had revealed the full truth, even Isaiah would have been hesitant for Hezekiah to be healed, knowing that he would eventually meet his demise under Manasseh’s reign. In this situation, God chose silence and desired for Hezekiah (and Isaiah) to continue trusting in Him and His better ways, as stated in Jeremiah 29:11. He instructed Isaiah to deliver the message to Hezekiah that he would not be healed but would die, allowing him to make the necessary preparations for his family and final moments.
After hearing Isaiah’s message now, the question posed is whether Hezekiah would have been willing to die if he had known that his death would serve his generation and lead to a better future. Would he have allowed the pain permitted by God to consume his life? It is important to recognize that the pressures of life have a way of revealing our true selves. In this situation, God’s silence not only required Hezekiah to maintain faith for the future but also exposed his genuine heart before himself. It is not that God was unaware of Hezekiah’s heart beforehand, but He used the threat of death to bring about a sincere change and repentance within him. However, it is worth noting that even when faced with the truth about ourselves, many of us still resist change and cling to justifications for our actions. Hezekiah, too, may have been inclined to find ways to justify himself rather than fully embracing transformation. This highlights the deceitful nature of our hearts.
The answer can be found in verse 19 of 2 Kings 20, as long as there are peace and security for the rest of my life! Unbeknownst to us, many of us might love and serve God for our own personal benefits ONLY. We may do everything with what we perceive as a sincere heart, but ultimately it is only for our own sake, seeking peace and security in our lives. Yes, this might be not a wrong thing, but if we are not willing to sacrifice for the better future God had planned for our next generation or even for the whole nation, that reason and motive are very wrong thing. Take notice of what Caiaphas, said in the Gospel of John, 11:49-50, You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish. 51-52 said he did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Our own hearts can easily deceive us (Jeremiah 17:9), even when we believe we are acting correctly, appropriately, and sincerely. It is only through the pressures of life that our treacherous hearts are revealed. While it is not wrong to seek blessings, healing, and miracles, if these things become our ultimate goals rather than God’s will and plan, particularly for the establishment of His kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, then they become err and sinful things before Him. They become a misguided cause, placing ourselves above God in the end.
This sin of Hezekiah becomes evident in the life of his son Manasseh, the next generation. Hezekiah’s sin came from a wrong cause of a heart, a wrong motive, an evil heart that only loved himself. All the spiritual, good, and rightful things he did was only for his own benefit. To be healthy, to be blessed, and to live long, even if others had to be sacrificed, all the generations of Israel that followed don’t matter. As a matter of fact, all of this should only be a reward for our good and righteous deeds. Not the goal or a purpose. We do right and good for God to be glorified because we love Him and His truth. If we then become healed, healthy, blessed, and have a long life, praise God. This is the reward of it, not the goal or the purpose. Because if we don’t get well, don’t get healthy, don’t get blessed, and don’t get to live long, even though we have done all that, please know that God is working in mysterious ways. He must have had a very good reason to allow those things to us. We must keep trusting in Him completely, we must keep doing the good and the right things for His Glory. We must continue to be joyful, never stop giving thanks, and never stop worshiping God. Isn’t God all we want in the end? If it is just like in the case of Hezekiah, God is preparing our future through our illness and death, will we still serve His will faithfully? When the Lord Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, full of tears and His drops of sweat became like blood, Luke 22:44, He still closed His prayer with these words it is not My will, but Your will. Luke 22:42. Imagine what if Jesus’ heart was like Hezekiah? What if he saved himself? He prayed with a bitter heart and whined for the Cross to be removed. We will never enjoy the forgiveness and redemption we have gotten from The Cross. We would be lost forever. But Jesus sought God’s will over his own, and because of His sacrifice we can have a relationship with the Almighty! Jesus knew God had a better plan and it required him to die so that we might live! Through the pain, suffering, and death of the Lord Jesus on the Cross, a future is created for us. A future of hope, Jeremiah 29:11.
Hezekiah’s pain in 2 Kings 20 actually showed his true heart. When he was under stress, the pain of dying, who he was really became real. Yes, God allowed him to be sick (and should have died in verse 1) so that he could serve his later generations and create a better future. But then his reaction showed that his real heart was not as sincere as he thought. Later he was so fascinated by his miracle of healing, he then flaunted his wealth to the Babylonians who in the future would be the enemy who seized everything. He was not in awe of God, but only of the miracle He did. Yes, he was so in awe only to himself who had become great, rich, healed, and had a long life, all because he himself had acted obediently and truthfully and now was rewarded and glorified by God. 2 Kings 20:12-19. His awe showed that he didn’t return the glory back to the Lord, but took it all for himself as he thought this is all because of him. I deserved it and the Lord owns it to me!
If we can’t give in to His will and plans, all of our worship of God is fake. At the end of the day, we are worshipping only ourselves. And the miracles we receive would only feed our egos into bigger ones.
Every one of us who really serves God like Hezekiah before he was sick will be tested by God with all kinds we normally would never think of before. God who knows our hearts, really knows what is in them. He tests us not to bring us down, not to destroy us. But to bring us back to Him and be purified in His furnace, to be holy like Him, the Holy God. Job was tested, Abraham was tested, and everyone was tested. If only Hezekiah had not wept and whined in such a manner, but with the humility and sincerity as mentioned about him, imagine what would happen in the next generation of Israelites’ lives.
The pain and near-death experience of Hezekiah revealed all of this. Prayer should not change God’s heart, even persistent prayer, a kind of “not giving up prayer”, is not a way to persuade God to change His will. Prayer should change our hearts. Because God’s presence that comes down in prayer should make us realize who God is for us and who we are for God, who should be in power! Is it Him or me? If only we would give up in prayer as Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22), like the prayer He taught us by Himself (Luke 11: 2), let His will be done and His Kingdom come. When our prayers are answered no, we should still be able to rejoice and be grateful because we know God has a better way and plan. A no answer to our prayer guarantees that God has a plan and will that is running now, not ours.
His goodness is our good, what we think is good will never be as good as what is best He provides for us. Let us continue to believe in God and submit to His will every day because He always wants the best to happen for us.
Great insight to a simple “No”.
Well thought out and presented. Appreciate how your drew everything together and then made application to our lives today!