2 Kings 20:9-10
9 And Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do the thing that he has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?” 10 And Hezekiah answered, “It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps. Rather let the shadow go back ten steps.” 11 And Isaiah the prophet called to the Lord, and he brought the shadow back ten steps, by which it had gone down on the steps of Ahaz.
I’d like to take issue with the words of Hezekiah in this passage. When Isaiah tells Hezekiah that God is going to heal him of his illness, Hezekiah wants assign from God that this is true. Isaiah asks Hezekiah whether he wants the sun to move forward or backward in order to allow Hezekiah to see that God’s promise is true.
Here is the point at which I take issue: Hezekiah says that it is an easy thing for the shadow to move in its normal direction. Now, there is a point at which I understand what Hezekiah is saying. He is saying that the forward movement of the sun is normal, typical, nothing out of the ordinary. However, Hezekiah is incorrect to say that it is an easy thing while the other is hard.
First, let’s address the claim that it is easy for the sun to move forward. Is that true? Of course it is easy for God, but then, so is everything else. Outside of God’s glorious power, however, this is not easy. Can you imagine if it was your job to keep the earth rotating on its axis, to keep the planets and stars and solar systems and galaxies moving in their proper patterns, and to make sure that the sun’s shadow falls just right? I’m sorry, but keeping the planets moving is not easy. The only way that it is easy is because God, in his omnipotence, holds the universe together in one effortless action. So, Hezekiah is vastly underestimating the glory of god in the simple fact that the sun still rises and goes down regularly every day.
Second, let’s take issue with the other side of this issue. It is not a hard thing for God to have the sun go backward in the sky. Why? Because God’s omnipotence is what holds the universe together in one effortless act. God can move any star, any planet, any person to anywhere he wants without breaking a sweat. God is God, and so we ought not think that what looks spectacular to us is somehow the harder thing for God to do. It took Jesus no more effort to walk on water than it would have taken him to walk down a city street in Jerusalem. God is God, and so nothing outside of God is a hard thing.
Granted, there are points with which to quibble here. Hezekiah is not trying to belittle the work of God in keeping the solar system in order. Yes, there are things that are hard in God’s view—I’m thinking here of Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. But what made that work of Jesus hard is that He, God the Son, was about to pay the infinite price for the sins of all who would become God’s children, and that payment would require him to bear our sin or “become sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). I’m willing to call that hard. But I am not willing to call a miracle a difficult thing for God. Our god is stronger, more powerful, more glorious than that.