A Reprieve

It is revealed in the scriptures that there are times when one who was dead or destined to die was miraculously healed or raised from the dead. Once, after the son of a widow had died, a compassionate Jesus spoke to her son and he was resurrected from the dead. Needless to say, this action convinced many that Jesus was from God.
“Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.” (Luke 7:14-16)

By bringing his daughter back from the dead, Jesus also astonished a ruler of the synagogue. This happened in an instant. Jesus took her hand, said, “Maid arise” and the spirit came back to her body. When he came to pray for her, it is interesting to note that the people laughed at Jesus.
“And, behold, there came a man named Jabirus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus’ feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: For he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went the people thronged him.” (Luke 8:41-42)
Continuing in verse 49: “While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole. And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden. And all wept, and bewailed her: but he said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.” (Luke 8:49-56)

We also read of Lazarus, whom Jesus brought back to life. This was an emotional experience for Jesus in that he “groaned in the spirit” and “wept”.
Imagine watching Lazarus come up out of the tomb. He somehow had to float, since he would have been unable to walk on his own, still wrapped in his burial clothes. It is written that many believed after that.
“Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off. And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:14-26) We continue the narrative with verse 32. “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him? And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou has heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them. Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews, which came to Mary, and had seen the things, which Jesus did, believed on him.” (John 11:32-45)

We read of Peter being summoned when a female disciple, Tabitha, had died in Joppa. Peter’s prayer was short but powerful. Tabitha came back to life. When it became known throughout the area many were convinced to believe. Just as Jesus had done with Jairus’s daughter, Peter put everybody out of the room before he prayed, possibly because of their unbelief.
“But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.” (Acts 9:40-41)

Little information is given concerning an account of Paul being stoned. It is not clear whether or not he was actually dead. If not dead, he would have been in bad shape after being stoned. Yet, he walked away the next day.
“And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” (Acts 14-20)

Even if it is not boring, we all sometimes doze off during a sermon. Paul came to the rescue of a young man, Eutychus, who dozed off and fell out of a third floor window. “And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.” (Acts 20:9-10)

We read in the Old Testament that King Hezekiah was given two reprieves from death. One involved the entire nation of Judah, the other only himself. He began his reign over Judah when he was twenty-five years old, and he ruled for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. As a rule, he was a good king who trusted in the Lord. As the scripture reads: “Fore he clave to the LORD and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.” (II Kings 18: 6)
To his detriment, during the fourteenth year of his reign, King Hezekiah developed pride in his heart. Thus, Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was allowed by God to attack Judah. He took all the fenced cities, and was about to take Jerusalem and destroy the land of Judah. Hezekiah then turned to the Lord in prayer. He humbled himself before the Lord, prayed, and God then delivered Hezekiah and the people from the Assyrians.
“And Hezekiah prayed before the LORD, and said, O LORD God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth. LORD, bow down thine ear, and hear: open, LORD, thine eyes, and see: and hear the words of Sennacherib, which hath sent him to reproach the living God. Of a truth, LORD, the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, And have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech thee, save thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the LORD God, even thou only” (II Kings 19:15-19) God responded to his prayer and intervened for Hezekiah and the people of Judah. “Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the LORD. For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.” (II Kings 19:32-34)

Continuing we see another incident where God struck down a large number of people, 5,180 in all. Sennacherib also lost his life at the hand of his own son. “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia, And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.” (II Kings 19:35-37) We find further clarification describing Hezekiah’s pride in the book of II Chronicles. “Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.” II Chronicles 32:27. Thus we are taught that the pride of a leader can bring about the destruction of a nation but that humility and prayer can turn that devastation around.
King Hezekiah, after his ordeal with Sennacherib, became deathly ill. Isaiah the prophet went to him and warned him that death was near. Hezekiah once again prayed. As a result of Hezekiah’s prayer, God, not only healed his illness, but also performed one of the most extraordinary phenomenons in the history of man by making the sun go backwards. We have to wonder why Hezekiah would ask for a sign. It would seem that the healing itself would have been proof enough.
“In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death, And the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live. Then he turned his face to the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, saying, I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
“And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake. And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.
“And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.” (II Kings 20:1-11)

Additional Old Testament scriptures tell us of others who died and were brought back to life. One of these is a widow’s son who encountered Elijah the prophet. Elijah’s procedure was strange. While he prayed, Elijah stretched himself over the boy three different times. The Lord answered his prayer. We find that the boy’s soul, which had left his body, returned to him.
“And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman the mistress of the house, fell sick; and his sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him. And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son? And he said unto her, give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. And he cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, has thou also brought evil upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? And he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God; I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the house, and delivered him unto his mother: and Elijah said, See, thy son liveth. And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.” (I Kings 17:17-24)
A similar situation is described involving Elisha the prophet. In this circumstance, after being brought back to life, the child sneezed seven times before opening his eyes. We also learn that this revivification took quite some time. “And Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.” (II Kings 4:32-35)

In the New Testament, we read that at the moment of Christ’s death many deceased local believers reappeared in Jerusalem. “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Matthew 27:52-53) This raises a lot of questions. Was this their flesh body brought back to life or their spiritual body made visible to man? Did these people appear for just a moment or stay around awhile? Were they able to converse with loved ones? Did they die again or just disappear? My speculation is that they were in their spiritual bodies and only appeared for a short time. I also believe the reason for their return was to inspire the conversion of souls.

We have discovered that God, at various times, grants a reprieve in the lives of man, but he does not intervene every time for everyone. One example of this can be established in the book of John, chapter five. We read where Jesus healed a man who had suffered an infirmity for thirty-eight years at the pool of Bethesda. There were many others also waiting to be healed who were not.

What determines when God will intervene? King Hezekiah’s reprieve was the result of prayer as well obedience to God. In the examples of Jesus with the widow’s son and of Lazarus, we read that there were many who believed as a result. We could assume that an obvious reason for Paul’s recovery was that he still had much work to accomplish in the furthering of Christianity. Thus, four reasons why God intervenes would be: prayer, obedience, to convert unbelievers and to complete a work that needs completed.

In two separate scriptures The Psalmist wrote these endearing words of joy for us, describing his reprieve from death.
“I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Psalms 116:1-9)
And the other: “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
“And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper. Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. (Psalms 30:4-9)

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