Monday, January 11, 2021

Isaiah 38 - Hezekiah falls ill and is given recovery

In this chapter, we see Hezekiah as a type of Christ in that he is stricken with a mortal illness (is close to death) and God grants him recovery to health (a type of resurrection). This aligns with the type Scripture confirms elsewhere, when Isaac was offered up for sacrifice and restored to life with Abram.

Isaiah 38:1 (HCSB) In those days Hezekiah became terminally ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’”

God sets the times and boundaries of men's lives - see Acts 17. Seldom do any of us get the advance notice that Hezekiah did, as Isaiah brought the Word of YHWH to him: ‘Put your affairs in order, for you are about to die; you will not recover.’ How many of us will die without notice and leave our affairs in disorder?

Isaiah 38:2-3 (HCSB) Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD. He said, “Please, LORD, remember how I have walked before You faithfully and wholeheartedly, and have done what pleases You.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

When Abraham was told of the looming demise of Sodom, he pleaded with God to save the city for the sake of his nephew, Lot. While some see that the conversation in Genesis 19 is Abraham bargaining with God, YHWH is, in fact, helping Abraham see the depths of man's depravity. In our passage, Hezekiah is confronted with his own mortality - not far different from Abraham facing that of Lot - and he pleads with God to remember his, Hezekiah's, faithfulness. We see from this side of history that we should go to God pleading His faithfulness, as Moses did when he asked God to not wipe out the Hebrew nation for the sake of His name - otherwise the pagans would think the Hebrews' God was unable to keep His promises. Hezekiah wept, perhaps because he did not yet have an heir, and that was personal and national embarrassment.

Isaiah 38:4-6 (HCSB) Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go and tell Hezekiah that this is what the LORD God of your ancestor David says: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Look, I am going to add 15 years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the power of the king of Assyria; I will defend this city."

Verses 21 & 22 fit here, chronologically. We have no hint as to why they are at the end of this chapter. Isaiah 38:21-22 (HCSB) Now Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of pressed figs and apply it to his infected skin, so that he may recover.” And Hezekiah had asked, “What is the sign that I will go up to the LORD’s temple?”

Isaiah 38:7-8 (HCSB) "This is the sign to you from the LORD that He will do what He has promised: I am going to make the sun’s shadow that goes down on Ahaz’s stairway go back by 10 steps.” So the sun’s shadow went back the 10 steps it had descended.

YHWH had a promise that must be kept - a seed would come through the royal line of Israel (a son of David) that would save Israel. He tells Isaiah to tend to the sores and He provides and answer to the larger question. God hears the prayers of His people and He granted Hezekiah 15 additional years. Hezekiah would have a son, Manasseh, 3 years after this "resurrection", 12 years before his death (2 Kings 21:11). The issue was not Hezekiah's life; human life is never the reason for God's actions. He had sworn by Himself (Heb 6:13) and His promises WILL NOT FAIL. To that end, Hezekiah was given a longer life.

The sign given Hezekiah to prove it was YHWH making the promise to him went against the natural order, as when fire came down to consume Elijah's altar. The account in 2 Kings 20 reveals more detail, with Hezekiah being given the choice of whether the sun's shadow would advance or retreat. Hezekiah asked that the shadow retreat, since this is - from man's perspective - less natural, more difficult. For the One who created all things, moving the shadow up or back is nothing - the nations are as dust in His scales.

But that this One condescended to answer him prompted Hezekiah to break forth in song. Isaiah 38:9 (HCSB) A poem by Hezekiah king of Judah after he had been sick and had recovered from his illness:

The first part of his poem is focused on his looking death and the realization of the finality therein. Isaiah 38:12 (HCSB) My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me like a shepherd’s tent. I have rolled up my life like a weaver; He cuts me off from the loom. You make an end of me from day until night.

The last part of the poem is his praise to God for giving him life. Isaiah 38:15 (HCSB) What can I say? He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done it. Isaiah 38:16-17 (HCSB) Lord, because of these promises people live, and in all of them is the life of my spirit as well; You have restored me to health and let me live. Indeed, it was for my own welfare that I had such great bitterness; but Your love has delivered me from the Pit of destruction, for You have thrown all my sins behind Your back.

He is amazed that the One who spoke creation into existence has spoken to him! He realizes that people live because of promises God has made; perhaps reflecting on the Covenant with Noah, wherein YHWH promised seed time and harvest until the end of the age. Hezekiah confesses his bitterness was because he was vain and selfish; but he sees that it was God's loving kindness that rescued him and threw all his sins behind His back. Hezekiah sees the bigger picture - not merely more years added to his walk on this earth; FORGIVENESS of sins that will never be laid to his account! Are we amazed He has spoken to us, or do we take His Word for granted?

Isaiah 38:18-20 (HCSB) For Sheol cannot thank You; Death cannot praise You. Those who go down to the Pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness. The living, only the living can thank You, as I do today; a father will make Your faithfulness known to children. The LORD will save me; we will play stringed instruments all the days of our lives at the house of the LORD.

Those who are in the grave awaiting the second death, those who go down to the pit, cannot praise God. Only the living - those whose sins have been thrown behind God's back - can praise Him. Having been saved, the redeemed will desire to praise Him in many ways all the rest of his days. This is the happy state of all who have forgiveness, who are reconciled to YHWH. Endless praise because of His faithfulness and for redeeming helpless sinners.

Is your heart filled with praise for this God? Do you realize what's been done to redeem sinners? Salvation is of the LORD - Jonah knew this, Hezekiah declared this. Do you know this - or do you believe your salvation depends, even in part, on you? None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good. Trust Him wholly, let no other trust intrude. Make His faithfulness known to your children. They need to see their earthly fathers for what we are - no help in saving them beyond proclaiming Christ to them.  Your faithfulness and mine isn't what anyone needs. God's faithfulness is what insures every lost sheep will be brought into the sheepfold of Christ.

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