by Pastor David Groendyk
The narratives found in Isaiah 38–39 can also be found in 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chronicles 32. Within the larger section describing the rise and fall of Judah, we’re getting a vignette of the rise and fall of Jerusalem and Hezekiah. Isaiah is using this vignette of Hezekiah to set up the break between the first half of the book (which points towards exile) and the second half of the book (which points towards returning from exile). Just taking this chapter alone, however, we see a generous and miraculous salvation by God.
Isaiah doesn’t give us the exact timeline of events, but we can just about piece things together based on the different recountings of these events. Hezekiah’s sickness occurs at almost the exact same time (perhaps slightly before) Assyria comes and besieges Jerusalem. Hezekiah is only about 39 years old at the time, and so it’s no wonder that he laments the fact that he hasn’t lived a long life (v. 10). But despite the fact that his death seems like a sure thing, Hezekiah prays and is granted a longer life. What lessons do we learn from Hezekiah’s recovery?
- God encourages us to pray. By putting Hezekiah on his deathbed, God is encouraging and goading the king to pray and ask for recovery. God didn’t lie when he said Hezekiah would die, nor does God change his mind in the middle of the story. Had Hezekiah not prayed to God, he surely would have succumbed to his sickness. But Hezekiah did pray, and that’s what God wanted all along. Prayer is a tool for us believers. Not that we can change God’s mind from one decision to another, but God uses our prayers as tools to accomplish his own work. Think about it this way: we pray for God to heal loved ones all the time, but he doesn’t usually miraculously heal them; usually he heals by using doctors to correctly diagnose and treat our loved ones. He chooses to uses secondary means to accomplish his will and answer prayer. Likewise, God uses our prayers to accomplish his will. He wants us to recognize our dependence upon him for all things. He wants us to humble ourselves before him. He wants us to understand that he is our good Father who loves to provide for us. He encourages us to pray to move him.
- God alone has the power of life and death. Even someone on their deathbed can recover swiftly and fully if God so chooses. Admittedly, it seems like God doesn’t choose to do that very often, but he is all-powerful, and he wants us to know that. This should be a source of great comfort for every believer, knowing that we are able to and have the privilege of speaking any time we want with the God who has the power over life and death. But this is also a great pride-killer. Having an Almighty God means that we can work, work, work all we want, but if God is not in it, then it will fail (see Eccl. 1:14 and Psa. 127:1–2). Even claiming that everything you’re doing is in the name of the Lord doesn’t insure that you’ll succeed (see Matt. 7:21–23). There is no magical formula for insuring that what we do will succeed. God must accomplish the work, and that should drive us to prayer (see #1).
- God’s grace to us is meant to change us. This principle really goes along with the next chapter, and you might want to consult the 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles chapters for fuller context. God’s healing mercy shown to Hezekiah should have humbled him and led him to live a life more fully devoted to worshiping and magnifying his Savior. Instead, Hezekiah ended up being filled with pride and showing off his hoard of wealth to a soon-to-be hostile enemy. God’s faithfulness, love, and salvation should result in thanksgiving, praise, and worship (vv. 17–20). Hezekiah experienced God’s goodness but did not let it humble him, and it led to Judah’s eventual downfall at the hands of Babylon. Similarly, we can experience so much of God’s goodness and blessings towards us, but if all that goodness doesn’t cause us to surrender ourselves to him, then it is meaningless in the end. God has cast all of your sins behind his back, never to remember them, because of what Christ did for you! Let that change the way you live!