Since waking and finding the sun burning through fog, I have been driving the back roads near my small town to capture the effect. This field is a visual delight, with the rolling hills, the slanting path, mist nestled in a distant dale and the light streaming through the trees.
It’s a beautiful, expansive vista to start the day with.
It’s also a good visual for how Hezekiah must have felt after being healed by God in Isaiah 38. We touched on his song of praise last time, how he recognizes the privilege of the living to praise God and teach future generations about his faithfulness. He envisions spending the rest of his days worshipping God in the temple.
Literally, he had a new lease on life. His view was expansive.
But that’s not how it played out. In the next chapter, emissaries journey all the way from Babylon to see him (and presumably form an alliance), and the king foolishly, boastingly, shows them all the treasures in his storehouse. When Isaiah confronts the king, he informs Hezekiah that this reckless act is the beginning of the end for him. All these riches – indeed, nearly all people, as well -- will be taken away into captivity.
His kingdom will be left desolate, like the abandoned farm just up the road from my first stop.
Why was the king so clueless? God had “loved (his) soul out of the pit.” (39:17). How could he so quickly stumble into error?
He misunderstood his freedom.
It happens all the time: vows uttered in desperate prayers are often forgotten when God resolves the crisis. There is a sense of release following a brush with catastrophe. It’s like coming out of dire straits into a wide-open field.
Hezekiah ignored the path in the field.
Paul explains this tendency succinctly:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Gal. 5:13)
We Americans particularly struggle with this. Take the current turmoil over wearing masks. Yes, we are free to do what we want (with obvious caveats). But Paul would ask, “How can you best serve others in love?” Defiantly exercising one’s freedom at the cost public safety is not loving others.
God willing, this crisis will pass. Now is a good time to practice using our freedom to walk the path of love.
Father, forgive us for when we, like Hezekiah, feel free to act out of self-interest. Your Son leads us on the path of loving self-denial. Give us a renewed zeal to follow him.
Reader: How have you seen other Christians serving humbly in love in the midst of this pandemic?