Isaiah uses this historical interlude as a bridge between sections in his book. He is transitioning from addressing Judah under the current Assyrian threat to addressing the (future) Babylonian exiles in chapters 40-55. Because of this transition, Isaiah makes interesting narrative choices…
The events in Chapters 38-39 occur before those in Chapters 36-37. Hezekiah’s illness, prayer of repentance and subsequent foolish interchange with the Babylonian envoys occur before Sennacherib’s threat. Isaiah switches the order in order to conclude the first section of his book by telling the story of God’s miraculous defeat over the Assyrian army (Chapters 36-37). He then transitions into the Babylonian exile by narrating the story of Hezekiah foolishly revealing all of his riches to the Babylonians (Chapter 39).
God’s hand was on Hezekiah. First, God used the threat of death to root out the pride that was in Hezekiah’s heart (38:1). Hezekiah repented, and God gave Hezekiah a miraculous sign to assure him his life would be extended 15 years (38:2-8).
Then, the Babylonian envoys arrived (39:1-2). 2 Chronicles sheds light on this incident:
But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart (2 Chronicles 32:31).
When God “left him,” the sin in Hezekiah’s heart was revealed. Showing the Babylonians his riches was a humanistic attempt to gain their favor. In essence, Hezekiah exchanged the Lord’s favor for the Babylonians’. He repeated the same sins of his ancestors – he looked to human alliances instead of to God for salvation from his oppressors. When Isaiah linked Hezekiah’s sin to the future Babylonian exile (39:5-7), Hezekiah’s response was puzzling…
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.” (Isaiah 39:8).
This response revealed that Hezekiah was short-sighted and selfish. But he was also faithful…
A short-time later, Hezekiah faced Jerusalem’s most serious threat to date. The Assyrian army had already destroyed the Northern Kingdom and most of the cities in Judah. In the face of the Assyrian army, Hezekiah fled to His God (37:1) and prayed a most beautiful prayer of dependence and faith. He asked God to save Jerusalem – not for the people’s sake – but for God’s name’s sake! Hezekiah prayed on behalf of God himself (37:14-20).
God delivered Jerusalem in a way that could only be attributed to Him. He, alone, would receive the glory – for the sake of his name!
Hezekiah was so like many of us.
In the face of great trial and suffering, we run to our God. But in times of blessing and plenty, we become self-reliant and selfish.
We have to fight to abide in times of blessing. We have to fight to stay connected to the vine. We have to be intentional to seek God’s help and direction when our lives are good not just in times of crisis.
I love Hezekiah because his life reminds me of the importance of God’s presence. I can’t let ease and comfort lull me into lazy self-reliance. I need Him every hour. I must live like it!