Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Hezekiah's Tears

Daily Readings
Isaiah 38 + II Kings 20 + II Chronicles 31 + Lamentations 1

Quote of the Day
The living, the living, they thank you,
as I do this day;
fathers make known to children your faithfulnesss.
The LORD will save me,
and we will sing to stringed instruments
all the days of our lives,
at the house of the LORD. Isaiah 38:19 ,20 --Hezekiah

Daily Text: II Kings 20

Hezekiah’s Tears
Hezekiah reigned for 29 years. He became sick and it was a sickness to the death, but God gave him, in response to his prayer, an additional 15 years. So his sickness came in the 14th year of his reign, rather than Sennacherib’s first seige, which was most likely in 701. The illness was in 713, the same year that Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys because they heard that Hezekiah was sick. Was it his sickness that created their interest or was the report that the sundial had reflected a ten degree backward move? The latter seems to be the qualifying motivation since the Babylonians were notoriously interested in astronomy and astrology. So the Chronicler indicates in 32:31 of II Chronicles. There is then this tangled skein of chronology concerning Hezekiah’s reign in Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah. Each author adds his perspective and while the events are the same, the chronology differs. The above seems the most likely and for it there is the evidence cited. Sennecherib’s seige came a dozen years after Hezekiah’s illness, with the second campaign in Judah occurring after 689 [Cf. 439:246 ff.].

In Isaiah 38 there is recorded a psalm of thanksgiving written by Hezekiah, one of a very few outside the Psalter and written by someone other than David. It is a beautiful and haunting poem reflecting the knowledge of YHWH held by this king. Like David of old he seems to have this intimate and prayerful relationship with the Almighty that confirms what has been said of him in each of the sources named above. There is one disturbing note, for after Hezekiah shows all the treasures of his house to the envoys from Babylon, the LORD sends a word by Isaiah to let him know that his sons will pay for his lack of foresight in this matter. Hezekiah comforts himself with the thought that the retribution will come not in his own time, but after his days. What a commentary on the man’s character. So much that is wise and good, and so much that is weak and despicable. And yet each of us knows the nature of that weakness. How much we are placing on our children and grandchildren with just such a mixture of concern and relief!

Hymn to the Supreme Being
Christopher Smart

On recovery from a dangerous fit of illness.

When Israel’s ruler on the royal bed
In anguish and in perturbation lay,
The down relieved not his anointed head,
And rest gave place to horror and dismay.
Fast flowed the tears, high heaved each gasping sigh
When God’s own prophet thundered-MONARCH, THOU MUST DIE.

‘And must I go,’ th’ illustrious mourner cried,
‘I who have served thee still in faith and truth,
Whose snow-white conscience no foul crime has died
From youth to manhood, infancy to youth,
Like David, who have still revered thy word
The sovereign of myself and servant of the Lord!’

The judge Almighty heard his suppliant’s moan,
Repealed his sentence, and his health restored;
The beams of mercy on his temples shone,
Shot from that heaven to which his sighs had soared;
The sun retreated at his maker’s nod
And miracles confirm the genuine work of God.

But, O immortals! What had I to plead
When death stood o’er me with his threatening lance,
When reason left me in the time of need,
And sense was lost in terror or in trance,
My sickening soul was with my blood inflamed,
And the celestial image sunk, defaced and maimed.

I sent back memory, in heedful guise,
To search the records of preceding years;
Home, like the raven to the ark, she flies,
Croaking bad tidings to my trembling ears.
O Sun, again that thy retreat was made,
And threw my follies back into the friendly shade!

But who are they, that bid affliction cease!—
Redemption and forgiveness, heavenly sounds!
Behold the dove that brings the branch of peace,
Behold the balm that heals the gaping wounds—
Vengeance divine’s by penitence suppressed—
She struggles with the angel, conquers, and is blessed.

Yet hold, presumption, nor too fondly climb,
And thou too hold, O horrible despair!
In man humility’s alone sublime,
Who diffidently hopes he’s Christ’s own care—
O all-sufficient Lamb! in death’s dread hour
Thy merits who shall slight, or who can doubt thy power?

But soul-rejoicing health again returns,
The blood meanders gentle in each vein,
The lamp of life renewed with vigour burns,
And exiled reason takes her seat again—
Brisk leaps the heart, the mind’s at large once more,
To love, to praise, to bless, to wonder and adore.

The virtuous partner of my nuptial bands,
Appeared a widow to my frantic sight;
My little prattlers lifting up their hands,
Beckon me back to them, to life, and light;
I come, ye spotless sweets! I come again,
Nor have your tears been shed, nor have ye knelt in vain.

All glory to the’ Eternal, to th’ Immense,
All glory to th’ Omniscient and Good,
Whose power’s uncircumscribed, whose love’s intense,
But yet whose justice ne’er could be withstood.
Except through him—through him, who stands alone,
Of worth, of weight allowed for all Mankind t’ atone!

He raised the lame, the lepers he made whole,
He fixed the palsied nerves of weak decay,
He drove out Satan from the tortured soul,
And to the blind gave or restored the day,--
Nay more,--far more unequaled pangs sustained,
Till his lost fallen flock his taintless blood regained.

My feeble feet refused my body’s weight,
Nor would my eyes admit the glorious light,
My nerves convulsed shook fearful of their fate,
My mind lay open to the powers of night.
He pitying did a second birth bestow
A birth of joy—not like the first of tears and woe.

Ye strengthened feet, forth to his altar move;
Quicken, ye new-strung nerves, th’ enraptured lyre;
Ye heaven-directed eyes, o’erflow with love;
Glow, glow, my soul, with pure seraphic fire;
Deeds, thoughts, and words no more his mandates break,
But to his endless glory work, conceive, and speak.

O! penitence, to virtue near allied,
Thou canst new joys e’en to the blessed impart;
The listening angels lay their harps aside
To hear the music of thy contrite heart;
And heaven itself wears a more radiant face,
When charity presents thee to the throne of grace.

Chief of metallic forms is regal gold;
Of elements, the limpid fount that flows;
Give me ‘mongst gems the brilliant to behold;
O’er Flora’s flock imperial is the rose;
Above all birds the sovereign eagle soars;
And monarch of the field the lordly lion roars.

What can with great Leviathan compare,
Who takes his pastime in the mighty main?
What, like the sun, shines through the realms of air,
And gilds and glorifies th’ ethereal plain—
Yet what are these to man, who bears the sway;
For all was made for him—to serve and to obey.

Thus in high heaven charity is great,
Faith, hope, devotion hold a lower place;
On her the cherubs and the seraphs wait,
Her, every virtue courts, and every grace;
See! on the right, close by th’ Almighty’s throne,
In him she shines confessed, who came to make her known.

Deep-rooted in my heart then let her grow,
That for the past the future may atone;
That I may act what thou hast given to know,
That I may live for Thee and Thee alone,
And justify those sweetest words from Heaven,


Blogger Norm said...

The concluding summary of Hezekiah’s reign finally mentions one of his most impressive achievements, the construction of the Siloam tunnel. To provide Jerusalem with a secure water supply during a siege, the king cut a passage through 1,749 feet of solid rock to lead water from the Gihon spring outside the city to the pool of Siloam safely inside the city walls. A wall inscription originally carved in the tunnel still exists to testify to his achievement. The tunnel was rediscovered in 1880; water still flows through its stone channel today.

7:50 AM  

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