Having read Isaiah 38 this morning, I set out on a tricky quest in a small town – not only to find an impressive set of stairs, but one with a cast shadow. The courthouse, being one of the few stately buildings, provided the staircase. The evening sun did the rest
Why the quest? In this chapter (and the parallel chapter in 2 Kings 20), King Hezekiah is struck with a terminal illness. He turns to God and pleads for deliverance. The Lord hears his prayer and agrees to heal him, extending his life for 15 years. But God promises more: to save the city from the invading Assyrians.
The king requests a sign to ensure this will happen. God asks a question in return. “Shall the shadow (on the stairway of Ahaz) go forward or back ten steps?” (1 Kings 20:9) In essence: Ask me to do the impossible!
Hezekiah – being no dummy – asks for, and gets, the impossible sign.
This is the point of the shadow. Nothing bars our sovereign God. Not the king’s illness. Not the invading armies. Not even the laws of nature.
When Hezekiah is healed, he bursts forth in a psalm of praise. And in the midst of the song, he celebrates yet another impossibility – perhaps the greatest of them all.
You restored me to health
and let me live.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back. (Isaiah 38:16b-17)
The literal reading of the Hebrew is even more descriptive:
You have loved my soul out of the pit
You have hurled my sins behind your back.
We face some daunting shadows right now. The global pandemic. The fracturing of society. The flourishing of selfishness. The earthly marginalization of the Kingdom.
Those shadows are meant to drive us, humbly, to seek God’s favor and help. But in doing so, let us remember, like Hezekiah, that the true miracle is that the Lord has opened the door barred by our sin. In the court of heaven, Jesus’s atonement has declared us not guilty.
In the words of Paul, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32)
Pushing back the shadow is only God's opening act.
Heavenly Father, you have loved our souls out of the pit of our own making. We trust you to miraculously work in the midst of all the shadows we face, even if that miracle is simply to move our hearts to seek you.
Reader: How have you seen God miraculously move a shadow in your life?