ISAIAH 38-39

 

Isaiah 36 Ė 39 are sometimes called the historical interlude. They talk about the time of Hezekiah. In my last lesson on Isaiah, I recommend that you read Chapters 36 and 37, which tells how God protected Jerusalem from the Assyrian army. If you did not read it, I hope that you will because it is an interesting read. For our time tonight, we will be looking at Chapters 38-39.

 

Isaiah 38:1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.' "

 

Sometime during Hezekiahís life, he was sick and near death. There are various opinions on the actual date of when this occurred, but those that try and date it usually will state that they cannot be dogmatic about it, but knowing the exact date to me is not as important as seeing what happens.

 

I can just imaging being in Hezekiahís shoes knowing that I am very ill. I would be wondering, is this going to be the end or will I recover. Many people have experienced this even when they had a bad case of the flu. For Hezekiah there would be no mystery to his fate because Isaiah comes and tells him that he is going to die. Letís see his response to this news.

 

Isaiah 38:2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD,3 and said, "Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

 

One reason some believe that Hezekiah was weeping about his death was because he had no heirs. With no heirs there would be no descendant from King David to be on the thrown. For example Josephus says the reason for Hezekiah's bitter weeping was due to the:

 

"Knowledge that he was childless and the thought of his leaving the kingdom without a son to succeed him. So the king was in great dread, and in terrible agony at this calamityĒ (Flavius Josephus, p. 300).

 

2 Kings 21:1 confirms that Hezekiah did not have a son until 12 years before his demise. That sonís name was Manasseh. One thing we can appreciate about Hezekiah is that he did not try and blame God for anything, but only prayed to Him to remind Him that he had served the Lord and was faithful to Him. Though he wept bitterly, it was not a sign of weakness, but of sincerity about his situation. I love what happens next:

 

Isaiah 38:4 And the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying,5 "Go and tell Hezekiah, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.6 "I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city." '

We also read about this account in 2 Kings 20. It has a few more details to it. For example:

 

2 Kings 20:4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

 

From this we can put a timeline together. First, Isaiah goes and tells Hezekiah that he is going to die. He then leaves and is on his way out of the palace. During that time, Hezekiah says his prayer and God peers into his heart and responds to his prayer. Isaiah was given the news as he was in the middle court. This shows how fast God heard and answered Hezekiahís prayer. Now we already read part of the message Isaiah is to give to Hezekiah, but I also want to show what 2 Kings 20 says as well:

 

2 Kings 20:5 "Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.6 "And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David." ' "

 

The answer to the prayer included three parts. First, God would heal Hezekiah in three days. Second, he would add to his days 15 years. Third, God would defend Jerusalem from the Assyrians for Godís sake and for David.

 

This shows us that God hears our prayers and answers them. Sometimes our prayers may be answered quickly like Hezekiahís were. Other times, they may be answered many years from now. The point is, God listens. He knows when we are crying and hurting deep inside. He knows what we need and He can provide. This is why we pray for the sick, and even pray for the terminally ill. While doctors are right most of the time, they are not right all of the time. Just because they give you or a loved one a month to live does not mean that will be the case especially if it is Godís will that the person will be around longer. Prayer does make a difference, so let us never think that it does not.

 

Next, God is going to prove what Isaiah is telling Him. Instead of reading Isaiahís account in verses 7 and 8, I want us to read the more detailed account in:

 

2 Kings 20:8 And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What is the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of the LORD the third day?"9 Then Isaiah said, "This is the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing which He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees?"10 And Hezekiah answered, "It is an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees; no, but let the shadow go backward ten degrees."11 So Isaiah the prophet cried out to the LORD, and He brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down on the sundial of Ahaz.

 

This is one of these unique moments because not only does Hezekiah get to witness a miracle, he gets to choose how the miracle will work. Either the sun dial will go forward 10 degrees or backwards 10 degrees. While either one would be impressive, who wouldnít want to see it go backwards? With no hesitation, Isaiah calls out to the Lord and the sundial goes backwards in time 10 degrees. While we get to read about miracles like these, it would have been amazing to see such a thing with your own eyes. No doubt Hezekiah and even Isaiah would have been awe struck by what God did that day.

 

We need to keep in mind that God does not operate this way today because we have been given the completed Word of God. We have many miracles recorded for us and many facts that show that we have Godís fully revealed Word. So, donít think that you can pray to God to keep the Sun still for a day like Joshua did in Joshua 10:12-15. Though God has not lost His ability to do such things, He does not operate that way any longer. However, He still answers our prayers and makes things happen through His providence.

 

Isaiah 38:9 This is the writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sickÄ and had recovered from his sickness:10 I said, "In the prime of my life I shall go to the gates of Sheol; I am deprived of the remainder of my years."11 I said, "I shall not see YAH, The LORD in the land of the living; I shall observe man no more among the inhabitants of the world.12 My life span is gone, Taken from me like a shepherd's tent; I have cut off my life like a weaver. He cuts me off from the loom; From day until night You make an end of me.

 

After Hezekiah had recovered from his sickness, he reflects back on the whole experience through a psalm. These first four stanzas are the easiest to understand. In verse 10, he talks about how he was in the prime of his life but, because of his sickness, he is going to die at an early age and be robbed of many more years he could have lived.

 

In verse 11, not only does he think that his death will end his existence on earth and make him aware of the activities of the earth, he also seems to think that he will not see God, which is what YAH means in our verse. However, it is possible that Hezekiah is just saying that he will not see the Lord in the land of living anymore, but he will see Him in the afterlife. It is difficult to know for sure what some of these O.T. people knew about the afterlife because little is said about it the O.T. However, the N.T. talks more about it. For example:

 

2 Corinthians 5:1For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.2 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven,3 if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.4 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.5 Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.6  So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

 

There are more verses like these that teach us that death is not the end of life, it is the beginning of eternity. It is true that we will be cut off from the earth and from my understanding of Scripture we will not know what is going on in the earth. However, we will be in that place called paradise until the final judgment day. I could go into much greater detail, but I do not have time in this lesson, but if you would like to learn more about this topic, then I recommend you grab my tract DEATH AND BEYOND from the tract rack.

 

Even though we are not giving every detail that we would like to know about what happens after death, we are giving the details of what we need to know to be prepared for the day of our death so that we can know that our destination will be heaven instead of hell.

 

12 My life span is gone, Taken from me like a shepherd's tent; I have cut off my life like a weaver. He cuts me off from the loom; From day until night You make an end of me.

 

In verse 12 of our text, Hezekiah uses metaphors to illustrate how he is not in control of death. His life will be taken from him, just like a shepherd tents is easily taken up or how weaver will cut his loom. Unless one commits suicide or hires someone to take their life, we have no real control over the day we will die. Even if we eat right, exercise, and practice safety there is no guarantee of a long life. A car accident, a run in with the wrong people, or even a disease can take us over in the prime of our life. As Hezekiah prayed to God, our goal as Christians should be to walk in the way of the Lord because when we do that, then we will have the guarantee that eternal life in heaven will be ours.

 

Isaiah 38:13 I have considered until morning -- Like a lion, So He breaks all my bones; From day until night You make an end of me.14 Like a crane or a swallow, so I chattered; I mourned like a dove; My eyes fail from looking upward. O LORD, I am oppressed; Undertake for me!

 

Here he describes how much agony he was going through during his sickness. What a description it is. Imagine a lion thrashing you until all your bones are broken and this lasting day and night. If you were feeling this miserable you would no doubt be chattering words as kind of a distraction from the pain, and you will certainly morn for yourself as you endure such misery. He was looking upward toward heaven to God because he knew that God is the only one that can help him.

 

15 " What shall I say? He has both spoken to me, And He Himself has done it. I shall walk carefully all my years In the bitterness of my soul.16 O LORD, by these things men live; And in all these things is the life of my spirit; So You will restore me and make me live.17 Indeed it was for my own peace That I had great bitterness; But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.18 For Sheol cannot thank You, Death cannot praise You; Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your truth.19 The living, the living man, he shall praise You, As I do this day; The father shall make known Your truth to the children.20 "The LORD was ready to save me; Therefore we will sing my songs with stringed instruments All the days of our life, in the house of the LORD."†††

 

In this last section, Hezekiah is praising God for rescuing him from death and extending his life. He wrote this song to be a constant reminder of what God had did for him at the lowest moment in his life. That is one of the wonderful things about God. Even when you are rock bottom, God has a way of lifting you up and giving you hope. So, let us never forget that God is always there for us through thick and thin.

 

Isaiah 38:21 Now Isaiah had said, "Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it as a poultice on the boil, and he shall recover."22 And Hezekiah had said, "What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?"

 

It pretty obvious that these verses are not in chronological order and we find this happening sometimes in different verses thorough out the Bible, but all these verses point out is that natural remedies were used to heal Hezekiah along with Godís help. In verse 42, it points out that Hezekiah asked what would be the sign that shows he will cover and be able to go in the house of the Lord.

 

Our next short chapter reveals a big mistake that Hezekiah makes that would eventual lead to the Babylonians coming in and capturing Godís people.

 

Isaiah 39:1 At that time Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.2 And Hezekiah was pleased with them, and showed them the house of his treasures -- the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory -- all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.

 

At this time, the Assyrians were the ones in charge, but the Babylonians were growing in power. So, when their king heard of Hezekiahís recovery, he sent a gift to him. This may have been a gesture to be on good terms with him so they would join with him in what would eventually make the Babylonians the dominating power in the region or it could have been a plot to find out more about their strengths and treasures.

 

Hezekiah was flattered by the present and the attention, so without putting any thought into the matter, he showed these messengers all his treasures that he was blessed with. This weak moment in being so open to them was not a good thing to do as we are about to find out.

 

Isaiah 39:3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah, and said to him, "What did these men say, and from where did they come to you?" So Hezekiah said, "They came to me from a far country, from Babylon."4 And he said, "What have they seen in your house?" So Hezekiah answered, "They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shown them."

 

Hezekiah should have known better than to show a foreign power everything he had. It is amazing what people will do and reveal if you simply stroke their ego. Next, Isaiah says:

 

Isaiah 39:5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD of hosts:6 'Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,' says the LORD.

 

When these messengers went back to their kingdom and told their king what kind of riches Hezekiah had, it would make them a target. While the Babylonians may have been looking for a ally in the beginning to help them dominate the Assyrians, great treasures have a way of causing man to simply come and take what he wants. This is exactly what Isaiah says is going to happen to Jerusalem. Everything will be gone. He also says:

 

Isaiah 39:7 'And they shall take away some of your sons who will descend from you, whom you will beget; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.' "

 

Not only would the treasury be taken, so would the people. Now this would not happen for about 120 years, but it did happen. This prophecy also showed that Hezekiah would have descendants. We see this prophecy fulfilled when Babylonians came in took over the people of Jerusalem. Also, the book of Daniel says:

 

Daniel 1:3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles,

 

These verses show that Hezekiahís descendants did indeed become eunuchís under the King of Babylon. This was not good news, but notice Hezekiahís response:

 

Isaiah 39:8 So Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good!" For he said, "At least there will be peace and truth in my days."

 

Now there are two ways to take this. First, you might think he is being very selfish and is basically saying, I am glad things are going to be good for me, but too bad for those people after me. Some do believe this is what he is expressing here. However, others believe that he was not being selfish at all, but was just being thankful the time of peace God had granted him and his people even if would only be for a short while.

 

In conclusion, we have learned that God does indeed answer prayer and can rescue us from the depths of despair, but we must put our trust in Him. We also learned to be careful about flattery and what can happen if we allow it to cause us to drop our guard. Let us be diligent to remind ourselves often about how awesome our God is and how He is always there for us.