In 2 Kings 20:1-6, God tells us about a king by the name of Hezekiah. He had become so sick that he knew his death was approaching. God sends the prophet Isaiah to tell him to put his house in order and make preparations for the country to go on without him. Hezekiah begins to fervently pray to God. He lists all the good he has done and how he led the people to God. Without saying the words, it is obvious that he is asking God for more time. As he is praying and Isaiah is leaving the palace, God tells Isaiah to return to the king and tell him he has been given 15 extra years to live. What a gift! How many people over the years have found themselves on the brink of death and wished they had more time. Many have probably asked God for this gift. Perhaps they have listed all the good they have accomplished and the added things they could do. Maybe, because of the way they chose to live their life, they did not have a list of good things, but made promises to do better. Hezekiah is given a gift that many have desired.
However, he does not repay the Lord with kindness. 2 Chronicles 32:24-25 tell us that he was filled with pride. Isaiah records the actions this proud man takes following his recovery. In Isaiah 39, we learn that the king of Babylon sent letters and a gift to Hezekiah to congratulate him on his recovery. Hezekiah brings the messengers into his house and shows them the riches he possesses. He shows them his armory of weapons. He brags about all that he owns and controls.
God is not happy and sends Isaiah back. Isaiah tells him that everything Hezekiah has accumulated will be captured and taken to Babylon. His sons will become servants to the king of Babylon. God will honor his promise of 15 more years, but Hezekiah’s kingdom will come to an end with his death. Most would take this as bad news. There is nothing good, positive or happy about what Isaiah is saying God will do. However we see Hezekiah’s attitude in his response: “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!” (verse 8). All Hezekiah heard or cares about is that there will be peace while he is alive. He cares nothing for what will happen after his death. His is an attitude of selfishness and greed.
Compare that with the words of Asaph from Psalm 78:1-8. He speaks of communicating the laws and wonders of God to the next generation: “telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord” (verse 4). His wish is that the next generation will know God’s commands and tell them to their children. He wants them to set their hope in the Lord. He is not concerned just with his lifetime or even just the next generation. He is encouraging his readers to think multiple generations down the line. To prepare, not just for their future or their children’s future, but for their grandchildren’s future.
Hezekiah was only concerned with how things were going for him. We, too, can become equally caught up with our current lives. We, too, can become so focused on what is happening right now to us that we lose sight of how it impacts future generations. We should not only be preparing ourselves to meet God, but also preparing our children to meet him. And don’t forget, we should also be preparing them to prepare their children.
Asaph put this an interesting way. He said that children “may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (verse 8). Hezekiah wanted to build himself up to be something great. He told of all the great things he had done for the Lord and His people. We must be careful that we do not follow that same path. We can begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Romans 12:3). Ultimately, we should desire that our children are more faithful to God than we are. We should train them so they know the commands of the Lord better than we do. We should help their hearts and spirits be more aligned to God than we are. This requires us to recognize our own failures and sins.
Preparing future generations is not the only good thing we can do with our time. There are souls that need saving. There are people that need help. We still have the poor, the sick, the hungry, the naked and the imprisoned with us. Peter talked about changing our focus in 1 Peter 4:1-3. He said, “We have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles” and encouraged us to “no longer live the rest of our time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” So many times and in so many ways God tells us, warns us and encourages us to put our old deeds and ways to death and live in newness of life. In 2 Peter 1:5-11, he gives us the process for making this change. Little by little we add God’s virtues to our lives and our old ways and attitudes leave us.
Even though many make that request to God for more time, not many get an answer like Hezekiah. Some do receive more time from the Lord, but they don’t know how much. We can never know how long we have. Because of that, we should keep in mind that every moment we have is a gift from God. Every day is a blessing he has granted us. We should make sure we are using it properly. If we use our remaining time to boast in our accomplishments and bask in the glory of men, we are being selfish and greedy. We are not thinking of the generation to come, the generation after that or succeeding generations. We are only thinking of ourselves. It is time that we lived for the future, not the past or present. What are we going to do with more time?