By These Things Men Live
“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit” (Isaiah 38:16).
Hezekiah’s words after his serious illness are such as should be well weighed by every child of God.
He had been brought down to death’s door but in answer to his prayer had been raised to health again. Now he tells his story. “The writing of Hezekiah when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness.”
It is good to have the record and to know his thoughts and experiences during his time of testing. He was brought low and helped. He learned the love and power of the Lord as never before. With death and the grave in view he had been brought face to face with being made “an end of” as to his life and service here. So it was that the brevity and vanity of all under the sun came before him. And out of the depths of his distress he cried: “O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.”
What a shelter God is in the hour of trial! “His children have a place of refuge,” for he that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Well it is for us to be like Ruth and come to trust under His wings (Ruth 2:12). There we are covered with His feathers of strength and protection and in restful confidence enjoy the warmth and comfort beneath His wings.
Hezekiah’s anguished utterance found immediate answer. “What shall I say?” he now exclaimed, “He hath both spoken to me and Himself hath done it.” The Lord’s word to him and the Lord’s work for him satisfied the sorrowing king
Then it is that he saw how all that through which he had been passing was for his true and lasting advantage, “O Lord by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit.” True life, spiritual life, is more, far more than physical well-being. For the child of God “afflictions do not spring out of the dust.” It is well for us to enquire “Why has this come upon me? Why is it thus with me?” Whenever trouble of any kind is our portion.
The answer is found in Hebrews 12, probably, in every instance of the child-training we undergo at the hands of our God and Father. He chastens “for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.” “For our profit,” to result in our spiritual good on the one hand. “Be partakers of His holiness,” that we may answer more fully to His mind for us, on the other hand. These two are wedded together. Our best blessing and God’s glory in and through us are united.
“By these things men live.” The things which show us the vanity of all under the sun. The things which tend to weaken our hold on all that is passing away. “These things” lead to the appreciation and enjoyment of that which is abiding and eternal. The life of the spirit is that which is furthered when physical life is seen to be but ephemeral.
The outcome of Hezekiah’s sickness was a fuller knowledge of God and His power and grace. So he cries with joy “Therefore we will sing my songs . . . all the days of our life in the house of the Lord.” Praise and worship flowed from his heart and lips as he remembered the dealings of the Lord. The exercises passed through yielded “the peaceable fruits of righteousness.”
We may take heart of courage if hours of trial are our lot, “for He hath said “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” In the midst of all the testing we undergo we may be assured that “by these things men live” and that “the life of the spirit” is that which our God and Father has in view.
“When through the deep waters I cause thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow:
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
Confident that our God is “the Father of mercies” and that in His love and power He can and does make all things (yes all things) work together for our good, we may cry with Job, “though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him”, and again, “He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 13:15; 23:10).