• Story of King Hezekiah •

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Welcome and happy Sabbath. Today, we will hear a story from the Bible. Take a moment to clear your mind, to listen imaginatively, and to let yourself enter into and experience the story.

CAFE QUESTIONS: Do you know what the acronymns CPR and AED stand for? Have you ever asked God for a sign? When have you wanted to stop the clock? Will you have a death bed confession?

HYMNS & WORSHIP: That song, “Into the darkness you shine.” That song, “God of second chances, romances.” That hymn, “Amazing Grace.” That hymn, “Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me.”

PSALMS: “Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of Glory enter. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; invincible in battle. Open up ancient gates! Open up ancient doors, and let the King of Glory enter. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies – he is the King of Glory (Psalm 24:7-10, KJV)” Note: Psalms 120-134 , the “Fifteen Songs of Degrees,” would be sung by a procession of Levite worshipers ascending the temple stairs of Ahaz, from the court of women to the court of Israel during the Feast of Tabernacles. Stairs were also David’s “causeway that goeth up westward” (I Chron 26:16) and the stairs of Solomon’s ascent by which he went up into the new house of Yahweh which so impressed the Queen of Sheba (II Kings 10).

PAINTING: Project above image on the wall – “Light Stream” by Francis Livingston, 2009.

SCRIPTURE: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, KJV).

BACKGROUND @2chronicles 29:1-36, chapter 30:1-27, chapter 31:1-21, and 32:20-23. And @2kings 18:1-7a. It was King Ahaz that closed the Lord’s temple. Later, in the very first month of the first year of his son’s reign, King Hezekiah reopened the doors to the Temple of the Lord and repaired them. Hezekiah’s faithful work continued with a proclamation to come and celebrate the Passover of the Lord. King Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, was 25 years old when he began to reign over Judah, and he reigned 29 years in Jerusalem. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before or after his time. He trusted in the Lord, and did not stop following him. He was successful in everything he undertook, but at that time, he was without an heir. King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah cried out to the Lord in prayer to God in heaven, and the Lord sent an angel who destroyed the Assyrian army. That is how the Lord rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the others who threatened them. So there was peace throughout the land. From then on,  King Hezekiah became highly respected among all the surrounding nations, and many gifts for the Lord arrived at Jerusalem, with valuable presents for King Hezekiah, too.

POEM OF PRAISE @isaiah 38:9-2

This is where today’s story begins. NARRATE: II KINGS 20:1-11, NLT, twice.

Let us spend some time to WONDER and DIALOGUE about this story, and bring any questions or observations we have to the table, including any historical elements, cultural customs, symbolic objects, or key word references, by using the Bible to interpret the Bible. Questions may not necessarily be answered, but will be voiced and will raise interest. For example, was Hezekiah in his sick bed, looking out his window, and did he have a death bed confession?

Let us get into the CHARACTERS of the story. What do we know about Isaiah? How do you feel when God changes his mind? When Hezekiah asked for a sign, what was Isaiah’s response? What do we know about Hezekiah? How do you feel after a sudden death sentence, your life swiftly cut short? What was on his heart? What was he thinking by testing God? Why did he choose the seemingly impossible sign? What was it like to watch nature implode?

What did we learn about GOD in this story? God works with our natural remedies to heal us. God gives generously. God is with us.

What aspects of this story or character, foreshadow the GOOD NEWS, especially in relation to what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross and through his resurrection. Look for negative things being lifted and positive things being given, then merge the two ideas into one thought when possible.
•Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed and wept bitterly. “Oh my Father, if this cup may not pass away”
•Strange weather; nature turned in on itself.
•Bright beams of God’s glory went before him, and illuminated his pathway
•Hezekiah went up into the house of the Lord, to be received our King in royal robe. For us our Lord ascended, and for us he lives, “with us always unto the end of the world.”
•Hezekiah was healed on the third day, the solemn pledge finished and fully carried out. Jesus who had vanquished death and the grave came forth from the tomb, the earth wrapped in darkness, flashes of lightening, and the roaring of thunder. “I AM the resurrection and the life.” As dead men we collapsed.
•Hezekiah’s ultimate sign was God’s presence with us; “His name shall be called, Immanuel,” to reveal the light of God’s love. For every deed of love and divine attraction, we see – God with us.

Our goal is to seriously apply this story to our life. Our challenge is to write a prayer, a poem, a song, or create something that EXPRESSes your response and share.

POEMS:

“PROPHET’S POCKET”
King lay sick in a perishing pit
like a lip line edge, flat and stiff
in a painted portrait, drip dried of strength
in the darkness, in the deeps
what speaks the prophet’s pocket?
the only fix for disease and sorrows of men
manifold words of wisdom, warnings, and woe
super natural marvels to behold
a covenant language to uphold
perhaps a poultice of figs to extract the poisonous
turn away my face in painguish
against the perpetual, safeguard wall
holy, blameless, without fault
fate trembles in the balance
pass this cup of bitterness
yes, we all lay sick in this perishing pit
but your words remain
thy will be done, pale lips submit
quick gesture expressions
art full of divine nature
finnished, unblemished
say psychological in three-dimensional

~ Stacy Sweeney

“TABERNACLE IN ME”
Stairs bathed in delight
of the declining westward sun
a procession of temple shadows
stretching palace open windows
cry, cry, Hezeki, mercy shall follow
do Lord, remember me?
show me a sign
hope in this moment
faith fully informs me
Holy Shekinah!
Immanuel is the ultimate sign
my soul surety
bright beams of God’s glory
outshines the sun
displace dark shadow enemy
ten degrees, victory
tabernacle in me
Shiloh, Shalom, Shabbat, Shekinah
tabernacle in me
tabernacle in me

~ Stacy Sweeney

What Substance!

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“Woman in Blue Reading a Letter”
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
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What substance! My barefoot, village preacher claimed to belong to the realm of God. This is certainly the highest claim anyone could make in the best attested historical piece of ancient literature. Claims are not hollow or inferior to fact. This is not a folklore, legendary, or mythological story; therefore, it is to be treated with respect. Nobody prevents a person from stating that which they actually believe to be the truth about themselves. Only lunatics, liars, impostors, or megalomaniacs would make such a tall, outrageous claim.

On the contrary. Jesus was a deep, sublime teacher. Transparent truthfulness was a major theme of his life. In regards to the words of Jesus, “They are read more, quoted more, loved more, believed more, and translated more because they are the greatest words ever spoken. Their greatness lies in the pure lucid spirituality in dealing clearly, definitely and authoritatively with the greatest problems that throb in the human breast.” Lub-dub, lub-dub! Need I go further? This quote alone has me believing.
-Bernard Ramm
‘Protestant Christian Evidences’

In addition to reviewing the topics of historical literature, highest claim, message & mission in my previous paper, “Highest Claim,” I have yet 4 more sections which should point us to >>>”utterly unique individual” >>> birth, length of ministry, death, and resurrection.

>Christ came into the world “After his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found with child” (Matthew 1:18). An illegitimate child for a religious cause? How did the Son of God enter our stratosphere? Now, this topic is the hardest for me to entertain.

>>We naturally tend to respect those who have been at the helm of livelihood with some reflection of staying power. Yet Jesus traversed the regions of Galilee spreading his message and miracles for a mere three and a half years. Now, 2,000 years later, he has such a great following, and the numbers keep climbing worldwide. Why hasn’t time wiped away our short 3 and a half years from history?

>>>The ending of any event is looked upon as a defining moment, where everything along the way recedes into the background; the friendly benedictions, the ecstasy and the disappointments, the making and the breaking – all are focused there. Always gripping. Now with our eyes on the ending, I hear a bitter cry from a condemned criminal dying on a cross. He stood for his claim and his message and he died a most non honorable death. Now what? Who will fill the void? Who will deal with my sin problem?

>>>>“I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave. Write down what you have seen – both the things that are now happening and the things that will happen.” (Revelation 1:18-19. Tyndale, NLT). Being a health professional, I have witnessed many resurrections from the dead. This topic is the easiest for me to entertain.

I woke up crying Tuesday morning after two restless nights of tossing and turning, trying to sleep on a warehouse trampoline in Asheville, and after reading a letter in my inbox with the subject line: [New Life Terminating]. I had hoped it was all a terrible lie, because the realization would mean…we are human? New Life, an non-traditional, Christian group growing community in each of our own neighborhoods throughout Atlanta, has been my church family for eight years. We almost had the perfect Acts 2 church model. What did we expect when our core leadership moved away and left the building?

Nobody could make the claim Jesus made, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, Tyndale, NLT). And so, we go our own ways. My same Summers family was never around the evergreen Christmas tree for more than one year in a row, and we never will be. I say all this because that word “termination” was a deep disturbance delivered in a shocking, destructive surge of hard changes. Will our stories be forgotten? Will God be forgotten?

Christ said he would be with me to the end. I believe that. Come back tomorrow, and he’ll be walking with me, straining my sense of reasoning.

“To believe that a remote impostor, in a forgotten province of a perished empire, stamped Himself so deeply on Time as to compel all the centuries to bear His name is to believe that a child, with a box of colors could change the tint of all the oceans!”
-W.H. Fitchett
‘The Unrealized Logic of Religion’

Nothing could be more appropriate than to paint themes of his words with the functioning power of the pigment. In ‘The Art Spirit’, Robert Henri said, “She is an artist in the beginning and is busy finding the lines and forms to express the pleasures and emotions with which nature has already charged her.” Writing and Biblical storying have wholly occupied me like a search and rescue mission for my soul. Writing helps me draw on my sense of meaning, with a bonus benefit of quiet fulfillment. During this time of expressing my faith at church, my interest in ministry gave way to a new ambition to be an artist, and I have been sustained emotionally, intellectually, and financially to an extent that is hard to overstate. Being an artist sustains the momentum of a connection so big that the movement will not suffer or disappear. No one can carry me spiritually. I will remain a fool for him.
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The Highest Claim

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“Officer with a Laughing Girl”
Johannes Vermeer 1632-1675
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Every message comes in the context of a special story. Every story comes with a message. I am your message. I am your special story. ♪”When God dips His pen of love in my heart and writes my soul a message He wants me to know,♪” is my favorite Allison Krauss song. Part of Alison Krauss’ incontestable talent is how effortlessly she bridges the gap between roots music and country, rock and pop. I had the opportunity to catch her stunning live performance at the fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA, in 2011.

>>>I need a transition here between a special story and forms of literature>>>

If my poems and stories, whether secular or religious, religious meaning I don’t care much for the secular, are reliable and based on evidence, then they are classified as historical literature. I love historical stories of antiquity, even though fictitious folklore, bizarre myths, and embellished legends have their place in literature.

“The Highest Claim”
There was a man
sent from God
who’s name was, I AM
I AM was the Son of God
who is a God
who made a claim
the highest claim, I AM
– Stacy Sweeney

“The New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the document, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual integrity.”
– Ravi Zacharias
‘Can Man Live without God’

I admire the integrity found in scripture. After 30 years of comparing the writings of Luke with his own archaeological findings, Sir William Ramsay declared, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
-Subodh K. Pandit

In the weight of evidence of Luke’s gospel account, Luke writes, “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you.” Luke 1:1-3, Tyndalle NIV. Likewise, I have decided to write an account of the who’s and when’s, like a professional, licensed nurse, charting at her desk.

Norman Geisler wrote that Luke named 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands without error. Why do I dumb myself down?

“The principle of verifiability suggests that if there were two conflicting claims which could not be assessed directly, but they did have indirect factors which could be evaluated, then those indirect factors could be used as a test, and the claim attached to such a verifiable factor would rise in credibility.”
– Subodh K. Pandit
‘The Weight of Evidence’

Historical literature, like the New Testament for example, is an indirect, verifiable factor in our course of the ordinary into the abstract claims about the nature of God. The closer I approach to the event, the greater the credibility. I like to be inside the story. Can I get any closer than that?

As a community, our goal is to state the story, your story, my story, our story as it really happened between the occurrence of that event and the manuscript. The challenge is to evaluate the mysterious with means within our reach.

While in New Orleans for Christian Community Development’s (CCDA) 2013 Cultivate Conference, I wanted to try a vanilla bean snow cone from “one of the premier local legends in the snowball business today.” Actually, legends cannot be established in the same generation as the event because the time required to develop a legend usually runs into centuries. Sorry, Hansen, you’re not yet a legend; you’re still pretty fresh. Hansen’s Sno Bliz, opened in 1939 by Ernest Hansen himself, who invented the Sno-Bliz machine that shaves blocks of ice. Today, the store is run by Ernest’s granddaughter, Ashley Hansen, who created her own line of syrups, sweetened with cane sugar, and she currently serves 40 house-made flavors. “You should expect a 20-30 minute wait in line at Hansen’s – it’s sort of a G-rated local happy hour scene.”
-Top 5 New Orleans Snowball Stands|Retrieved October 16, 2015, from http://www.neworleans.com/restaurants/best-new-orleans-snowball-stand/#,ViEQpicX33U

My groom ordered a ginger-cayenne for himself, and a vanilla bean snowball for me, and as we drove off into the city’s French Quarter, I took my first bite of vanilla bean, and it was quiet flavorful. I sniffed the air and said I could smell that strong cayenne in my nostrils. I took a few more bites of my vanilla bean, then wiped my nose and lips clean, and said to my groom boldly, “Your snow cone is so strong that I can taste it in my mouth all the way over here!”

My groom reached over the 80 year old snow bliz legend to taste my mysterious snow ball and validated that I indeed had a mixed up snowball; half cayenne on bottom, half vanilla bean on top. Mistakes happen. But not Luke. True affection overlooks many mistakes. True love does not discern them.

One reason for this journey into historical writing is to find out the credentials claimed by the man I plan to follow, hopefully for the rest of my life. I’m now thinking of my second favorite Allison Krauss’ song, ♪”Now that I Found You.”♪ What does he really believe of himself, deep in his heart? My highest claim is that I have two healing hands. What is your highest claim?

The claim of Jesus dazzles me out of this world. Claims made by the founding fathers of Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism were all certain ordinary, finite, human claims. But Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, and he used the most peculiar and unique words, I AM. Jesus brought himself. He brought the message. He was the message!

Weighted Evidence