What If You Knew?
Read – 2 Kings 20
Key Thought – In the New Year we can either use our time for Christ, or fritter it away.
What if you knew that 2020 would be your last year on this earth? Would it make a difference?
God may call one or more of us home in 2020. What if you knew you would die this year? Would it make a difference?
Jesus may very well come back in 2020. What if you knew that He would split the sky this year? Would it make a difference?
– Would your priorities be different?
– Your activities?
– Your concerns?
– Your prayers?
– Would you spend your money differently if you knew this would be the last year?
– Would you organize your remaining minutes differently if you knew this would be the last year?
– Would your conversation with your friends and family be different if you knew this would be the last year?
Would it make a difference to you PERSONALLY if you knew? And let’s also consider it this morning as a church. What if we knew… would it make a difference in our plans as a church… our goals for that last year? Would our programs change? Would the way we use God’s money to reach His world change?
If we KNEW that this was the last year, WOULD IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE in what we do… how we live… our speech… our thoughts… our aspirations?
What if you knew?
Back when I was in high school, I remember first reading about the theory of biorhythms. Ever heard of it? Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it. “According to the theory of biorhythms, a person’s life is influenced by rhythmic biological cycles that affect his or her ability in various domains, such as mental, physical and emotional activity. These cycles begin at birth and oscillate in a steady (sine wave) fashion throughout life, and by modeling them mathematically, it is suggested that a person’s level of ability in each of these domains can be predicted from day to day.”(Biorythms, “http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biorhythm“) As I understand the theory, you can chart out your biorythms as 3 sine waves. Your physical biorythm being a sine wave that repeats every 23 days, your emotional biorythm repeating every 28 days and your intellectual biorythm repeating every 33 days. When you encounter a day where one or more of these is at the top of the sine wave… well that’s a good day in that area. You are intellectually focused when your intellectual biorythm peaks, and emotionally healthy when your emotional biorythm peaks. When those waves hit the trough of the sine wave, though, well… that’s a bad day in those areas. And the one thing I most remember from that first exposure to this theory years ago is the fact than when 2 of the sine ways cross – that’s a bad thing. And when all 3 cross at the center of the chart – well it’s all over. Only at birth and death do they all 3 cross.
Hmmmm…. I always struggled with that last part, for simple math disproves it. If it were true, then every person on earth would live to be 58.2 years old. We would know the exact day and hour of death.
Would it make a difference if you did? What if you knew?
Interestingly, we have been introduced to some people in the Bible who did know. Let’s take a look at a few and see if it made a difference for them.
Hezekiah was one of the kings of Judah. He was a good king in nearly every way – he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. (2 Chronicles 29:2 NKJV) The writer of the Chronicles had this glowing report to give about him – Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 NKJV) As a matter of fact, it is said of him that 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. (2 Kings 18:5-6 NKJV)
Hezekiah’s reign is described 3 places in the Bible – in 2 Kings 18-20, 2 Chronicles 28-32, and Isaiah 36-39. We know when he became king, and how long he reigned, and when he died. Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. (2 Kings 18:1-2 NKJV)
So we can do the math, and we can determine that Hezekiah lived to be 25+29=54 years old.
Hezekiah was a great man and a great king. He was godly and good. In nearly every way he is a man to be emulated. God blessed him in unbelievable ways. He prayed once for deliverance from the evil Assyrian army of Sennacherib and God answered that prayer by killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in their sleep. And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the LORD went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. (2 Kings 19:35 NKJV) And all in response to the prayer of Hezekiah. Now, to give that a little scale, consider that The Horseshoe, Ohio Stadium in Columbus, has a seating capacity of 104,000+. According to one source, the highest recorded attendance was 108,610 screaming Ohio State fans when whey played Michigan in November 2014. Get a picture of that mob in your head, and then basically double it, and you’ll have an idea of the scale of God’s answer to Hezekiah’s prayer!
I can’t wait to get to heaven and meet some of these great guys. Hezekiah is definitely on my short list of heroes to look up!
But for our purposes this morning, there is another very interesting truth about Hezekiah to consider. Hezekiah knew EXACTLY when he was going to die.
Let’s read a bit of the story – 2 Kings 20:1-11
Hezekiah was told he would die. He prayed and God answered his prayer by promising him 15 additional years. He gave him a miraculous sign to assure him of the truth of this prophecy – the shadow on the sundial would go backwards 15 degrees. Hezekiah recovered, and lived 15 more years.
So if our math is correct, this event must have taken place when he was 39, since he lived to be 54. And for those 15 years, this man knew that he was going to die at the age of 54, for God had told him so, and proven it to him with a miraculous demonstration.
What if you knew? Would it make a difference? Did it make a difference for Hezekiah?
Well, we know a few key truths about those last 15 years.
We know that many of Hezekiah’s great accomplishments took place in those 15 years. (Tunnel?)
We know that Hezekiah had a son during those 15 years.
But it seems… and I don’t want to be too dogmatic about this for I’m basing it on one statement out of this man’s great life… that Hezekiah became self-centered the older he got… the closer he got to the end.
That statement upon which I base my observation is found if we read just a bit further – 2 Kings 20:12-19.
Somewhere this godly man had allowed into his heart a selfish lack of concern for the welfare of those who would follow. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the son who was born to him in those last 15 years. So Hezekiah rested with his fathers. Then Manasseh his son reigned in his place. Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. (2 Kings 20:21-21:1 NKJV) It doesn’t take a math genius to calculate that this child was born during Hezekiah’s miracle years… during that 15 year extension that God gave him. And in the 12 years God gave Hezekiah with this child, what kind of son did he raise? How did Manasseh turn out? Well, 2 Kings 21:2-9 indicates he was wicked in the extreme – a man who knew not God nor cared in the slightest for the anything godly.
So… Hezekiah knew. He knew exactly when he was going to have his last day. And in full possession of that knowledge, this man became self-centered. His attention was focused on himself and his life, even to the exclusion of the miracle child God gave him.
“Pastor, you’re being way too hard on Hezekiah. The Bible doesn’t really say that he actively sought these results, just that they happened.”
True. And maybe I am being too hard on him. Maybe Hezekiah did not actively seek his own pleasure at the expense of others. And maybe he did not really neglect Manasseh. I don’t want to take this too far. He may have tried with Manasseh and it just didn’t take. Contrary to what modern ideas might convey, children are not always able to blame their parents for how they turn out. Sometimes, they have nobody to blame but their own foolish choices, made in spite of the prayers and tears of loving parents.
But… at the very least we can say that Hezekiah did not SEEM to make good use of the time that remained. Perhaps he did actively do these things and cause the destruction of his own son and people. Or perhaps he just neglected the important things, and frittered away his remaining time on selfish pursuits. My guess is that the latter is closest to the truth.
Regardless of which characterization seems right to you, brothers and sisters – let us learn well from Hezekiah. If we knew that 2020 would be our last year, would we spend it on selfish pursuits? Would we be most concerned about whether there was peace and safety for us, even if it meant there would be none for those we love? Would we pour ourselves into our loved ones knowing that we had but a short time to win them to Christ, or would we abandon them to perdition and evil, thinking only of ourselves?
What if you knew?
He is another on my short list. I can’t wait to meet him. Do you have a short list? It no doubt starts with Jesus. There is, of course, nobody I would rather see first than Him. But then there are so many others I want to talk with. Peter is certainly high on the list. Great guy. He was in some ways such a wild man. I see so much of myself in Peter. He would open his mouth wide and insert his foot deep – so often. I’ve been known to do a bit of that. He was impetuous – jumping in with both feet when he would have been wiser to stop and think. I’ve been known to behave in a similar fashion from time to time. Yeah… I want to meet Peter.
One of the things Peter is most known for is his infamous denial of His Lord. Jesus had been arrested and was on trial. He was about to be crucified. Peter was nearby watching the proceedings when a girl asked him if he was one of Jesus’ followers. He denied it – 3 times, just as Jesus had foretold that he would.
Well, I won’t spend a bunch of time on that story, for you can read it on your own. But the part that is of interest for us this morning is the end of the story… or as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.” AFTER Peter had denied Christ, Jesus met him on the seashore and cooked breakfast for him. He had a long talk with the Lord, at the conclusion of which Jesus restored him to service and favor. Then Jesus said this to him – Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:18-19 NKJV)
Now – Peter did not know the exact time of his death, as did Hezekiah. But Jesus had given him a pretty good glimpse into the future – enough to know with at least some certainty, the general age at which he would die.
Did it make a difference? Did Peter’s knowledge of the time that remained matter? Did it influence how he lived… thought… behaved… prayed?
Well, Peter said it did – For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. (2 Peter 1:12-15 NKJV)
He knew he was running out of time, and so he determined to use the time that remained to:
- TELL them.
* RETELL them.
* LEAVE REMINDERS so that the telling would go on long after his passing.
What if you knew this year was the last? There are those in your life who are lost. Would you be concerned enough by the shortness of time to sit them down and tell them? And if there were some who showed no interest at that telling, would you be aware enough of the danger they face and urgent enough because of the ticking of the clock to tell them again… and AGAIN if need be?
That was Peter’s response to the slipping away of time. What Peter knew about his end spurred him on… focused his energy. Peter was not frittering away his last minutes as we have seen Hezekiah may have done. Peter was intent and focused and active – ensuring that all those he knew, knew the Savior he knew.
And he didn’t stop with telling. He didn’t stop with retelling. He ensured he had left something behind so that even when he was gone and could no longer tell, the message would still be told! And those who needed to hear could still hear!
I wonder if we are doing enough to tell people now, while we can? And I wonder what we are leaving behind to remind people after we’re gone.
In Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ book, “Left Behind,” the principal characters live through the rapture and after they realize what has happened they turn to Christ and are saved. They do this after viewing a videotape that a pastor friend made and left with instructions to view in case he disappeared. My problem with the theology of it notwithstanding (those who have heard and rejected before the rapture will be unable to accept Him after the rapture – 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12), I always thought that videotape was a good idea, for some might see it who had not already heard and rejected. Beth always wanted to do that and it’s still on my todo list.
What if we knew this was the year?
Would we tell more? Would be be urgent enough to retell over and over if need be? And would we care enough about those who would come behind us to leave something behind so that the telling would go on, even after our passing?
Let’s read about another man who knew – King Saul. – 1 Samuel 28:3-20
Saul had turned away from God, if he ever knew Him in the first place. Some go so far as to suggest Saul was never a saved man, but I think the Bible makes it clear that Saul was saved… just sadly and terribly carnal and backslidden.
Here we see him at the end of his life, when God had withdrawn His favor from both Saul’s reign and life. God has already said that the kingdom will go to another. It’s over for Saul.
But here in this passage Saul learns that TOMORROW he will die.
– TOMORROW the kingdom will be torn from you and given to David. (vs. 17 )
– TOMORROW the warnings God has been giving you for years will come to pass. (vs. 18)
– TOMORROW you and your sons will die, and you will be with me (that last part would not have been true if Saul was not a saved man, btw.)
What if you, like King Saul, knew? Would it make a difference?
In Saul’s case, the result was TERROR… he was DREADFULLY AFRAID. He was about to meet the God he had rebelled against all his life. He was about receive the judgment that he had always known was coming. He had ignored God and God’s word, but TOMORROW he would face the result of that.
And he was afraid.
Coming to the last day of your life terribly afraid is a terribly sad way for a Christian to end.
One more man who knew:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)
– He knew he was at the end of his life.
– He knew his fight was finished.
– He knew his race was run.
– And he knew he had run well and kept the faith.
– He knew that the time of his departure was at hand… imminent.
But unlike King Saul, this man who had formerly shared his name did not share his fear. He did not come to the end of his days dreadfully afraid, but rather gloriously hopeful.
– He looked forward with hope.
– He looked forward to reward.
– He did not fear meeting Christ but rather spoke of it with great anticipation.
Here was a man coming to his end and his heart was filled with faith and peace.
So… What does all this mean for us on this first Lord’s Day in 2020?
We’ve examined 4 men who all KNEW their time was up.
– In Hezekiah’s case, we learned that it’s possible to make poor use of such knowledge and waste the time that remains.
– In Peter’s case, we learned that it’s also possible to make good use of the time that remains… to allow the shortness of time to focus our energies and attention on the only thing that matters – TELLING.
– In King Saul’s case, we learned that coming to the end of our days away from God brings us to that last day afraid.
– And in the Apostle Paul’s case, we learned that coming to the end having served Him to the end brings us home hopeful and at peace.
What of you? Which describes you?
Just this morning in my devotions I read these words from the prophet Ezekiel – An end! The end has come upon the four corners of the land. Now the end has come upon you… (Ezekiel 7:2-3).
What if God says that to you in the new year?
My prayer for 2020 is that it IS our last year… that the end does come. I’m praying harder than ever that Jesus returns. Maranatha. Even so come, Lord Jesus!
– Let us so live in 2020 that we are focused on what matters, rather than frittering away the minutes that remain.
– Let us so live in 2020 that we will look forward to that meeting, and not fear it.