As the Coronavirus sweeps through the world and the death toll mounts day after day we are staggered at the loss of life. The death toll in America has risen to frightening levels while in Europe, particularly in Spain and Italy, the number of deaths has also been shocking.
We were greatly concerned in the UK when the Prime Minister was taken into Intensive Care in St Thomas’ Hospital in London. His own words were, “it could have gone either way”. In other words, he sensed he was at the point of death.
My message No. 4 in this series is entitled, “THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE”.
When we hear the number of deaths being announced daily it does not truly impact us until someone we know and love is one of these statistics!
I had a very close friend who rose to heaven on Easter Sunday morning as a result of the Coronavirus. His dear wife was in the same hospital with the virus and the nursing staff were so kind and brought her to her husband’s bedside and allowed her to witness his passing to Glory.
This made me think of the fragility of life. There is a true story in the Bible which illustrates how fragile is the thread of life. The details that I want us to think about are in Isaiah 38:1-5 under the title “The Fragility of Life”.
I will consider these verses under the following headings:
|What a Difference a Day Makes
|“You are going to die.”
|What a Difference Prayer Makes
|“He prayed and he wept.”
|What a Difference God Makes
|“I will add 15 years to your life.”
Isaiah 38:1-5 Hezekiah’s Sickness and Recovery
About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.’”
When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly.
Then this message came to Isaiah from the Lord: “Go back to Hezekiah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life,
What a Difference a Day Makes
Hezekiah was a Godly king and leader in the nation of Judah. He had restored the nation spiritually by demolishing idol worship and re-establishing the worship of God at the Passover. He had followed the commands of God and had pleased the Lord but he was not immune from illness. One day he is well and life is good. He has so much to be thankful for as a king then suddenly, unexpectedly he is seriously unwell. What a difference a day makes!
In these uncertain days, we have discovered that one day our loved ones or friends are well then suddenly the virus has overtaken them and they are facing a life threatening situation. One day at home with their family, the next day in ICU on a ventilator. Life is fragile.
The Bible reminds us on a number of occasions how fragile life really is.
Proverbs 27:1 “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.”
Job 14:1 “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble! We blossom like a flower and then wither. Like a passing shadow, we quickly disappear.”
James 4:14 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.”
This pandemic, as it has attacked the nations across the world and wreaked havoc upon so many individuals and families, has reminded us of the uncertainty and fragility of life.
What a Difference Prayer Makes
The shock to Hezekiah with the news that Isaiah had brought devastated him. It was a death sentence, the furthest thought from his mind before the visit of the prophet had been death. He turned and faced the wall and prayed. Prayer was not strange to him or something that he had not practiced. He makes an appeal to God based on his faithfulness to God and his obedience to God. He adds to his prayer the emotion of tears. His prayer was immersed in tears.
In the crisis of life’s circumstances does prayer make a difference?
In the storms of life who do we turn to? Hezekiah turned to God in prayer.
I once had a near death experience in Australia when I was caught by a “rip tide” while swimming in the sea. I could hear my wife and two friends calling for me to return to the shore but I couldn’t and I thought I was going to drown. In my desperation I called out, “God save me!” and the next minute my feet found sand. God heard my prayer and rescued me. We often use prayer as a “last resort” when in fact it should be our “first priority”.
What a difference prayer made in the early church.
Acts 4:31 “After this prayer, the meeting place shook!”
Acts 10:9 “Peter went up on the flat roof to pray.” The door to the Gentiles was opened.
Acts 12:12 “Many were gathered for prayer” and Peter was released from prison.
The Bible is full of illustrations where we can see the difference that prayer makes.
I believe that if the church worldwide gives itself to prayer then this pandemic will be stemmed and halted.
Hezekiah’s prayer was personal, passionate and powerful. Prayer and tears are a great mix to capture the ear and eye of God. What a difference prayer makes!
What a Difference God Makes
Isaiah 38:5 tell us that God says to Hezekiah, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add 15 years to your life.”
Job in his reasoning and understanding of God says in Job 14:5, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.”
Is a Christian who develops coronavirus and dies taken from earth prematurely? Is it possible that I will die too soon? In the sovereignty and purpose of God, despite the fragility of life, we will live our lives within God’s timescale.
It was originally planned for Hezekiah to die on the day of Isaiah’s announcement but God chose to add to his life 15 years. God has the prerogative to change His mind. He is in total control of how short or long each of us live on earth.
The Godly lady I mentioned earlier whose husband rose to heaven on Easter Sunday morning has accepted God’s timing for her husband’s passing and despite the pain of grief she has given God the glory.
I have a younger friend in his mid-40s who developed the virus a few weeks ago in Canada. He was on a ventilator for many days and in an induced coma but God has answered prayer and is raising him back to health. What a difference God makes?
The Psalmist David offers a challenging prayer in Psalm 39: 4 & 5. “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”
“Till the storm passes over, till the thunder sounds no more
Till the clouds roll forever from the sky
Hold me fast, let me stand in the hollow of Thy hand
Keep me safe till the storm passes by”
— * Songwriters: Thomas Mosie Lister