What if you knew when you were going to die?
I don’t mean the exact date or hour, but say were given a degree of assurance that you had ten, fifteen or twenty years to go; assurance that you could count on. Having such information, how would you live your life?
Most people – or should I say smart people – would take the time to plan and use their time wisely. They have an idea of the time they have left, so they could in all fairness, make a determination on what they could or could not achieve. As time passes they may even adopt a keen awareness that time is running out. And if there are projects to complete they would put in the extra effort to get it done in the time allotted.
The truth is we are never given such assurances!
Short of the terminal illness situation (in which a doctor says you have months to live), few people have a sense of how much time they have left. This often leads people to think they have all the time in the world and the double time suckers of complacency and procrastination often develops. Truth be told, no one has all the time in the world – time is a limited and valuable resource.
But would it help if we knew?
Hezekiah was an Old Testament king who faced both a terminal illness, as well as the luxury of having his life extended for a definite period of years; more than enough time to get a lot done. The story is told in two places in the Bible – 2 Kings chapter 20 and Isaiah chapter 38. Both accounts tell us that “Hezekiah was sick and near death” when the prophet was sent to tell him ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’ Hezekiah, who had done many wonderful things in the 14 years since he became king, was dismayed by the warning. He ‘turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord.’ He reminded God of all that he had done.
Immediately God relented and extended Hezekiah’s life by fifteen years.
Hezekiah was 25 when he became king. He reigned at Jerusalem for twenty-nine years putting his death at the age of 54. If we take away fifteen, he would have been at age 39 when he was given the extension. A king dying at 39 would not have been unusual in ancient times. What would have been unusual was the granting of a specific number of years. Such would be unusual even in our time.
One lesson we can learn from Hezekiah, is that time is running out for everyone. Though we may not have the luxury of knowing when, we should at least live our lives as if we knew. We should make haste to maximize whatever time we have left to establish some things for posterity – leave a lasting legacy – that may positively impact the next generation.
Unfortunately, Hezekiah did not think it necessary to do that!
Shortly after recovering from his illness, Hezekiah received letters and presents from the son of the Babylonian king commending him on his health. When the Babylonian envoys came to the palace, Hezekiah in apparent boastful pride, showed them everything, including his treasures and armory (you don’t do that to a foreign power). When Isaiah the prophet asked who, these men were, and what they wanted, Hezekiah told him: “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them.” At that point Isaiah prophesied to the king that the day would come when the Babylonians would take away everything that is in the house, “nothing shall be left.” The prophet also told Hezekiah that even his sons would be taken away to become eunuchs in the place of the king of Babylon. How did Hezekiah respond to such a dire warning?
He said: “At least there will be peace and truth in my days.”
Hezekiah demonstrated a measure of selfishness and pride that resulted in serious consequences for future generations. The King failed to realize that he had a responsibility to the next generation as well. Though we may not have the type of assurance regarding the length of our lives, as Hezekiah did, we can become intentional about the future and in planning how we can leave a generational legacy.