Isaiah 39

Isaiah 39 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin

           Somehow news of Hezekiah’s healing had spread eastward all the way to Babylon, and the Babylonians saw this as an opportunity.  Merocach-baladan, the king of Babylon, was seeking allies in his fight against the Assyrian Empire, and having an ally with a powerful god behind them was quite appealing to him.  More than likely he also had heard about the strange incident of the 185,000 Assyrians lying dead on the ground outside the city of Jerusalem, and now he had heard of this miraculous healing.  Who wouldn’t want to join up with the nation whose God has power over life and death? 

           So the Babylonian king sent envoys with letters proposing such an alliance along with a very generous tribute seeking to buy Hezekiah’s loyalty.  Hezekiah seems flattered that a nation like Babylon coming from such a great distance had heard of their affairs and were even willing to pay for their friendship.  And as a pledge of trust in accepting this offer for an alliance, Hezekiah shows the Babylonian envoys their great wealth and the source of their strength.  He shows them the storehouses of gold, silver and spices and all their weapons of war.  In fact, there was nothing Hezekiah didn’t show them.  Strangely, though, the text doesn’t mention that Hezekiah showed them the temple where their real source of power lay, where their greatest treasure resided. 

           After the envoys leave, Isaiah comes to the palace to confront King Hezekiah and asks two questions.  “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?”  Notice that Hezekiah never answers his first question.  He mentions nothing of the proposal for an alliance.  Rather he states that they came from a country far away, from Babylon.  So Isaiah asks a follow-up question: “What have they seen in your house?”  And Hezekiah admits that he showed them everything.  Consequently, Isaiah speaks for the word of the Lord to the king who had sinned by putting his trust in men and nations rather than in the Lord of hosts.  Isaiah states that because he had showed them everything, the Babylonians then would take everything that they had seen.  And he adds that even some of Hezekiah’s own sons would be taken away to Babylon becoming eunuchs in the palace of the king.

           This is devastating news indeed, for not only would the peace and prosperity of the kingdom be taken away from Judah, but even the bloodline, the lineage of David and of Hezekiah was in trouble since some of his own sons would be castrated and unable to beget children.  But notice Hezekiah’s response to this divine judgment.  In v.8 he says, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.”  This should remind us of Eli’s words in 1 Samuel 3:18 when he was told by Samuel that the Lord would kill his sons and end his lineage because he had loved his own sons more than God in not censuring them over their sin.  He responded in faith saying, “It is the Lord.  Let him do what seems good to him.”  But then the second statement made by Hezekiah is often misinterpreted by modern ears.  He says, “at least there will be peace and security in my days.”  At first, it might seem as if Hezekiah doesn’t care about his descendants at all but only about himself.  Some have compared Hezekiah’s statement to that of Louis XV of France who said “When I am dead the deluge may come for what do I care.”  That is not at all what Hezekiah means.

           Often in the Old Testament the postponement of disaster was seen as a great mercy from the Lord.   For instance, in 1 Kings 21:28-29 after Ahab humbled himself before the Lord when confronted with his sin, the Lord speaking through Elijah said, “Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”  Similarly, in 2 Kings 22:18-20  after Josiah repented of his sin,  the Lord said to him, “because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.  Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’” So in each of these three cases, it was understood that in judgment the Lord had remembered mercy.  And that seems to be the reason for Hezekiah’s thanksgiving in this passage, not merely the fact that he would not see the disaster himself, but that the Lord showed mercy even in judgment. 

           How many times in Scripture do we see the fall of a man soon after the Lord had shown him mercy?  The Lord had just defended Judah from all their enemies and had granted an extension of life to the king even upon his sickbed, but then the king quickly sought an alliance with a wicked nation for the sake of defense and security.  We learn from 2 Chronicles 32:31 that the Lord had not only sovereignly brought the Babylonian envoys to Hezekiah but purposely left him during this time to test him to see if he would look to the Lord by faith.  Obviously, he failed the test this time.  It reminds me of the time in the book of Joshua chapter nine when the Gibeonites came to Israel in deception claiming to be a nation from far away seeking an alliance with Israel, and how quickly Joshua made a covenant with them without seeking the Lord’s will.   

           Oh, how foolish we are to make these quick decisions without seeking the counsel of the Lord.  How untrusting and unfaithful we are to the God who has shown us grace upon grace.  And yet the Lord still grants mercy to his weak and foolish children who are so slow to learn the ways of God.  Certainly, this passage serves as a warning to the people of God to not fall into the same sin as Hezekiah who had done so well prior to this in trusting the Lord, but it also serves to remind us of the riches of God’s glory in how he loves and disciplines his precious vessels of mercy.