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Isaiah 39

Well, the good news is we're in the last chapter of the first half of Isaiah. After today, it's called the "New Testament" half of Isaiah. The bad news is, in this last chapter of the Hezekiah historical interlude, we come to that time when even the best kings of Israel make poor decisions.

Just to set the tone here, this is the actual subheading for this chapter in my NASB Ryrie Study Bible:

The Stupidity of Hezekiah

I'm not joking. You have to have made a really bad decision for the Bible-making people to call you stupid. I know these headings are not part of the God-breathed text; but still...when the bible-maker calls you have some thinking to do. 🙂

It starts off pretty nice in verse 1. The King of Babylon heard of Hezekiah's illness and recovery and sent to Hezekiah letters and a present. The Wiersbe commentary makes a great point that this is evidence that Hezekiah's illness did serve God's glory as the word of his recovery spread far and wide- all the way to Babylon.

Then it goes bad quickly. Wiersbe points out that, sometimes, when we're down we just want to feel good. If the enemy cannot defeat us with weapons (Assyrians), he'll change to offering presents (Babylon.)

In verse 2, Hezekiah is pleased with this act of kindness and decides to show the envoys who couriered for the King of Babylon his treasure house. Silver, gold, spices, precious oils, his armory, and all that was found in his treasury. The end of verse 2 goes so far as to say that, "There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them."

I'm not even sure what to say here. Wow.

There is some debate as to why Hezekiah did this. Some say it was that the letters and presents from the king of Babylon were flattering. Some attribute it to prideful exuberance; what's the point of having treasures if you don't get to show them off--just ask Solomon. But others say that Hezekiah was trying to "prove" that he had stuff to offer toward and alliance with Babylon against Assyria. I have pretty mixed feelings about that explanation. It's the most practical of the explanations. It didn't turn out well; but it might have. However, it's also the most offensive to the Lord. Trusting in a stranger king over confidence in the lord alone. Faith in untested alliance over faith in the creator of the universe who has already promised to save you from Assyrian and gave you a sign.

I know the Nigerian scam is a modern thing because it uses the internet and technology; but we can clearly see that predators from a far land engendering trust in a not a new idea.

My husband is a techy guy, so sometimes we'll watch some YouTube videos about how some of these scams work. For example, we watched the Mark Rober video series where he created these glitter-bomb "traps" to catch porch pirates. During the making of these light-hearted videos about playfully messing with porch pirates, he stumbled across phone-scammer who, specifically, target the elderly. The video actually shows footage of a couple of these scams in progress. Listening to the scammers and how maneuver these people into sending them large sums of cash is fascinating. It's not that the people were stupid, it's that the scammers have developed plans and processes that work.

Reading about Hezekiah showing off the wealth of his nation to the envoy of the king of the nation who will eventually be the end of Judah is equally depressing and cringe-worthy.

Regarding these phone scammers, there are also these hacker vigilantes who know that neither our government or the governments in the nations where these scammer live will do anything about it so they set up annual hack-a-thons to try and intercept and fight back to the degree they can interfere with these scammers, knowing that they have skills to contend with these scammer farms.

Hezekiah also had an "hacker" who had unique access to THE Advocate. Isaiah comes to visit Hezekiah and Isaiah has some questions. You know you've made a bad choice when the prophet of the Lord shows up uninvited to confront the king of the nation.

Isaiah asks, "What did these men say to you? Where did they come from?"

And with the biggest foreshadowing of all time, Hezekiah answers, "They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon."

Isaiah, in verse 4, continues to try and survey the damage done by asking, "What have they seen in your house?" To this Hezekiah explains that he showed them everything and left nothing out of the tour.

In our scammer videos this is when we see that the scammers talked the victim into sharing their bank login and password and now the scammers can see exactly how much money their mark has to give. I want to scream warnings at the poor victim at the screen (and to Hezekiah in my Bible), but alas, it is too late. The damage is done. The choice is in the past.

Next, Isaiah tells Hezekiah the future, directly from the Lord of hosts (Yehovah Saba). The day is coming when everything, including everything laid up by you and your fathers, will be carried off to Babylon. God is very specific, "Nothing shall be left,"

That's a bad day.

We have moments in our life when we would do about anything for a do-over button. I imagine This is what Hezekiah is feeling standing before Isaiah and hearing from the Lord.

Isaiah goes on to prophesy that sons of Hezekiah, who haven't even been born yet, will also be carried off to Babylon. Some, seeming, good news seems to be that they will be officials in the palace of the king of Babylon. That's better news than your sons being immediately murdered; but it's also horrifying to think of your sons being turned to serve another king who serves another god.

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, 'The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good.' For he thought, 'For there will be peace and truth in my days.'

Isaiah 39:8

I'll be curious to see if the commentaries agree with Hezekiah. Isaiah's news, the words of the Lord, didn't ring to me as "good." The Word of the Lord is always good; don't get me wrong. And maybe that's what Hezekiah meant; but it sounded to me like he didn't really understand the situation. Or maybe he just didn't want to.

In an interesting parallel to the phone scammer analogy I have been references, in a couple of these videos, including one of the Rober videos, the white-hat hackers catch on to a scam in progress and they call the victim to warn them and tell them to stop. But a weird thing happens, the victims don't listen. They'll hang up on the one trying to warn them. They've invested themselves into the scam and get scared and confused. I wonder if that's what Hezekiah is feeling.

MacArthur Commentary notes that part of Hezekiah's perception of this being good news is that this king, who currently does not have an heir, has now been promised multiple sons. However, the commentary goes on to agree with me that Hezekiah's response was a surprising one. Similar to my theories, they postulate that maybe Hezekiah was trying to express faith and optimism in God's word or maybe he was just trying to stay positive for his offspring, in light of his inability to undo what he had done.

And that's it. That's the end of this story as told by Isaiah. It ends abruptly and vaguely; but we do see the fulfillment of the prophesy in other books of the prophets, such as Daniel and Jeremiah.

There is a hint of a good-ish ending, though, in II Chronicles 32:26

Then Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

II Chronicles 32:26, NKJV BibleGateway

It doesn't specifically reference this event, but it can be inferred that this was at least part of it.

That's where we find our hope. There are scammers who want our treasure and there is an enemy of our heart who wants our souls, or at least our day-to-day defeat. We have to be vigilant and we have to remember that the Lord is our Defender. and when we fail; we can humble ourselves and find forgiveness from our Lord.

Alliance with the world just never prospers.


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