"For dead men cannot praise you. They cannot be filled with hope and joy. The living, only the living, can praise you as I do today. One generation makes known your faithfulness to the next" (Isaiah 38:18, 19, LB).
Your doctor tells you, "Put your house in order; you're going to die." Then someone says, "Hold it! You've got fifteen years to go!" How would you feel? Elated! Joyful! Thrilled beyond words! Suddenly your life would take on new meaning. What you thought was important pales in comparison because you were alerted for the knock of the grim reaper, and suddenly the darkness gives way to the dawn of hope. Fifteen years is a long time.
One of the ways that God's Word is timeless is the way it chronicles the very emotions and experiences of life which confront us today. Some 2,700 years ago, a man became ill. His life, though, wasn't exactly that of a common laborer. He was king, but when death stares you in the face, it doesn't matter whether you are wealthy or poverty stricken. The hospital gown, which barely is broad enough to cover your backside, fits the wealthy and powerful just the same as those on welfare.
Here's how Isaiah put it: "In 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 recover.’" At that point, it seemed that it was all over. But Hezekiah did what you would probably do. He turned his face to the wall and prayed. Hezekiah wept bitterly. Scalding tears that fall on satin pillowcases are just as bitter and salty as those that are wiped by a dirty hand with grease beneath the fingernails.
He pointed out that he had faithfully served God and with "wholehearted devotion" had walked before the Lord. Then, Isaiah recorded one sentence that gives me great hope and confidence. God said, "I have heard your prayers and seen your tears." At times, you think you are all alone, that nobody cares, that God is so far away He doesn't notice. But He does. He knows your heart, and he also knows your motives. He sees your tears.
God gave Hezekiah another 15 years, and the sign of that was that the shadow cast by the sun would go back ten steps on the stairway of Ahaz. Knowing that he had a reprieve from his appointment with death, Hezekiah made some vows.
First, he vowed to walk humbly before God--something which is not too difficult to do when you have been to the edge.
Then he also vowed to focus on praise and thanksgiving. He said, "For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living--they praise you, as I am doing today; fathers tell their children about your faithfulness" (Isaiah 38:18, 19).
He also intended to spend the rest of his life glorifying God.
But–and this is where intentions began to fade–when the crisis passed and life assumed a normal pattern of things, what he intended to do was soon forgotten. God kept His end of the bargain and the king lived for 15 years, but, according to Isaiah, pride in his accomplishments soon pushed aside the vow of humility and the desire to let God have the praise and glory for what He had done.
How much time do you have? Only today is the correct answer. Who knows what tomorrow may hold? Don't wait until a doctor quietly suggests that you put your financial house in order because there is no hope for you before you decide what is important, how you want to live, and how to make peace with God. Today is the day to put your house in order. It's the only day that is really yours.