Isaiah 38:4
In the providential ordering and in the human direction of this our mortal life, we see -

I. THE KINDNESS OF GOD.

1. The strong links by which God has connected us together. "The God of David thy father;" for David's sake, in part, he would render deliverance. Human life is so ordered that we are all of us immeasurably the better for the piety, the virtue, the patient and faithful labours of those who came before us.

2. His sensitiveness to our suffering. "I have seen thy tears." "Like as a father pitieth his children," etc.; "When he saw the multitude, he was moved with compassion."

3. His attention to our appeal. "I have heard thy prayer." God's ear is open, not only to the prayers of "the great congregation," but to the faintest breath of one believing soul; though he may sometimes seem to be deaf, yet is he always "inclining his ear" unto us.

4. His multiplication of our days. "I will add unto thy days." With the morning light, as it continually returns, we should say, "This is the day which the Lord hath made," etc.; it is a new gift from his gracious hand. We take it too much for granted, as if he were under some obligation to add it to those he has given us before. But it is all "of grace " - so much more than we deserve or have any right to expect at his hand. To the

"Lord of our time, whose hand has set
New time upon our score," we should render heartfelt praise for his daily gift.

5. His compounding our cup of hope and of uncertainty. God told Hezekiah he would add to his "days fifteen years." Is it not a yet kinder act of our Father that he holds out to us the hope of future years, without letting us know how far he will fulfil our wishes! Without the hope, we should lose all the inspiration which urges us to fruitful action; without the uncertainty, we should presume on the continuance of our life, and be bereft of one of the mast potent checks on folly and on sin. A strong hope, with an element of uncertainty, is the most favourable condition for the cultivation of wisdom and virtue.

II. THE WISDOM OF MAN. Our wisdom, under those conditions in which we find ourselves, is:

1. To prepare for length of days. By patient diligence, by prudent forethought, to be ready for long life, in case God should give us that blessing.

2. To prepare for sudden death and the long future. By faith in Jesus Christ and by fidelity in the "few things" of time, to be ready at any hour to stand at the judgment-seat, to pass to the "many things" of eternity. - C.







I have heard thy prayer.
? — Most of us who have had some experience of life, have seen instances in which a man who has set his heart too fondly upon one object, has gained that object, and with it (to use the language of St. Paul to his shipmates) "much harm and loss." He has won the position which he coveted; but perhaps he finds himself saddled with the burden of a crushing responsibility; or perhaps his health — the one condition of enjoyment — breaks up just as he grasps the prize; or perhaps he is snatched away by death, "while the meat is yet in his mouth"; and those who knew him are unpleasantly reminded of the end of Israel's lusting in the wilderness, "He gave them their desire, and sent leanness withal into their soul." And thinking men say, when they hear of this result, "Strong wishes for earthly blessings are to be avoided." The Book of God, as being the book of Truth, gives an exact echo of human experience in this matter. God acceded to Hezekiah's request, and added fifteen years to his life. But now comes the grave question, Did the fifteen years thus added prove, in the issue, a blessing to Hezekiah personally, or to the nation over which he so worthily presided? The sacred narrative gives an emphatic negative to both branches of the question.

1. Hezekiah, when God had originally proposed to take him to Himself, and had sent Isaiah with the message, "Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live," was at the zenith of his spiritual prosperity. And now Hezekiah was to be gathered to his fathers, full, if not of years, yet of honours, spiritual and temporal. But by his prayers and his tears he succeeded in prolonging his span; and the first result of this, which the history brings before us, points to a spiritual decline in Hezekiah (chap. 39.). The sweet ointment of Hezekiah's graces was flawed and corrupted by the dead fly of vanity. Had Hezekiah died when God proposed to take him, he would have died humble; as it is, he dies after being humbled by God; and all those who read the narrative thoughtfully will surely say, "Better far he had died at first."

2. But more than personal interests are at stake in the life of princes; and we are led to inquire what, as far as it is given us to know them, may have been the effects upon the Jewish nation of the addition of fifteen years to Hezekiah's life? The answer is conveyed in these words: "Manasseh (Hezekiah's son, who succeeded to the throne) was twelve years old when he began to reign;" so that if Hezekiah had died when God intended he should, Manasseh would never have existed. Now who was Manasseh? and what part did he play in Jewish history? Manasseh, by his extraordinary wickedness, surpassing that of all who had gone before him, involved the nation which he governed in ruin. Manasseh's crimes cried to heaven for vengeance, and were heard, long after Manasseh s body had mingled with the dust, and long after Manasseh's soul had become, through Divine grace, profoundly penitent. For when the author of the Books of Kings traces up the captivity to its originating cause, thus he writes: "Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sine of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed (for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood), which the Lord would not pardon." Possibly, then, if Manasseh had not existed, the great national de. gradation of the Jews by the captivity, and the demolition of the city and temple, would never have taken place.

(Dean Goulburn.)

Besides its other important lessons, this history teaches the propriety of admitting the minister of God into the chamber of sickness. His soothing words and the prayer of faith, always secure to the sufferer some blessing, which he could little afford to lose. No intelligent, right-minded medical man will bar the door of the sickroom against the physician of the soul.

(J. N. Norton.)

He had an interview with the Giver of life.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

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