August 1, 2021

Pass the Sackcloth, Please

By Cathy Luchetti

Photo by Miguel Carraça on Unsplash
Photo by Miguel Carraça on Unsplash

So Hezekiah prayed before God. He wore sackcloth and ashes, and prostrated himself and God was pleased. He tore down the high places, and God was pleased. He glorified God and praised Him, and God was pleased. The blessings stacked up, and for years, both God and Hezekiah were pleased. But then comes the part that turns joy into tragedy, the part that you’d never imagine happening because the synergy was working so well. Hezekiah, in a short, foolish burst of pride, showed off his silver, gold, spices and treasures to the son of the King of Babylon. It was a tour of the palace, the most ordinary kind of hospitality, king to king. Yet in one moment, he showed these treasures to be his, and not gifts of God. And God was not pleased.

Of course this is the Old Testament, where downfalls are daily and seem to last forever. But this one happened over blessings, which we all long for, pray for, and celebrate when they occur. So it makes me think that if there were no blessings, Hezekiah might have taken the sackcloth off the wall hook and put it back on, along with a good dose of ashes. And he would have prayed and prayed and then been in communion with God through his prayers. And without blessings to distract him–that’s right, distracted by gifts, signs, and wonders–he would never have taken his eyes off God. He would never have slipped for that one moment in his prayerful life, and put himself first.

Are blessings possible curses in disguise?  Maybe this is why some take to monastic life, where there are no obvious physical blessings to distract. I wonder if the blessings were used as a trap? Yet God does not set traps. We set our own, often unconsciously. The fragility of Hezekiah’s relationship, which could turn on a dime, is a reminder of what life was like under the OT God. When a holy man could stumble over his own blessings and die under his own curse, no matter how much he wanted it otherwise. After all, we might think, he was only bragging a little. But to God this was no small thing.

I wonder what to pray for. Less? More? What if I get more and then get distracted. What if I begin to take more for granted, believe that more came to me by my own merits, that I deserve more? What if I slip up mentally, just a little, and my sons become eunuchs and my house disappears?

And then with relief I understand that in spite of Hezekiah’s grandeur, his achievements, his wealth and his throne, I have far more than He did. I have the buffer of Christ to help me first onto my knees and then on to my feet. I have someone to broker forgiveness.


For more on Hezekiah, check out Solano’s Summer Sermon Series.

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