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Isaiah 38

This is the second of three events we see in the "historical interlude" in the middle of the book of Isaiah, all related to King Hezekiah. These are cross-referenced in II Kings 20 and II Chronicles 32.

MacArthur places the following events before the siege of the king of Assyria.

In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah, son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'"

Isaiah 38:1

Brutal. Worst Hallmark card ever.

I think most of us would scream or cry or stompy-foot around.

Here's what Hezekiah does.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, and said, "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech Thee in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Thy sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Isaiah 38:2-3

Hezekiah's first instinct was to reach out to the Lord personally in prayer. He didn't argue with Isaiah; he didn't rant and rave or crumble. He took his case to the Lord. (and then he wept bitterly.)

We have to exercise our spiritual muscles to first turn to God. It's a show of faith and a reminder of Who is in charge.

Hezekiah's prayer wasn't eloquent or actually could be perceived as whiny; but that's okay. God knows our emotions and is okay when we bring our case to Him directly.

The Lord immediately responds to Hezekiah through Isaiah.

"Go and say to Hezekiah, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of your father David, "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.

Isaiah 38:5

The Lord goes on to promise to deliver Hezekiah from the king of Assyria and to defend Jerusalem.

Then the Lord does something extraordinary, a rare gift, He offers a specific sign so that Hezekiah could be confident in what the Lord promised. There was a stairway of Ahaz (Hezekiah's father). As the sun set, the shadow would descend the staircase. The sign from the Lord was that the shadow would go backwards, back up the staircase ten steps.

Then this happened. the shadow moved up ten steps as the sun was going down. And Hezekiah recovered.

After this illness and recovery, Hezekiah reflected ion this event. Verses 10 through 20 are his writings on this.

  • He thought he was going to die and enter Sheol. He saw the rest of his life being lost (v.11)
  • I thought he was not going to see the Lord or other living men (v. 12)
  • He uses metaphors to illustrate how undone he was feeling. A shepherd's tent pulled up and removed; A weaver rolled up and removed from the loom (v. 13)
  • This feeling was all day long (v. 13)
  • He moans and whines from the pain all of the time, like noisy birds. (v.14)
  • He lifts his eyes up and cries to the Lord for security amid the oppression (v.14)

The next paragraph of Hezekiah's writing starts in verse 15. He acknowledges that there isn't a lot to say to God because he heard directly from God--via Isaiah.

He goes on to predict that he's going to wander around all of his years because of the bitterness of his heart. I wonder if that means that he feels bitter toward God and God will leave him wandering because of the bitterness. I've felt like that before- worried that God knows I'm walking around grumbling in my heart and that He is going to be very displeased with me. I now know that He doesn't have rules about feeling; but He does hold us accountable to the thoughts, words, and deeds that derive from those feelings.

Hezekiah seems to come to a similar conclusion. Starting in verse 16 his tone changes and he turns to the Lord, submitting.

  • He talks about the stuff of life and makes a plea to the Lord to restore his health and let him live. (v. 16)
  • Now Hezekiah overtly confesses his sin in the matter. He admits that his bitterness came from him seeking his own welfare; not for the name of the Lord. Despite this bitterness, the Lord kept him from the pit of nothingness. And he credits the Lord with casting Hezekiah's sin behind His back. (v. 17)
    • There is so much here.
    • First, there's a saying that anger is a sign that you're unhappy with God's will. That's a bit of a broad brush; but there's truth in it. Hezekiah is admitting that what left him bitter was that he wanted something different from God and rather than just asking God about it and accepting whatever God had for him. Instead he wanted what he wanted and was bitter that God wanted something else. I need to make a point to search for this motivation in my own heart. Trust God and let go of the bitterness. It is well with my soul.
    • What made Hezekiah so successful against the king of Assyria was that he was able to make the appeal to the Lord for the Lord's name's sake; this time Hezekiah knew he couldn't say that. it was for his own name that he wanted the result.
    • It's interesting that in David's famous Psalm 23, he points out that the Shepherd leads the sheep in paths of righteousness for HIS name's sake. We must constantly remember that He is the Lord of the universe and we live for a few decades...
    • Despite all of this wallowing, he's able credit the Lord for being the One to keep him for the pit of nothingness. We don't deserve it; we can't earn it. He keeps us from the condemnation we do deserve, unless we can see His gift and choose Him.
    • And finally, this is a really interesting description of God's forgiveness. He places our sin "behind His back." He's perfect and cannot "forget" our sin; but He makes an intentional choice to stop looking at it. I encourage anyone struggling to forgive to meditate on the process God uses and ask yourself what you might need to do to remove the sin from the front of your eyes to intentionally put it behind your back.
  • Hezekiah recognizes the terrible situation from which he was saved- in Sheol the Lord cannot be thanked or praised and humans cannot hope for the faithfulness of the Lord. (v. 18)
  • It's the living who can give thanks (as Hezekiah is able to do because he is still alive); and it's a living father who is able to testify to his sons about the Lord's faithfulness. (v.19)

The Lord will surely save me; so we will play my songs on stringed instruments all the days of our life at the house of the Lord.

Isaiah 38:20

This final verse of Hezekiah again seems strongly inspired by David's Psalm 23.

This event is wrapped up in verses 21 and 22 with Isaiah offered a medical directive to apply a fig cake to the boils and Hezekiah looking for guidance when he will be able to return to the house of the Lord, presumably because the boils made him unclean. It's seems very powerful to me that Hezekiah quickly wanted to get back to the Temple.

If these events were in advance of the siege of the king of Assyria, it explains one reason Hezekiah could remain so faithful. He had been involved in a very intimate, personal, and painful season with the Lord and was richly blessed in it.

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