Monday, February 1, 2010

Why Does God Allow People To Die Prematurely, Even When We Pray For Them?

Hezekiah was a good king, who followed God. Yet God allowed him to be overcome by an illness, so that he would die, when he was still fairly young. Why would such a thing happen to a good king, and prematurely at that? The example of Hezekiah enables us to see what can occur in certain instances, if God were to extend people's lives, and heal them of illness:

Hezekiah's Illness

2Ki 20:1-6 NIV

(1) 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."
(2) Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD,
(3) "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 bitterly.
(4) Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him:
(5) "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; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD.
(6) 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.'"

What happened because God allowed Hezekiah to live for 15 more years?

1) He brought about the loss of Israel's treasures, and captivity upon his own family:

2Ki 20:12-18 NIV
(12) At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah's illness.
(13) Hezekiah received the messengers and showed them all that was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine oil—his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
(14) Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, "What did those men say, and where did they come from?" "From a distant land," Hezekiah replied. "They came from Babylon."
(15) The prophet asked, "What did they see in your palace?" "They saw everything in my palace," Hezekiah said. "There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them."
(16) Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD:
(17) The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD.
(18) And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."

2) He fathered an evil king who led the entire nation into idolatry and captivity:

2Ki 20:21 NIV
(21)  Hezekiah rested with his fathers. And Manasseh his son succeeded him as king.

2Ki 21:1-12 NIV
(1) Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother's name was Hephzibah.
(2) He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, following the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.
(3) He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them.
(4) He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, "In Jerusalem I will put my Name."
(5) In both courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts.
(6) He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.
(7) He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the LORD had said to David and to his son Solomon, "In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever.
(8) I will not again make the feet of the Israelites wander from the land I gave their forefathers, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them and will keep the whole Law that my servant Moses gave them."
(9) But the people did not listen. Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites.
(10) The LORD said through his servants the prophets:
(11) "Manasseh king of Judah has committed these detestable sins. He has done more evil than the Amorites who preceded him and has led Judah into sin with his idols.
(12) Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.

Thus, answering Hezekiah's prayer, healing him of his illness, and extending his life by 15 years, resulted in great harm coming upon his own family, God's people, and their testimony.

Many times it is God's will to heal people of their illness, and we rejoice and thank God for this.  Yet sometimes, God knows better than we do, and he answers prayer according His wisdom rather than our desires, to work a greater good for his people.

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