The Stairway to the Temple
The stairway of Ahaz is mentioned twice in the old testament. Once in 2 Kings 20:9-11, and again in Isaiah 38:8.
Ahaz was the king of Judah from 735 to 715 BC. But he wasn’t a very good king. He basically aligned himself with the nation of Assyria, and he adopted the worship of foreign idols, and he even lost control of some of Judah’s territories. And he evidently made some changes to the temple in Jerusalem, possibly even introducing some idols into the temple itself. And there was a stairway going up into a part of the temple, that had come to be referred to as the stairway of Ahaz. Exactly why, we’re not told. But let’s read one of the scripture verses that mention the stairway of Ahaz.
Isaiah 38:8 says..
“Behold, I will cause the shadow on the stairway, which has gone down with the sun on the stairway of Ahaz, to go back ten steps. So the sun’s shadow went back ten steps on the stairway on which it had gone down.”
Picture, if you would, a long stairway. Probably at least twenty stairs, or maybe even thirty stairs long. A stairway that extended quite a ways up. Now if this stairway faced to the west, or even partially to the west, then as the sun would cross the sky in the afternoon, it would shine on this stairway. And as the sun got lower and lower in the sky, the upper stairs wouldn’t catch the light of the sun anymore. They’d begin to be in the shadow. And as the sun got even lower, and it’s rays got lower, the shadow would come down the stairs, until eventually, the shadow would cover even the bottom step. And then the sun would go down out of sight.
And that’s a perfectly natural occurrence. But, what’s spoken of in Isaiah 38:8, is a very UN-natural occurrence. The Lord said; “Behold, I will cause the shadow on the stairway, which has gone down with the sun, on the stairway of Ahaz, to go BACK ten steps.”
That’s not natural is it? The shadow doesn’t go down the steps, and then all of a sudden, go back up the steps. God would have to either make the earth go backwards in it’s orbit around the sun, or He’d have to somehow, “bend” the rays of the sun, to shine back down on that stairway, or maybe, He’d simply say, “Let there be light”, and the light would shine on the stairway again.
But no matter how God did it, it was a miracle!
Let’s read the scriptures, and see WHY God did this.
Let’s go to 2 Kings chapter 20. V-1 says.. “In those days, Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, came to him and said; Thus says the Lord; Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.”
Now that’s quite a statement to hear from a prophet of God. “You shall die and not live”.
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz. And he was king of Judah, after his father, and he reigned from 715 to 686 BC.
But Hezekiah was NOT an old man, when he was told that he was about to die.
It says in 2 Kings 18:2, “He was twenty five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem.” We’re going to see, as we read further, that after Hezekiah was told that he would die, he prayed earnestly to God, to spare his life. And God heard his prayer, and allowed him to live another fifteen years.
So then, Hezekiah became king at the age of 25, and he had already reigned for fourteen years when he became sick. That means that he was only 39 years old when Isaiah told him that he would die.
But listen to what’s said about Hezekiah, in 2 Kings chapter 18:3.. “And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.” David of course was a “forefather”.
V-4 says, “He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made. For until those days, the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.”
Nehushtan means.. “the bronze god”. Moses made that bronze serpent sometime around 1450 BC. And Israel had been burning incense to it, since some time after Moses had died. Probably after Joshua also had died. I can’t imagine either Moses or Joshua ALLOWING the Israelites to burn incense to a bronze god! But isn’t that typical? Worshipping the creature, rather than the creator! Romans 1:25.
2 Kings 18:5-8, says.. (speaking again of Hezekiah) “He trusted in the lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. The Lord went with him, He prospered him wherever he went. And he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and did not serve him. He subdued the Philistines, as far as Gaza and it’s territory, from watchtower to fortified city.”
But yet, at the age of 39, he became mortally ill. He most likely had a tumor. Some bibles call it a “boil”, but the word used, really means a tumor. Do you think they asked the same question in 700 BC, that we ask now? Why do bad things, happen to good people? Maybe it’s simply genetics. We don’t know WHY. But we DO know, that we can always call on God, and TRUST that He will do what’s right for us.
Because.. “We KNOW, that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love the lord, who are the called according to His purpose!” Romans 8:28
Now, back to 2 Kings chapter 20. Hezekiah had just been told by the prophet Isaiah, “for you shall die and not live”.
Let me read V’s 2-6.. “Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying..” (V-2)
“Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee; How I walked before Thee in truth, and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Thy sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly” (V-3)
“And it came about, before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him saying..” (V-4)
“Return, and say to Hezekiah, the leader of My people; Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David; I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; Behold I will heal you! On the third day, you shall go up to the house of the Lord.” (V-5)
“And I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city, from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city for my own sake, and for My servant David’s sake.” (V-6)
That’s the providence of God!
Listen once again to Hezekiah’s prayer.. “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee; How I walked before Thee in truth, and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Thy sight.”
Can we say that, when we go to God in prayer?
A lot of prayers might start off like this instead.. “I beseech Thee O Lord, IF you will bless me, THEN I will walk before You in truth, THEN I will keep a pure heart, and THEN I will do what is right in Thy sight.”
Or maybe a typical prayer would be.. “O Lord, forgive me for NOT walking before Thee in truth. Forgive me for NOT having a whole heart. And Lord, forgive me for NOT doing what is right in Thy sight.”
By all means, if we need forgiveness, we should certainly pray for forgiveness, or we’ll never BE forgiven!
But can we go to God in prayer and say; “O Lord, remember how I HAVE walked before Thee in truth. Remember how I HAVE kept my heart pure and whole. Remember how I HAVE done what is good in thy sight.”
That’s the kind of prayer that we should all be able to say to God, every day! Lord, please remember what I HAVE done. Not what I WILL do. Not what I should have done. And not what I’m sorry for doing. But what I HAVE done for you. How I HAVE obeyed your word.
That was king Hezekiah’s humble prayer. Did Hezekiah say that he had never sinned? No, but he turned his face to the wall, and basically said.. “Lord, have mercy on me, your servant.”
Listen again, to what happened.. “And it came about, before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him saying: Return, and say to Hezekiah, the leader of My people; Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David; I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you!”
That’s about the quickest answer to a prayer that I’ve ever heard of! Isaiah tells Hezekiah, that he’s going to die, and then he evidently leaves Hezekiah’s presence. Hezekiah, turns toward the wall, and in tears, pleads with His God, to remember him, and to heal him. And before Isaiah has even gotten out of the middle court of the temple, God has heard the prayer of Hezekiah, and has decided to give Hezekiah, what he prays for.
Anyone who thinks that leading a life of obedience to God, doesn’t result in great blessings, hasn’t read the bible. Listen to what the bible says about Jesus, our High Priest..
Hebrews 5:7 says, “In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications, with loud crying and tears, (sounds like Hezekiah, doesn’t it?) to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of his piety.” That really sounds just like Hezekiah!
V’s 8-9 say, “Although He were a Son, yet He learned obedience from the things that He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation, to all those who OBEY HIM!”
Does a life of obedience to God result in great blessings? Yes it does! Hezekiah had already done good. He had already walked before the lord in truth, and done God’s will. And so when he prayed for his life, God knew that Hezekiah would continue to live like that, as the king of Judah. Hezekiah’s life was a blessing to those he ruled over.
Do you remember king Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings chapter 3, how he prayed for wisdom, to be able to judge the people of Israel? Listen to 1 Kings 3:5-8..
“In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night, and God said: Ask what you wish Me to give you.”
“Then Solomon said: Thou hast shown great lovingkindness to Thy servant David, my father, according as he walked before Thee in truth and righteousness, and uprightness of heart toward thee.”
“And Thou hast reserved for him this great lovingkindness that Thou hast given him a son, to sit on his throne as it is this day.”
“And now O Lord, my God, Thou hast made Thy servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a child. I do not know how to go out or come in.”
“And Thy servant is in the midst of Thy people, which Thou hast chosen, a great people, who cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.”
What has characterized Solomon’s prayer so far? One thing, that surely characterized his prayer.. Is praise to God! Praise for God’s greatness, and praise for what God has done. We can learn a lot from a prayer like this, but we haven’t even read yet, what it was that Solomon asked for.
So then, V-9 says.. “So give Thy servant an understanding heart, to judge Thy people, to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Thine?”
King Solomon understood the greatness of God. And he understood the greatness of what God had done. And he understood the importance of what needed to BE done. And so Solomon prayed to God, and asked God, for the blessings needed, to be able to DO God’s will.
And V-10 says.. “And it was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.”
As I said, we can learn a lot from a prayer like this. And we NEED to learn from it.
Now, think about Hezekiah. You might say that, just like the shadow had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz, the shadow had also gone down on the life of Hezekiah. Hezekiah had walked in truth, before God, with a “whole heart”. In other words, with a pure heart, with pure motives. For 39 years, Hezekiah had done what was right in God’s sight. And just like our Savior Jesus did, in the days of HIS flesh,
“He offered up both prayers and supplication to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard for His piety.”
Don’t we want to be heard by God? John 9:31 says, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners; But if any man (or any person) be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.”
Hezekiah was heard for his piety; And so can WE be heard.
Let’s go back to 2 Kings 20, and I’ll read verses 8-11..
Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah; What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the Lord, the third day?”
“And Isaiah said; This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will DO the thing that He has spoken.”
“Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?”
“So Hezekiah answered; It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; But No, let the shadow turn backwards ten steps.”
“And Isaiah the prophet, cried to the Lord, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.”
The sun had gone down, and the shadow had gone down, on the stairway of Ahaz. But God said; “Let there be light”, and the shadow went back UP the stairway, ten steps. God’s light shinned once again, on that stairway.
And Hezekiah prayed a prayer of humility and of sorrow, to the God of mercy, and God’s light shinned on Hezekiah for another fifteen years.
What can God’s light do for you, and for me? And what do WE need to do, to be HEARD by God
The first thing we need to do, is to “walk before God in truth”. We’re told in John 17:17, “Thy word is truth”.
And so if we want God to hear us, we have to hear His word..
Rom 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. You’ve got to HEAR God’s word. Do you hear His word this morning? Do you hear what it’s saying?
His word says we need to repent of our sins. “God is now declaring, that all men everywhere should repent.” Acts 17:30
And the word says we must confess that Jesus is the Christ. “With the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.” Rom 10:10
And Jesus says that, “He who believes AND is baptized, shall be saved.” Mark 16:16
“And now, why do you delay? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Acts 22:16
THEN, after we do those things, THEN we can see what else God will do for us.
I know one thing that He’ll do..
Rev 2:10 says. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” That’s a promise, from Jesus to you.
May God bless you in the study of His word, and crown your life.
I look forward to your comments and questions. Please use the space below for your reply.