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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

2 Kings 20

Verse 2


‘He turned his face to the wall and prayed unto the Lord.’

2 Kings 20:2

Hezekiah is reckoned as one of the three perfect kings of Judah, the other two being David and Josiah. His reign of twenty-nine years was marked by great material advancement. The aqueduct of Jerusalem preserves his fame to this day. Under Ahaz the kingdom had deteriorated in morals. The idolatry which he established was suppressed by his son. The worship of Jehovah, which had been neglected, was restored, and the nation enjoyed an era of great prosperity. Ahaz had permitted, in the very precincts of the Temple, to be set up chariots and altars dedicated to the sun. Hezekiah was fortunate in having Isaiah as his tutor and prophet.

I. Hezekiah was a man of prayer.—We see the names of the good prophet and the good king often linked together. The man who can pray best in sickness is the man who prays in health. The man who prays in sickness, but never in health, is a moral coward. Hezekiah went to the secret place for prayer. Shutting the world out he was shut in with God. If we would have Christ hear our prayers we must remember the five rules He gave us for prayers. First, a period for prayer, ‘when thou prayest.’ Second, a place for prayer, ‘enter into thy closet.’ Third, privacy in prayer, ‘when thou hast shut the door.’ Fourth, persons in prayer, ‘pray to thy Father.’ Fifth, promise in prayer, ‘and thy Father which is in secret, He shall reward thee openly.’ The safeguard to all our prayers should be, ‘Thy will be done.’

II. Hezekiah pleaded his own righteousness, which was the best he could do at his time.—We, however can plead the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God has a variety of ways by which He can answer prayer. Our sign is the Cross of Calvary, and in that sign we shall conquer. It cast its shadows on the summit of Calvary, and to the end of time those who come within its shadow will find peace and rest and sweet assurance.

III. Prayer is the one instrument in the power of man by which he can halt the golden chariot of the sun and call to his side the God of the universe.—Prayer from Hezekiah’s lips had the power to destroy the adversaries of God. His prayers had the power to save his nation when it was depleted and seemed an easy prey for the enemy. His prayers brought to him God’s gift, length of days and other temporal blessings. His prayers also brought him remission of his sins and removal of the punishment which sin incurs. Not only does God hear our prayers, but He sees our tears. There will come a time when He will wipe away all tears from our eyes. Hezekiah need have no fear of death during the fifteen years that had been given to him. But with the cancelling of the death warrant for fifteen years he would only be a man of fifty-four years when the warrant would be issued again. Added life is not always added blessing. The gift of God to us is eternal life through Jesus Christ. We are bidden to ask forgiveness of God daily, and it is His high prerogative to forgive those who are forgiving. In God’s hands alone are the issues of life and death.


‘God answers our prayers instrumentally. The case of Hezekiah is a typical one! God could have raised him from the sick bed as He did Lazarus from the grave, by a word; but, as a matter of fact, He did so by suggesting to Isaiah the remedy needed, and by blessing that remedy. In like manner, God could have answered St. Paul’s prayer for his storm-driven companions by stilling the tempest, as Christ did that by which the disciples were imperilled on the Lake of Galilee, by a word; but, as a matter of fact, He did so by giving them wisdom and strength to lay hold upon the boards and broken pieces of the ship, by which they all escaped safe to land. This is a most important truth, and it answers not a few semi-philosophical cavils against prayer. In 1872 King Edward VII, when Prince of Wales, and again, thirty years later, just before his coronation, was dangerously ill, and the whole nation united in supplications on his behalf; and our belief is, that his restoration on both occasions was an answer to prayer, quite as much as was the restoration of Hezekiah. Some say, “No, he owed his recovery to the skill of his physicians and the assiduity of his nurses.” Very good. But who gave the physicians their skill and the nurses their assiduity? Let those who, on the ground that medical skill of the highest order waited constantly at the bedside of the King, deny that his recovery was an answer to prayer, cipher out how much of the loaf on their table is due to mechanical causes, and how much of it is due to God. Their doing so will help them to understand the principle of which I have reminded you, that God answers prayer, as He dispenses blessing, instrumentally.’

Verse 19


‘And he said, Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?’

2 Kings 20:19

If war was, to a great extent, sanctioned and even commanded under the Old Testament, peace is the very base and end of the New. War, viewed from every side, is a terrible thing. War is the great demoraliser—in savaging the human mind, and feeding the worst passions of our nature. It is the very hotbed of cruelty and crime. War turns the most beautiful gardens of our world into wildernesses. War outrages the very Empire of the Prince of Peace, and is rebellion against the great Fatherhood of God over all His creatures. To inflict death to prevent death is the only valid cause, and legitimate cause, for any war that is in the world.

And when ‘peace’ departs, is it too much to say ‘truth’ follows in its wane? The envenomed atmosphere of war is very killing to all that is true. War is itself half made up of falsehoods. I do not wonder that the pious King of Judah united peace and truth and made ‘truth’ and ‘peace’ mutually each the cause of the other, and their union the source of a strange and secret mingling of happiness: ‘Is it not good, if peace and truth be in my days?’

I. See how ‘peace and truth’ combine to rule in the Kingdom of God.—The great problem was, how in such a world as this, so sinful and so rebellious, ‘peace’ could be compatible with ‘truth.’ For God had said, ‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ ‘There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.’

How then could any man, seeing all are wicked, not die? or how could any man on the earth be at rest? God must be true and His own Word verified.

In His marvellous wisdom and grace, Christ solved the problem. He—infinite in His Deity, yet perfect Man—became all men’s substitute, so that when He died, all that were His died too. Therefore, in very fact, we have died, and God has kept His Word. And, therefore, ‘peace’ can have a universal reign without the infringement of one iota of the Father’s justice. Forgiveness is justice, and ‘peace’ is ‘truth.’

‘Peace’ and ‘truth’ thus blend in the mind and government of God.

II. So the great originals become the patterns which all governments and all minds are, as far as in them lies, faithfully to copy.—First in a man’s own soul. ‘Peace’ and ‘truth’ make God’s kingdom there. If ‘peace’ be not built on ‘truth’ it is baseless; it must fall. And ‘truth’ grows out of ‘peace’ as necessary as a flower grows from its root. Just as fear is the certain mother of cunning and deceit, so the mind at rest with God, and the ‘peace’ which flows, are the sure authors of all ‘truth.’

This is the genealogy of ‘peace.’ ‘Peace’ with God begets ‘peace’ with the conscience; ‘peace’ with the conscience begets ‘peace’ with all men.

And, equally, this is the history of ‘truth.’ Be ‘true’ with God and you will be ‘true’ with yourself; be true with yourself and you will be ‘true’ with your fellow-creatures.

III. Then let me earnestly beseech you to be quite sure that you are at ‘peace’ with God.—It is the keystone of life. How may I know it? And if I am not, how can I obtain it?

Accept your ‘peace’ as freely as it is offered—a pure, instant gift of God.

In this war there needs no mediation but that which is already made; no terms, but simple acceptance; no payment, where all is paid. The compact is all drawn out, and waits only for you to put the one seal of faith.

Then, having ‘peace,’ be true. If I had to mention what I think to be the great failure in the religion of most of us, I should say, Want of reality. There are so many things concurring in the present day to make religion unreal.

Whatever you are, be real. Take care that your religion is the same wherever you are; and, wherever you are, a very practical thing—words and acts accurately representing the mind. Love neither simulating what it is not nor dissimulating what it is, compromising and concealing its reality.

Use plain words. Pray real thoughts. Be what you seem, and seem what you are. And let this be the double stamp on everyday life—‘peace’ and ‘truth.’

War is dear at any time, and ‘peace’ is worth any price—short of righteousness—at which it may he attained.

But begin with the true beginning. First, be yourself a man of ‘peace’; a man of ‘truth’ with God and man; and then lay yourself out to extend everywhere what you have proved and found so exceeding good to your own soul.

Rev. Jas. Vaughan


‘Many an answered prayer has brought a corresponding leanness of soul to the one who would not leave the decision restfully with God. When King Hezekiah was unwilling to be sick unto death, he pleaded earnestly for recovery; and when a favourable answer was given to his prayer the issue showed that his prolonged life was no added gain to his character or to his career of usefulness. Some who have said that they must recover from sickness are the losers by the answer to their prayers; while others, who would not thus choose for themselves, are the gainers through continuing in sickness. We may indeed shrink from the presumption of deciding unqualifiedly that it is best for ourselves or for our dear ones to be recovered of a sickness that seems unto death; and it is important for us to know that such presumption is inconsistent with true faith.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Kings 20". The Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.