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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 38:15 to 39:8

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 7, 2008

15 But what can I say?
     He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
I will walk humbly all my years
     because of this anguish of my soul.
16 Lord, by such things men live;
     and my spirit finds life in them too.
You restored me to health
     and let me live.
17 Surely it was for my benefit
     that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
     from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
     behind your back.
18 For the grave cannot praise you,
     death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
     cannot hope for your faithfulness.
19 The living, the living—they praise you,
     as I am doing today;
fathers tell their children
     about your faithfulness. 
20 The LORD will save me,
     and we will sing with stringed instruments
all the days of our lives
     in the temple of the LORD.

As it stands, Isaiah has given us a wonderful prayer from a believing monarch who trusted his Lord, who confessed his sins, confessed his Savior, and put his hope firmly and completely in his God.

Some of his words continue to reflect his deep knowledge of the Psalms. The doubled “the living, the living,” verse 19, may echo the “living…living” and “dead…dead” pattern of Ecclesiastes 9:4-5; it also parallels “the LORD, the LORD” in verse 11 (cf. Exodus 34:6). The same pattern is also found in David’s lament, “my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33, 19:4).

The view of God’s people should be exactly this: If I suffer, I suffer for a reason, and if God keeps watch over me, he will chasten me and permit trouble to come when I am sinful, to turn me back to him. As Job said: “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” (Job 1:21)

But there is a problem with Hezekiah’s words. The problem isn’t in the words. The problem is what lay behind them. The king may not have even been aware of it, but there was a sin crouching at his door. So often we are oblivious to the sin that eats away at us like rust or mildew.

Recall that the things in this chapter and chapter 39 happened before what we just read in chapters 36-37. Isaiah has crafted the contents of this part of his book to teach us a lesson, not only about the siege of Jerusalem and the Assyrian crisis, but about sin that each one of us struggles with.

21 Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.”
22 Hezekiah had asked, “What will be the sign that I will go up to the temple of the LORD?”

What we see is a carefully structured passage of the Bible. In two verses the prophet will tell us (A) this was God’s answer of recovery (38:21), and (B) this was the man’s humble prayer for mercy (38:22). But then he will also show us (B) man’s sinful pride in his own riches (39:1-4) and (A) God’s answer of judgment (39:5-7) followed by man’s silly failure to understand what had happened (39:8).

Envoys From Babylon

39 At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of his illness and recovery.  2 Hezekiah received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine oil, his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
     3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”
     “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came to me from Babylon.”
     4 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”
     “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
     5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD Almighty:  6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD.  7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
     8 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (NIV)

Hezekiah, the student of the Psalms and Proverbs, should have known that “a prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3). But instead of being cautious, he decided to show off his wealth. And guess what? He showed off his great riches to… the ambassadors of the Assyrian empire.

Did you ever wonder why the Assyrians came and besieged Jerusalem in the first place? Hezekiah flashed his wallet to a pickpocket!

Lord, teach us to trust in you, and not in the gifts you give us.
Forgive us the folly of our sins.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.