Divine Deliverance — Healing of Hezekiah — Isaiah 38

God seeks people that will worship Him in Spirit and truth. Do we look at our lives as an opportunity to offer up praise and thanksgiving in worship? When we are confronted with the prospect of death, we very quickly re-evaluate our priorities and goals in life. We come to the account this morning of the death sentence issued to godly King Hezekiah. Make no mistake, he was a hero figure in Judah – one of the most godly kings despite having a wicked father – King Ahaz and eventually a wicked son Manasseh. He restored worship; he tore down the idol worship; he demonstrated a heart of faith in turning to the Lord for deliverance; yet as we shall see next week – because of his battles with pride, he was not without some points of weakness.

2 Kings 18:1-7 – half his reign occurred as a result of the 15 years God tacked on here; vs. 13 – it was the 14th year of King Hezekiah when the events of Isaiah 36-37 occurred – 701 B.C.

This story in chaps. 38-39 seems to be reported out of chronological sequence (although some would argue that point). The events prophecy deliverance from Assyria which we just saw Jerusalem experiencing in chaps. 36-37. It is not uncommon for the biblical record to present things from more of a thematic order rather than a strict chronological order. It is evident that chaps. 36-39 form a hinge for the two main sections of Isaiah’s prophecy:

I. First half of book — Dealing with the threat from Assyria

II. Second half of book — Dealing with the later threat from Babylon

From that perspective, chaps 38-39 form a nice bridge – providing closure from the issues related to Assyria and introducing the threat from Babylon. However, some would argue for a normal historical chronology since the parallel passage in Kings maintains the same order without the structural thematic needs; and since the events surrounding the Assyrian threat covered a wide range of years. Regardless, the lessons for us today will be the same.

Lying at the heart of the book, it is not surprising that the main theme of Isaiah receives special focus here: God wants His chosen people to turn only to Him for deliverance and salvation. Here we have a concrete historical example of the implications of Divine Deliverance.

DIVINE DELIVERANCE DEMONSTRATES THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD OVER LIFE AND DEATH . . . AND DEFINES OUR LIFE IN TERMS OF WORSHIP —

3 QUESTIONS THAT PROBE WHETHER WE TRULY WORSHIP GOD

Ask yourself 3 questions today:

–          DO YOU TURN TO THE LORD ALONE FOR DELIVERANCE?

–          DO YOU APPRECIATE THE MERCY AND DELIVERANCE OF THE LORD?

–          DO YOU LIVE TO PRAISE YOUR GOD?

I.   (:1-3) DO YOU TURN TO THE LORD ALONE FOR DELIVERANCE? —

HEZEKIAH’S DAYS ARE NUMBERED DUE TO MORTAL ILLNESS

A. (:1) Imminent Prospect of Death

1. Physical Cause

In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill.

He had the physical symptoms and all of the uncertainty about his condition before he received the word from Isaiah about his prognosis. Only about 39 years old; had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders – not just a personal issue – the continuity of the kingdom of Judah was at stake – larger issues in play here

Think of how disturbed we become with the relatively minor ailments that afflict us …

How would we react if we were struck down with a mortal illness?

Let’s see how it played out with Hezekiah

2. Prophetic Pronouncement

And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’

Sounds like quite the note of finality – but we know from other contexts that it is possible to appeal to the Lord for more favorable outcomes – remember the preaching of Jonah to Nineveh; the response of the people can turn the heart of the Lord to alter His timeframe

Constable:Sometimes what God announced through His prophets seemed inevitable, but when His people prayed it became negotiable (cf. Gen. 32:26; Exod. 32:7-14; James 4:2).

Why was the Lord issuing such a death sentence here?? Was it because of some sin on Hezekiah’s part? No such connection is stated here – although the king makes somewhat of a reference in vs. 17

Set your house in order” – here is the derivation of that familiar saying; make sure your will is up to date; give instructions to your household about how you want things to be handled; tie up any loose ends – this is it for you

Country music has a song: Live like You Were Dyin: Tim McGraw lyrics

He said I was in my early 40’s,
With a lot of life before me,
And a moment came that stopped me on a dime.
I spent most of the next days, lookin’ at the x-rays,
Talkin’ ’bout the options and talkin’ ’bout sweet time.
Asked him when it sank in, that this might really be the real end.
How’s it hit ya, when you get that kind of news.
Man what ya do.
And he says,

[Chorus]

I went sky divin’,
I went rocky mountain climbin’,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin’.

He said I was finally the husband,
That most the time I wasn’t.
And I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all the sudden goin’ fishing,
Wasn’t such an imposition.
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.
Well I finally read the good book,
And I took a good long hard look at what I’d do
If I could do it all again.
And then.

[Chorus]

Like tomorrow was a gift and you’ve got eternity
To think about what you do with it,
What could you do with it, what can
I do with it, what would I do with it.

[Chorus]
Sky divin’,
I went rocky mountain climbin’,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin’.
And he said someday I hope you get the chance,
To live like you were dyin’.

To live like you were dyin’.
To live like you were dyin’.
To live like you were dyin’.
To live like you were dyin’.

This would be the hedonistic response – cram as much pleasure as you can … but also has the perspective that we are only prepared to live when we live in the perspective that our death is imminent

B. (:2-3) Immediate Response

1. Turning to the Lord in Prayer

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the LORD,

Wanted his privacy; wanted to focus and shut out the world

No problem with concentration in prayer here; no daydreaming or drifting of your thoughts

Easy to be fervent and focused

2. Pleading for Healing

and said, ‘Remember now, O LORD, I beseech Thee,’

                        a. Integrity as Measured by God’s Truth – Obedience; Faithfulness

how I have walked before Thee in truth

                        b. Integrity as Measured by Conscience – Sincerity; Devotion

and with a whole heart,

                        c. Integrity as Measured by Accomplishments – Good Works

and have done what is good in Thy sight.

Does not specifically request healing – but that is his intent here

2Ki 18:3-6 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. 4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. 5 He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. 6 For he clave to the LORD, and departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.

3. Weeping Bitterly

And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Phil. 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” – perspective of Apostle Paul

Constable:Hezekiah was a good king who reformed his nation spiritually (cf. 2 Chron. 29—31). He appealed for longer life on the basis of his godliness, because God promised to bless the godly who lived under the Old Covenant with long life (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:33; 7:12-15; 30:16). His bitter tears showed the depth of his sorrow. He would apparently die without an heir to the throne, in the full strength of his manhood, and with his nation in an unsettled state.

Parunak: One chronological detail may help us understand his distress. We learn in v. 5 that his life is extended 15 more years. At the time of his death, his son Manasseh is only 12 years old (2 Kings 21:1). Thus, at the time of this illness, Hezekiah has no heir. The land is in shambles from the Assyrian invasion, and without a successor the peaceful transition of the government is in question. . . Unlike the prayer of 37:15-20, his motive is based entirely on himself, and not on the Lord’s glory.

Are you ready to live like you are dying?? Because we are

Do we turn to the Lord alone for deliverance?

II. (:4-8) DO YOU APPRECIATE THE MERCY AND DELIVERANCE OF THE LORD? –

HEZEKIAH GUARANTEED GOD’S MERCY AND GRACIOUS DELIVERANCE

A. (:4-6) Mercy and Deliverance Communicated

1. Communication Related to God’s Faithfulness

Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, ‘Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David,’

            2. Communication Responding to Desperate Prayer and Circumstances

a. God is Compassionate and Responds to Prayers of His People

I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears;

                        b. God is Abundantly Gracious

behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.

Basically doubled the years of his reign – pretty significant

Opportunity to do good; but also opportunity to slip up

c. God is Ultimately Glorified

And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city.

Constable:Verse 6 clarifies that Hezekiah became mortally ill before God delivered Jerusalem from Sennacherib. Consequently the events of chapters 38 and 39 must predate those of chapters 36 and 37. Since the Lord added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life (v. 5), and since Hezekiah died about 686 B.C.,the time when he became mortally ill was evidently early in 701 B.C.

Parunak: Jer 18:7-10

At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; 8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will relent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. 9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; 10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will relent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”

God’s promises of blessing and cursing are always conditioned on the behavior of those who are blessed or cursed. Every threat of judgment carries with it the implied promise, “Unless you repent,” and every promise of blessing is subject to retraction if the recipient despises it and rebels.

Parunak: 2 Kings inserts vv. 21-22 here. Isaiah displaces them to form an inclusio framing Hezekiah’s prayer (not, as Delitzsch thinks, because they dropped out and got added back from the margin).

B. (:7-8) Mercy and Deliverance Confirmed by Miraculous Sign

1. Purpose of the Sign = Confirmatory

And this shall be the sign to you from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that He has spoken:

given personally to King Hezekiah

given personally by the Lord

given to assure the Lord’s faithfulness to His promise of mercy and deliverance

2. Peculiarity of the Sign = Making Time Go Backwards

Behold, I will cause the shadow on the stairway, which has gone down with the sun on the stairway of Ahaz, to go back ten steps.

2 Kings 20:9   Isaiah gave Hezekiah the option of having time go forward or backward

Very appropriate – peculiar nature of the sign directly tied to Hezekiah’s gift of 15 more years of life

3. Performance of the Sign

So the sun’s shadow went back ten steps on the stairway on which it had gone

Incredible miracle – don’t lose sight of the WOW factor just because you are familiar with the incident

Constable:The stairway of Ahaz was evidently an exterior stairway that led to his upper room on the roof of the palace, where Ahaz had erected altars (2 Kings 23:12). This stairway was probably not built as a sundial, but it served that purpose as the sun cast its shadow on more or fewer steps depending on the time of day. That stairway may have been constructed as a sundial, or a different stairway constructed for that purpose could be in view. One writer believed it was an obelisk that rested on a stepped base and served as a sundial.Evidently Hezekiah could see it from his sickbed. The passing away of daylight on the stairway symbolized the passing away of Hezekiah’s life, and the return of sunlight represented the restoration of life.

III. (:9-20) DO YOU LIVE TO PRAISE YOUR GOD? –

HEZEKIAH TRANSITIONS FROM LAMENT TO THANKSGIVING

A writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, after his illness and recovery:

Constable:This psalm is also chiastic in structure. It begins with reference to the gates of Sheol and sorrow at the prospect of shortened days (v. 10), and it ends with reference to the house of the Lord and joy at the prospect of lengthened days (v. 20). The king began by referring to the land of the living being exchanged for the departed (v. 11), and he ended with reference to the land of the departed exchanged for the land of the living (vv. 18-19). In the middle, he contrasted God’s hostility (vv. 12-14) with His restoration (vv. 15-17).388 Hezekiah described his condition first (vv. 9-14), and then he praised God for His mercy (vv. 15-20).

Beall:In vv. 9-20 we are given Hezekiah’s psalm of lament and thanksgiving. Note that Prov 25-29 are edited by the “men of Hezekiah,” so it is clear that Hezekiah was interested in literary pursuits as well (see also 2 Chron 29:30).

A. (:10-14) Protestations Against Death With Supporting Pictures

1. (:10-11) Four Protestations Against Dying Now

a. Premature — Too Early

I said, ‘In the middle of my life I am to enter the gates of Sheol;’”

Age 39 seems very young; even the Psalms say we can expect average of about 80 years

b. Penal and Undeserved

I am to be deprived of the rest of my years.

                        c. Presence of the Lord No Longer Enjoyed

I said, ‘I shall not see the LORD, The LORD in the land of the living;’

                        d. Participation in Human Relationships Cut Off

I shall look on man no more among the inhabitants of the world.

            2. (:12-14) Four Pictures of Earthly Demise

a. Temporary, Fragile Nature of Pilgrim Existence – Death comes quickly

Like a shepherd’s tent my dwelling is pulled up and removed from me;

                        b. Harsh End to Life Before Fulfillment is Reached

As a weaver I rolled up my life. He cuts me off from the loom;

                        c. Painful Process of Death

From day until night Thou dost make an end of me.

I composed my soul until morning.

Like a lion– so He breaks all my bones,

From day until night Thou dost make an end of me.

                        d. Mournful, Lonely, Forlorn Tone of One in Search of Security

Like a swallow, like a crane, so I twitter; I moan like a dove; My eyes look wistfully to the heights; O Lord, I am oppressed, be my security.

Parunak: Literally, “I have been inventoried with respect to the remnant of my years.” My days have been counted up, and are complete.

Parunak: The word translated “age” can be used in poetic contexts to mean “dwelling,” and that sense yield a better parallel here. Nomadic shepherds often pitch their tents within view of the walls of established cities in the Middle East. Hezekiah lived all his life in Solomon’s beautiful palace of stone and cedar, but in his sickness he realizes that this gives no security. In the end, he is more Bedouin than city dweller. His body is nothing more than a tent. One day it is there, the next it has moved away.

Constable:Hezekiah viewed his life as fragile as a shepherd’s temporary tent, which shepherds frequently moved from place to place. His life was like a weaver’s finished piece of cloth that the weaver cuts off decisively and rolls up to take away. Both images are of objects that suddenly disappear from their expected places. Before the day of his life was out, the Lord would end it.

Motyer: Four similes constitute this section: the fragility of life (the tent); its decisive end (the weaver); divine hostility (the lion); and the seeming feebleness of prayer (the swift, thrush, and dove).

Parunak: undertake for me.–Literally, “be surety for me,” “cosign for my debt.” Not only does Hezekiah say nothing of his earlier boasts of righteousness, he now acknowledges his complete dependence on God. He sees himself as a debtor, and begs God to take responsibility for it. His petition is the same as that of Job in 17:1, and of the Psalmist in 119:122.

B. (:15-17) Perplexity Regarding Death  [difficult verses]

1. (:15a) Acknowledgment of the Lord’s Control Over Life and Death

What shall I say? For He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done it;

            2. (:15b) Potential for Bitterness

I shall wander about all my years because of the bitterness of my soul.

Resignation under the divine hand of judgment?? Difficult verse

3. (:16) Desire for Restoration

O Lord, by these things men live; And in all these is the life of my spirit;

O restore me to health, and let me live!

Emphasis on God’s sovereignty and trustworthiness

4. (:17) Blessing of Forgiveness of Sins

Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness;

It is Thou who hast kept my soul from the pit of nothingness,

For Thou hast cast all my sins behind Thy back.

Parunak: his praise will be all the greater because he remembers the bitterness from which the Lord delivered him.

C. (:18-20) Purpose of Continued Life on Earth

1. (:18) No Opportunity for Praise in Sheol

For Sheol cannot thank Thee, Death cannot praise Thee;

Those who go down to the pit cannot hope for Thy faithfulness.

            2. (:19) Opportunity for the Living to Praise God

                       “It is the living who give thanks to Thee, as I do today;

A father tells his sons about Thy faithfulness.

            3. (:20) Deliverance Extends Opportunity for Worship

The LORD will surely save me; So we will play my songs on stringed instruments

All the days of our life at the house of the LORD.

TWO HIGHLIGHTED ADDITIONAL DETAILS (:21-22)

A. (:21) Healing Process Used Medicinal Means to Eliminate the Poison

Now Isaiah had said, ‘Let them take a cake of figs, and apply it to the boil, that he may recover.’

Lord can choose to means or not to use means;

We make appropriate use of doctors and medicine even though our ultimate trust is in the Lord

B. (:22) Hezekiah Had Requested a Confirming Sign for the Purpose of More Worship

Then Hezekiah had said, ‘What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?’

In contrast to his wicked father Ahaz

Grogan: The words of Isaiah and Hezekiah may have been recorded here to satisfy the reader’s natural queries about the means of healing and the reason for the sign.

CONCLUSION:

‘You are not ready to live until you are ready to die.”

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