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Isaiah 38:16; 39:12, 58comment (0)

March 26, 2009

By Dale Younce

Related Scripture: Isaiah 38:16; 39:12, 58

Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Isaiah 38:1–6; 39:1–2, 5–8

Adults sometimes have difficulty maintaining a sustained state of vigilance. The people screening carry-on baggage at airports fail tests by missing mock bombs, guns and knives. Soldiers on guard duty fall asleep. Armed prison guards are taken hostage by prisoners. Unhappily some Christians, including church leaders, bring shame to Christ’s name through spiritual laxity. God’s Word, by precept and example, calls for God’s people to be spiritually alert. He wants us always to stay alert to the forces of spiritual evil in this world seeking to do harm to us and His work.

Practice Fervent Prayer (38:1–6)
In 711 B.C., 39-year-old Hezekiah, king of Judah, became mortally ill. It is not clear what his sickness was although Isaiah 38:21 indicates that one of the symptoms was a boil. His life was obviously slowly ebbing away. The Lord sent him word, through Isaiah the prophet, that he should make proper preparation for his death, plan his funeral and make known to his family and court his final will. 

The effect of Isaiah’s words upon Hezekiah is apparent in his response. He turned his face to the wall and burst into tears. He was completely devastated and plunged into anguish. There are a number of reasons for such a reaction: 1) uncertainty about what lay beyond death, 2) he was a relatively young man and death was coming too soon, 3) he had no heir — his son Manasseh was not born until three years after this incident — and 4) having no heir meant the cessation of God’s messianic promises made to King David.

But in the middle of his anguish, Hezekiah turned to the Lord. His prayer was not focused on his performance but upon his life’s motivation; his one desire was to respond faithfully to the Lord. Isaiah had not yet left the palace when word came to him from the Lord to return to Hezekiah and report that God had answered his prayer. God would grant him two benefits. First He would give Hezekiah 15 more years to live. Second no Assyrian king would conquer Jerusalem during his lifetime. God does not always answer our prayers as He did Hezekiah’s. But like Hezekiah, we can heighten our spiritual alertness by fervent praying in desperate circumstances and thanking God for His gracious response. 

Guard Against Pride (39:1–2)
Sometime later, after Hezekiah’s recovery from his illness, Merodach-Baladan, king of Babylonia — a relatively minor kingdom at this time in the ancient Middle East — sent a diplomatic delegation ostensibly to congratulate him on his recovery. The Babylonian envoys could have had two hidden agendas: to evaluate Judah’s military capacity as a possible ally against Assyria and to evaluate Judah’s wealth as a possible later target for conquest. Rather than seeing this occasion as an opportunity to talk about the genuine God, Hezekiah, flattered by the presence and attention of the envoys, proudly showed them his kingdom’s treasures and armaments. Apparently he was acting as if all those riches and arms belonged to him and not God. Sadly, sometimes, after uplifting spiritual experiences such as Hezekiah’s healing, believers become self-confident and vulnerable to pride. We can maintain our spiritual vigilance by guarding against pride that will lead us into foolish and harmful behaviors.

Consider the Long-term Consequences (39:5–8)
When Isaiah learned of Hezekiah’s action, he gave Hezekiah a two-part prophecy of judgment. First all his wealth would be lost to Babylonia. Second some of his descendents would be forced to serve in the Babylonian royal court. His arrogant action would result in loss of liberty and wealth. It is clear that Hezekiah was blinded by his pride and failed to consider what could result from being so open with the envoys. He realized he deserved Isaiah’s rebuke for foolishly revealing to the Babylonians his treasures and armory, but he took selfish solace in knowing the consequences of his folly would not come in his lifetime. We learn from this that we can strengthen our spiritual alertness by considering beforehand the long-term consequences of our actions.  

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