A. God restores health.
2 Kings 20:1-4 records the fact that King Hezekiah was sick and near death. At the time, this was his mountain to climb. Therefore, Isaiah came to him and said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live’” (2 Kg 20:1). As a result of this pronouncement by Isaiah, Hezekiah “turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord” (2 Kg 20:2).
The pronouncement of Isaiah was that Hezekiah would actually die in the near future. The message was from God, and thus, we would conclude that his death would certainly occur. However, Hezekiah prayed that he would not die. After Hezekiah’s prayer, a second proclamation came from God. God said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father; ‘I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you’” (2 Kg 20:5).
God worked in the physically sick body of Hezekiah in order to restore it to health. We do not know how God did this. We simply know that God is able to work in the bodies of the physically sick in order to bring about a restoration of the body. He can do this, and yet, do it in a manner that it is not perceived through the senses as a confirming miracle. In other words, this restoration of the physical body by God would not be considered a confirming miracle simply because such was accomplished in a different manner, and for a different purpose, than the confirming miracles that were recorded to confirm the message and messengers of God in the Bible.
Nevertheless, Hezekiah’s healing was in a sense miraculous. We could say that this was a miracle simply because it was God working in the physical body of Hezekiah. Physical law was set aside in order that Hezekiah live. Since we have no other word to convey what took place gradually, and not instantaneously as in a confirming miracle, then we must believe that something “miraculous” happened. Christians must believe, therefore, that if it is according to the will of God, God can raise up the sick in answer to their prayers (See Js 5:13-16). We may not understand how this happens in reference to the hand of God, but through faith we believe that God can work wonders beyond the limits of our empirical perceptions.
We would conclude that the difference between confirming miracles, and what happened in the body of Hezekiah, was a matter of time. A confirming miracle was instantaneous. For example, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house” (Mt 9:6). And he did so immediately.
But the “miracle” of God working in the body of Hezekiah occurred over a period of time. He did not immediately jump out of bed. Nevertheless, Hezekiah believed that he was healed because of his faith in God. But when the unbelievers encountered the healed paralytic, they immediately perceived through sight that he was healed immediately. They, as unbelievers, could not deny this confirming miracle of Jesus (See At 4:16).
In the context of Hezekiah’s “healing,” we must not forget that Paul left Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Tm 4:20). Either Paul could not heal this brother, or the time of confirming miracles had long passed. Or, it may have been that Paul simply prayed for his healing and then went on his journey. We would assume the latter, and thus Paul prayed that Trophimus be restored from his physical affliction. But this healing took time, for indeed Trophimus was still alive when Paul wrote the 2 Timothy letter much later. So Paul’s prayer for Trophimus did result in this brother being raised up.
We must also remember Timothy who had some affliction of the stomach. Timothy was not exhorted to pray for his stomach problem, and other physical afflictions that he experienced, but to “use a little wine for your stomach’s sake, and your frequent infirmities” (1 Tm 5:23). Evidently there were other infirmities than the stomach problems that Timothy suffered. In this suggestion on the part of Paul, however, Paul urged Timothy to resort to the medicinal remedies of wine, and not prayer, though we assume that Paul did indeed pray for Timothy’s physical afflictions. We would conclude from this incident, however, that when there is a medical cure for an affliction, one should go see a doctor.
And then there was the case of Epaphroditus (Ph 2:25-27). This Philippian brother was sent to be with Paul in prison. While in Rome, he too became very ill. He was so ill when he was with Paul that he almost died. This was a physical affliction that took place over a period of time because news of his sickness was able to reach back home to Philippi, where the saints in Philippi evidently joined with Paul in prayers for him. Paul did not miraculously heal him. Only through the prayers of the saints in Philipi, with Paul’s prayers, he was raised up. God worked “miraculously” in this case in order to do as He did with Hezekiah. It was not an instantaneous healing, but a healing over a period time. In answer to all their prayers, God spared his life on behalf of Paul, who was in prison at the time facing death (Ph 2:27).
We must not conclude this point without referring to Paul who could not receive an answer for his own physical affliction. He recognized that God gave him “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Co 12:7). Paul confessed, “For this thing I implored the Lord three times that it might depart from me” (2 Co 12:8). But the mountain of the thorn did not go away. And because it did not, Paul concluded,
“Therefore, I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’ sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Co 12:10).
[Next in series: Nov. 27]