The time of the Assyrian invasion and the total routing of King Sennacherib must have been an amazing time for Isaiah! God revealed specific things to Isaiah, and when Isaiah prophesied these things, they came true! Isaiah had advised Hezekiah to trust God to handle this force that was much too powerful for the armies of Jerusalem. And when Hezekiah put the fate of Jerusalem and its people in it in God’s hands, God miraculously saved them, completely demolishing the entire Assyrian army in their sleep! Not one arrow was shot; not one of God’s people was lost!
As Isaiah continues his writings, he tells of another miraculous encounter with the Almighty God during the rule of Hezekiah – but apparently, this doesn’t happen immediately after the destruction of the Assyrian army. 2 Chronicles 32:22-23 fill in some of the details, telling of a time of great prosperity and prominence for Jerusalem and King Hezekiah:
“22 So the Lord saved Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all others. He took care of them on every side. 23 Many brought offerings to Jerusalem for the Lord and valuable gifts for Hezekiah king of Judah. From then on he was highly regarded by all the nations.”
Did Hezekiah become proud and complacent, resting on the laurels of a battle which the Lord had won for Israel? The LORD afflicted Hezekiah with a serious illness – but from the writings of Hezekiah’s own pen, we see that this illness was actually a blessing in disguise. And we see more miracles worked by the almighty and sovereign LORD.
(Isaiah 38 can be viewed online at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2038&version=NIV.)
1) (V. 1) We do not know how much contact Isaiah had had with Hezekiah in those years after the Assyrian invasion. There is a gap between Isaiah 37 and 38. But when the king becomes gravely ill, the prophet once again comes to him:
“1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, ‘This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.’”
— Sometimes, we take physical recovery for granted, especially in this day and age.
— But no one is immortal!
— God had sent this illness to Hezekiah for a purpose, and the purpose was for him to realize that there was no hope. There was no reason for him to think he could avoid death in his own strength.
— Hezekiah had been miserably ill, but it seems that he was not resigned to death until the prophet came to him with the words, “You will not recover.”
2) (Vv. 2-3) The reality that it really was over hit home:
“2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, 3 ‘Remember, Lord, how I have walked before You faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.”
— Hezekiah wept bitterly.
— And he pleads with the LORD. He reminds God (and himself) that he had walked in faith and he had devoted himself to doing good.
— Although maybe we can read between the lines – and the fact that Isaiah had written no prophecies after the victory over the Assyrians. Could it be that perhaps Hezekiah was not pursuing God’s good purposes as vigorously as he might have? That life had become rather mundane?
3) (Vv. 4-6) When Hezekiah cried out to God, God responded immediately. 2 Kings 20:4, referring to the same event, tells us that Isaiah had not even left the middle courtyard of the palace when God spoke to him again:
“ 4 Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: 5 ‘Go and tell Hezekiah, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.”’”
— God mentions Hezekiah’s “father”, David. Hezekiah’s biological father was Ahaz, an idol-worshiper who whole-heartedly adopted the customs of the pagan people around him.
— But Hezekiah had modeled his life after King David, a man after God’s own heart.
— The God that David had worshiped assured Hezekiah that He saw Hezekiah’s distress, He would heal Hezekiah — adding 15 years to his life, and that He would deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrians and defend the city.
— Reading between the lines again, we see God granting a request Hezekiah hadn’t made: the protection of Jerusalem. Is this, perhaps, a sign that Hezekiah had become complacent about God’s work on behalf of Jerusalem and Israel – that this was a request he should have made?
4) (Vv. 7-8) In addition to agreeing to Hezekiah’s request, God also gives him a miraculous sign that He would fulfill these promises!
2 Kings 20:8-11 gives us more details about this miraculous sign: Hezekiah asked Isaiah what the sign would be that God would do these things – and Isaiah asked whether Hezekiah would rather see the shadow cast by the sun go forwards or backwards. Hezekiah chose to see it go backwards.
But Isaiah himself gives a more abbreviated account:
“7 ‘“This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what He has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.”’ So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.”
— This amazing sign in the heavens must have awed everyone who observed it!
— God will keep His promises whether He shows us a miracle of the sun going backwards – or whether He faithfully sends the sun along its path each day! God is altogether reliable!
— Hezekiah was a man of faith – but what good is faith that is never tested? God certainly sent challenges to test Hezekiah’s faith – and to demonstrate His own great faithfulness:
* His city was threatened by the strongest army in the world – but God sent an angel to supernaturally slay the enemy.
*He was on his deathbed – but God gave him a sign that only the Ruler of the Universe could give: He changed the path of the sun in the sky!
Conclusion: We know that God often sends hardship as discipline or correction. This is a common theme in Isaiah’s writings. But Hezekiah was a king who believed and honored the true God — and God sent hardship into his life too!
We see that great tests of Hezekiah’s faith led to great demonstrations of God’s power and faithfulness! When God brought the Assyrian army to Jerusalem’s gates and Hezekiah responded in faith and prayer, God supernaturally slew the army!
When God sent a life-threatening illness to Hezekiah and Hezekiah turned to Him in prayer, God not only healed him, but miraculously changed the course of the sun in the sky – a miracle for the whole world to see!
Perhaps, the moral of the story is that there will be hard times, but some of those hard times are simply preparation for a miracle! As believers, we can trust God, no matter what!
Next post, we will examine Hezekiah’s own prayerful meditation on his illness and God’s remarkable healing.
Veritati vivere ac mori