Service of the Heart
It was to be a day of trouble, rebuke, and blasphemy (2 Ki. 19:3). Assyria, the most powerful military force on Earth, invaded Judah. King Sennacherib demanded Jerusalem’s surrender, all the while mocking King Hezekiah and insulting the God of Israel (2 Ki. 18; 2 Chr. 32; Isa. 36). Then, if that wasn’t terrifying enough for Hezekiah, the Jewish king was told he soon would die. Overwhelmed, he poured out his heart in serious supplication.
The Hebrew word for supplication is chalah, which connotes being worn, weak, sick, or afflicted. It describes the burning, impassioned sentiment of a heart that prays fervently to God.
Most people face numerous problems in this world: illness, bereavement, loss of income, family pressures, loneliness, and much more. Difficulties are always present, as reflected in an old Yiddish saying, “Trouble is to man what rust is to iron.” It’s inevitable.
But God has given us the privilege of supplication to receive comfort and help. Scripture tells us, “Pour out your heart before Him” (Ps. 62:8). It also assures us He hears: “The Lᴏʀᴅ has heard my supplication; the Lᴏʀᴅ will receive my prayer” (6:9).
Upon hearing the blasphemous Assyrian message, Hezekiah, emotionally worn and weak, tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, entered the Lord’s Temple, and prayed:
Incline Your ear, O Lᴏʀᴅ, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lᴏʀᴅ, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. Now therefore, O Lᴏʀᴅ our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lᴏʀᴅ God, You alone (2 Ki. 19:16, 19).
God responded with full deliverance for Jerusalem. Hezekiah’s supplication was viewed as so powerful that, from a human perspective, it appeared to change God’s mind. But God does not change (Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17). He always glorifies Himself and does what is right in His eyes.
Later Hezekiah was sick and near death. The prophet Isaiah visited him and broke the bad news: “Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live’” (Isa. 38:1).
The ancient rabbis taught that no matter how bad the circumstance, one should always pray. This position supposedly was based on Hezekiah’s response. He prayed to the Lord, and God prolonged the king’s life by 15 years (v. 5).
Whatever be our darkest moments in life, God is always there. As followers of Jesus, we should always remember that God works everything out for good in accordance with His purpose (Rom. 8:28).
There will be days of trial and trouble. So many, in fact, that even Bible-believing Christians will be worn down and afflicted. But God hears the passions of the heart. He may not always answer in the way we desire or expect, yet His ways are always perfect. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
The ancient rabbis understood this concept, as they commented, “What is service of the heart? You must needs say, Prayer” (Talmud Taanit, 2a).