the Rev. Lee Woofenden
Massachusetts, February 4, 2001
20:1-7 Hezekiah's Illness
those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of
death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and
said, "This is what the Lord says: Put your house
in order, because you are going to die; you will not
turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,
"Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you
faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done
what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept
Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord
came to him: "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader
of my people, 'This is what the Lord, the God of your
father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen
your tears; indeed, I will heal you. On the third day
from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I
will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver
you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria.
I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of
my servant David.'"
Isaiah said, "Prepare a poultice of figs."
They did so and applied it to the boil, and he
Mark 5:22-24, 35-43 Jesus raises the daughter of
of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came, and seeing
Jesus, fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him,
"My little daughter is dying. Please come and put
your hands on her so that she will be healed and
live." So Jesus went with him. . . .
they were on their way,] some men came from the house of
Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is
dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any
what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler,
"Don't be afraid; just believe." He did not
let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John the
brother of James. When they came to the home of the
synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people
crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them,
"Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is
not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.
he put them all out, he took the child's father and
mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in
where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to
her, "Talitha koumi!" (which means,
"Little girl, I say to you, get up!").
Immediately the girl stood up and walked around. (She
was twelve years old). At this they were completely
astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know
about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Arcana Coelestia #6502 Spiritual sickness
the spiritual world, "sicknesses" are evils
and falsities. Spiritual diseases are nothing else, for
evils and falsities rob our inner self of good health;
they introduce mental disorders and at length states of
depression. This, and nothing else, is what the Bible
means when it mentions sickness.
Arcana Coelestia #7337.2 The Lord heals us
the miracles that the Lord performed when he was in the
world were symbolic of the future state of the church.
For example, opening the eyes of the blind and the ears
of the deaf, loosing the tongues of the mute, enabling
the lame to walk, and making the maimed and leprous
whole meant that the kind of people symbolized by the
blind, deaf, mute, lame, maimed, and leprous would
receive the Gospel and be restored to spiritual health.
This would be accomplished by the Lord's coming into the
is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I
have heard your prayer and seen your tears; indeed, I
will heal you. (2 Kings 20:5)
of the things we used to debate in Seminary was whether
God knew the future, and if so, whether it was just a
general knowledge of the possibilities for the future or
a detailed knowledge that extended to every single thing
in the future. I always took the part of God having a
full and detailed knowledge of the future--arguing that
to God there was no such thing as past or future, since
for God, everything is encompassed in the eternal now.
don't know if that rather grand and theoretical argument
convinced anyone on the other side of the fence. But
this week I had a much more practical demonstration that
God does, indeed, know the future. As our Sunday School
teachers know, I set up this year's schedule of Bible
lessons back in September, using Anita Dole's Bible
Study Notes, Series 2. Most Sundays, I've been using
the same story as the basis for my sermons, so that the
service and Sunday School classes will be built around a
as all of you know by now, this week, after months of
struggling with repeated episodes of sometimes
life-threatening congestive heart failure, Ruth Lemeé
had an operation on her heart to repair a leaking valve
that was contributing to her condition.
my amazement, then, when at the beginning of the week I
looked at the Bible lesson for this Sunday and
discovered that it was the story of King Hezekiah's
illness! I certainly didn't know at the beginning
of the year that in this small congregation, we would
have someone in the hospital struggling with a
life-threatening illness this week. So I conclude that
someone higher up did know this, and planned in
advance for us to have the most appropriate Bible
reading just when we needed it!
the story, King Hezekiah had a life-threatening illness.
And the message came to him, through the prophet Isaiah,
that he should put his affairs in order, because his
life was at its end. Now, Hezekiah was one of the best
kings of Israel, especially when it came to following
the Lord. A couple of chapters earlier we are told:
trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no
one like him among all the kings of Judah, either
before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and
did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the
Lord had given Moses. (2 Kings 18:5, 6)
those days, when someone was struck with an illness, it
was considered a message--or a punishment--from God. So
it came as an especially painful blow to Hezekiah when
the prophet of the Lord told him that he was going to
die. "Remember, O Lord," he prayed, "how
I have walked before you faithfully and with
wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your
eyes." And he wept bitterly.
if Hezekiah had reacted differently to his illness, God
would have allowed him to die. If he had become angry
and railed at God or had quietly resigned himself to his
fate, perhaps the first message of the prophet would
have come true, and his illness would have proved fatal.
But Hezekiah was not only a righteous king; he was a
tenacious one. Even in the face of death, he was willing
to bring his plight to God in prayer, pleading his case,
but still with the humble recognition that it was God's
will, not his own, that would prevail.
heard his prayers, and saw his tears. And though God's
will does not change, the change that took place in
Hezekiah through his prayer and his tears made it
possible for God to express his true will, which is
always for our healing and for our good. Before the
prophet Isaiah had even left the grounds of the palace,
the word of the Lord came to him again:
back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people,
"This is what the Lord, the God of your father
David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your
tears; indeed, I will heal you. On the third day from
now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will
add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you
and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I
will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of
my servant David."
Hezekiah had showed himself to be a king who would
submit himself to the will of the Lord and turn to the
Lord for help when he was in need, God not only healed
him and gave him fifteen more years to live, but also
promised to deliver him and his capital city of
Jerusalem from Assyria.
that time, Assyria was one of the great empires of the
ancient world. The Assyrians had already taken the
northern kingdom of Israel captive. This happened in the
fourth year of Hezekiah's reign over the southern
kingdom of Judah, and it would have been fresh in
Hezekiah's mind. Now the Assyrians were threatening the
southern kingdom as well.
Lord kept his promise, and Assyria never did conquer the
southern kingdom of Judah--though Judah was eventually
carried captive by Babylon. The Jews who returned from
the Babylonian captivity were the ancestors of the
Jewish nation at the time of Christ.
of course, the Lord also kept his promise to heal
Hezekiah and give him fifteen more years to live and to
reign in Judah.
days, most people no longer think of sickness and death
as punishments from God. It is true that if we live in
careless and unhealthful ways, we can and will bring
sickness upon ourselves. And it is also well-known that
if we engage in excessive negative thinking, dwelling on
dark and harmful thoughts, our minds and spirits can
bring malaise upon our bodies. In today's scientific
language, this is called "psychosomatic
illness." From a spiritual perspective, it is a
demonstration of the power of spirit over matter.
sometimes we become sick due to factors beyond our
control, or due to things that we simply did not know
about. It would be cruel and heartless to accuse every
person who is ill of having sinned against God. The
story of Hezekiah, the righteous king who fell ill,
should be enough to assure us that this is a mistaken
approach to illness. Instead, we are told in the
Bible--especially in the Gospels--to visit those who are
sick and dying, bringing them comfort by showing them
our love and concern for them.
of whether it is due to our own folly or due to factors
beyond our control, being sick is a joyless, painful
affair. And especially when our sickness is
life-threatening, it often causes us--and those who love
us--to consider the deeper, eternal issues of life. I do
not believe it is ever God's will that we should suffer.
But I do believe that God allows us to endure these
temporary sufferings while we are here on earth as a way
to break us out of our tendency to focus on material
things and on ourselves, and turn our minds and hearts
toward God and spirit.
our times of distress, if we, like Hezekiah, turn to
God, pray to God, ask for help, and try to discern the
deeper purposes that God has for our lives, then whether
or not we are physically healed of the illness that we
are suffering with, there will be a deeper healing in
our spirits. Sometimes we may get impatient with God if
we do not receive the physical healing we wish and pray
for. And yet, as difficult as our physical ailments can
be, how important are a few days, or months, or years of
struggle and pain on earth if through them, we are
blessed with a deep, inner health, strength, and joy
that will last forever?
believe God does want us to be physically healthy and
live vigorously while we are here on earth. The divine
ideal is to have a sound mind in a sound body. And yet,
if we had to choose between our physical health and our
spiritual health, it would be foolish to throw away what
is eternal in exchange for temporary comfort in this
world. This, I believe, is why God allows illness at
all: because sometimes it is the only way we will learn
to fully trust in God, gaining the deep lessons of
patience and compassion for our fellow human beings.
Sickness and death are difficult teachers, but their
lessons run deep.
we look at our struggles with sickness and various
handicaps in this light, even though it may not take
away our physical pain and struggle, it does lead us to
a deeper kind of healing. What God especially desires is
that we should be healed spiritually. In fact,
the Christian word "salvation" comes from a
Latin word that not only means to be saved, but to be
healthy--in this case, spiritually healthy. And whether
or not God gives us the physical healing we pray for, we
will always be healed spiritually if we turn to God in
prayer, asking for the presence of God's love and wisdom
in our lives, and showing to one another the same love
and compassion that Jesus showed to those who were sick
the diseases we suffer with come from the mistaken ideas
we have adopted along the way, and especially from the
harmful and destructive feelings that have taken up
residence in our hearts. These are the causes of our inner
sicknesses. Whether or not we intentionally engage in
faulty ways of thinking and feeling, as long as these
things dwell within us, we will always be spiritually
sick. Far more than physical sickness, these are the
things that throw our minds into disorder and confusion,
and drag us down into depression and despair. These are
the deeper sicknesses that no physician can heal,
because their causes are spiritual, not material.
we are facing a spiritual disease--a sickness within our
soul--there is only one true Physician, and that is the
Lord. While Jesus lived on earth, even the physical
healing that he did was intended primarily to draw
people upwards to spiritual health--to salvation. He did
not simply heal people's bodies; through his healing he
strengthened their faith, gave them deeper hope, and
drew them toward himself--toward the presence of God on
Jesus opened the eyes of the blind and the ears of the
deaf, loosed the tongues of the mute, enabled the lame
to walk, made the maimed and leprous whole, and even
raised the dead back to life, these were outward signs
and manifestations of the deeper power of the Lord to
heal all of our deeper diseases.
there times when we are blind to the needs of others,
not listening to all the signs that something is wrong
in our lives? Our eyes can be opened and our ears
unstopped if we will turn to the Lord and seek the
understanding and insight that helps us to look beyond
our own concerns and consider the feelings and the needs
of those around us.
there times when we seem unable to voice our true
thoughts and feelings, or powerless to move forward and
take the next steps in our lives? We can find our voice
if we draw strength from the Lord's truth that burns
within us, longing to be expressed openly and clearly.
We can gain the strength to move forward if we turn to
the Lord in prayer, asking for help in overcoming our
inability to break out of the rut that we are in.
we crippled and leprous in our hearts, feeling like only
partial human beings--like people that no one would want
to come near if they knew what was inside of us? The
power of the Lord's love can make us whole again. The
Lord can show us the angel that we were created to be,
and enable us to exchange our old, lame, and withered
inner life for a new angel-being that is God's will for
we feel that we have died inside--that there is nothing
left, and we might as well give up all hope and live in
our own personal hell? The Lord has power over our
emotional and spiritual death. The Lord can raise us up
to new life if we will only believe that it can happen
to us, and ask in prayer--even the prayer of bitterness
and weeping--for the touch of God's healing hands upon
our souls. Amen.