Nov 22 2020 - Hezekiah - Grace Triumphs - We're All Overpaid for What we Deserve
22nd November 2020
2 Kings 20 1 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'" 2 Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
If we were to jump to 2 Chronicles, there is commentary that is not found here. The sickness has come upon Hezekiah because he has become boastful and filled with pride. Then, he humbles himself, and this prayer is viewed in Chronicles that God responds with grace and heals Hezekiah. When we read it here, it sounds like so many of the Psalms of Lament. There are so many that have this same attitude, but it could also sound a bit boastful – like, “God, I’ve been doing everything you’ve told me to do (I’m sure we’ve all said this at some point) – what is going on with my life? Something is wrong”
What we see with Hezekiah, the things he was praying were things that God already said about him. He was faithful, followed God fully – and was praying this back to God – it talks about how he was just like David – but we know, with David, we could see many failures and the same is true with Hezekiah, but Kings doesn’t tell us about the failures, but the very same things are true. So as he is praying these things – well, the best I could say is, I’ve tried! And sometimes, I’ve failed. And sometimes, I’ve not tried near as hard as I ought to have tried. Our failures do not make this statement about us – as people who have followed God fully – untrue! Because this is God’s true view of us as He looks at us – we have followed Him fully even though we have so many failures.
God knows our hearts – and even though there are times where we don’t keep with that heart, because He is inside us, He chooses to focus on our hearts – that our desire is to be faithful to Him.
This is a healing story – and very similar to the Naaman story – but it is, much more, a story about grace.
4 Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 "Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD
I have heard – I have seen – I will hear you – God is aware of our pain and it moves His heart to show compassion and mercy.
. 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; and I will defend this city
I will – I will – 6 times – then He says this
for My own sake and for My servant David's sake."'"
This is not about Hezekiah’s goodness – or because he has ‘followed fully’. This is not a selfish impulse of God, but because of WHO He is – because of His love and promise to Israel – not because you deserve it or have earned it, but because I want to show My favor and love.
Dallas Willard – There is a difference between effort and earning. We must exhibit effort, but it will never earn God’s favor or blessing. His favor and blessing are always and only given by grace, compassion and mercy.
7 Then Isaiah said, "Take a cake of figs." And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered. 8 Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?" 9 Isaiah said, "This shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?"
10 So Hezekiah answered, "It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps." 11 Isaiah the prophet cried to the LORD, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
So – Hezekiah is healed by God’s grace – this is a grace story.
When we see this – those who are sceptics – How could this happen? It couldn’t spin backwards – there are no explanations though – God just moves the shadow, however He wished to move the shadow. Everything else is wholly irrelevant!
This is another familiar story of grace:
Matthew 20: 1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 "About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.
This story is odd, according to our thinking – and wholly unrealistic. What happens in this story would never happen in our world. This is a grace story and a gospel story. We take this story and say no one would ever do this, so we focus on it being a gospel story and how it is all God and we didn’t deserve any of it – and it is all true – but if this is a gospel story only, this story loses its weight and power and its disruptive nature.
So what we need to do – go back into the story – and look at it the way the followers would have heard it – and it disrupts our thinking about God!
We try to put ourselves into the story – listening to Jesus as a Jew in the first century – so we’ll try to read it somewhat disruptively!
This guy owns a large vineyard, based on how long it takes to harvest – and he would probably have been a man of power.
At the end of my freshman year of college, several of us spent a summer in East Lansing – so we went to Manpower – a temp agency – and we went there every morning and you would wait to see if you got hired out. This is kind of what is going on here.
He paid them a denarius for the day – denarius was a ‘day’s wage’ – so a day worker, getting paid a denarius 6 days/week – that would be enough to take care of a family.
4 He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went. "He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing.
I will pay you whatever is right. Righteous – Just. That will be critical in understanding this as a grace story…
" 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 7 " 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'
For years, I had an assumption about what was going on here – I thought that the landowner kept going back because the work wasn’t’ getting done. This is a misguided assumption – and it takes away the shock of what is going on here.
If we were Jesus’ followers, we would think this landowner is a knucklehead! You would think he would know EXACTLY how many people he would need!
Larry works for UPS – and we all know what they do this time of year! They hire temporary workers – thousands of them. This would be like UPS waking up on Christmas Eve and realizing they needed a lot more temp workers.
8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his supervisor,
FULL STOP – where did this guy come from? He just sort of shows up on the scene. It would not be the owner’s responsibility to hire people – the owner of UPS doesn’t personally go out and hire people for the Christmas rush!
'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
This went against everything – it would have been an offense – to pay the last ones first! It goes against all protocols.
9 "The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius
Wow – they only worked one or two hours! Then the same thing happens.
We would focus on Equal pay for equal work. He had said – I will pay you what is right. This story is not focused on those who were underpaid – the focus is on those who are OVERpaid – and that is what makes it disruptive.
10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more.
The landowner represents God. Those hired first were the Pharisees and the Jewish people who faithfully tried to follow God’s Law – and felt as if God would accept them and honor them because of it – and those who come later on are the people who are following Jesus, the sinners, tax-collectors, and Gentiles.
The Pharisees get paid last – and expected to get more than the ones who arrived last - and grumble against the landowner -
But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
Now we don’t have an exact parallel to this in our world –
You are either an autoworker, a teacher, or a brain surgeon. You have been doing it for 25-30 years – you are at the top of your field – and you have climbed the ladder – and the business owner pays those right out of school the same thing you are making after 30 years.
You would cry ‘unfair’!
13 "But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you.
This would take us back to the first section – Go and work and I will pay you what is just and right.
This parable tells us that God has a different concept of justice and rightness than humans have. We cry unfair – and God says, no, you’ve missed what JUSTICE and RIGHTEOUSNESS are!
This is a kingdom story – and it tells us – no one in God’s kingdom is underpaid – we are all overpaid – we have earned none of what God has graciously given to us. And that makes it a grace story. We are unable to tolerate or accept grace – Philip Yancey – we hate grace. Of course that changes when the spirit of God comes inside of us.
We don’t want people to get more than they deserve especially when we think we are getting less than what we deserve.
Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Kenneth Bailey (one of the foremost experts on the Palestinian culture in the first century): “The complainers represent those who not only obey the will of God”
(and of course, God wants us to obey Him – and the next line is the problem)
“but who also seek to dictate God’s will as regards others.”
The Pharisees did both – and they were telling God how He should act and work -and were defining to God what Justice and Righteousness are – “You get what you deserve” that is justice! But in God’s definition of justice and righteousness – those words are intimately connected with grace and mercy. There is no justice if it is not controlled by mercy and grace.
MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUSTICE
Justice/righteousness must be controlled by mercy and grace for it to be God’s justice and righteousness.
The landowner is an example of true righteousness – he represents God – and he keeps going back to hire – because like God, he wants to offer his justice for all. He did it for you! We never earn it – we never deserve it – it is always given freely.
We can get to a point in our Christian lives where we despise grace again.
I want to close with this – Ask yourself, “In what ways might you despise grace today?” When God is gracious to what kind of people do you despise grace?
Lord, we thank You – and we need Your grace – I pray this story would just wake us up and open our eyes to how much You’ve done for us. And that Lord, it is all You. Even though Hezekiah gave his life to You and tried to follow You fully – he did none of that except by grace – and it is the same for us – we will do none, without your grace, mercy , compassion and love, given through Jesus on the Cross – and you see Jesus in us – so with boldness we come before Your throne that we might receive your grace and mercy – and may we be an example of that in your world today.
Have a happy Thanksgiving – I encourage you to be thankful for what God has done for you -not just the stuff He has given.