Isaiah part 31: The Fickle Spiritual Life of Hezekiah, chapters 38-39Posted: Fri. Nov, 13 2020
The Book of the Servant (chapters 38-55) begins with king Hezekiah’s illness, his prayer, and his miraculous recovery which he properly credits to God (chapter 38). This happens before Assyria threatens the destruction of Jerusalem.
After his recovery, Hezekiah is visited by envoys from Babylon with good tidings from their king, congratulating Hezekiah for his recovery (chapter 39). However, something is amiss. We find the king of Judah, perhaps after some refreshments and hors d'oeuvres, taking his guests on a tour of all his wealth and his armaments. It would not be strange for Hezekiah to welcome and show kindness and hospitality to these visitors, but to take them on a tour of all his wealth and military equipment is indeed odd, that is unless they had another motive for being there other than well-wishing. A little research into the geopolitical situation of Babylon at the time gives us a pretty clear answer. They did have another agenda. And when Isaiah asks the king what the envoys said, the king deflects rather than plainly answer. Isaiah then prophesied to Hezekiah that days were coming when all those riches, as well as the king’s sons, would all be taken away to Babylon.
This easy to overlook section contains an important warning. Beware of forsaking your commitment in faith to the Lord after He delivers you from the disasters of a prior faithlessness. Countless Christians have neglected their relationship with the Trinity to eventually reap what they have sown and suffer greatly. That judicious, and in fact extremely gracious pain, jolts open the door of common sense and the afflicted recognize their error, calling out to God for deliverance through many tears, and God delivers them. Pain gone, on their feet, thanking God and happy - soon enough, new, worldly temptations assault their soul with the promise of great things from a source other than God, and gotten in a manner that violates God’s will. And forgetting the former pain and God’s loving deliverance that followed, they rush at the chance of these great things. For Hezekiah, the “great thing” that enticed him was the opportunity to be a political player on a big stage, but for each of us the great things, their source, and their manner come to us in many varieties, but the clear indication of their trappings is that they are not from God and obtaining them violates something of God’s will.
Hezekiah, in his poem (38:9-20), was clear to show us that his near-death illness was brought upon him by his sin. He was a good and faithful king, but he also wavered in the face of danger, trusting in armaments and deals with other nations rather than trusting in God alone. Hezekiah was great in peacetime and something else in the face of intense conflict. This is another aspect of being spiritually fickle. We must hold on to our obedience, and very importantly, our love for others when tribulation hits our own lives hard. We must not be anxious, but cast our cares upon the Lord. It is then, not in peacetime, that the temptation to selfish self-protection is very great.
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.
God healed him miraculously and gave him a sign to boot (38:7-8).
Beyond a friendly and courteous reception:
At that time Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. 2 And Hezekiah was pleased, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and his whole armory and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah did not show them.
It could only mean that the ambassadors came with another agenda than well-wishing. They were seeking an ally, hence they desired a peek at the armory, and because war is very expensive, the treasury. Imagine some guests from afar visited you after you had recovered from a life-threatening illness and then asked to see your bank account and your weapons cache.
The historical context is that the current king of Babylon had gathered a credible power against the then super-power in the area, Assyria. Merodach-Baladan marched into central Babylon, gathered fresh allies among the Syrian tribes along the Tigris, and defeated the Assyrians at Kish. The king of Babylon knew that the Assyrians would mount a counter-offensive soon. It is 702 B.C. and the eleventh hour upon the angry retaliation by the king of Assyria, and the king of Babylon sends envoys to Jerusalem hoping to create a rising in Judah in order to distract Assyria, and perhaps, obtain a partner in open rebellion. Would Hezekiah join a rebellion? He was all too ready to agree, and this, after his healing by God and God’s sign to him. His faith and commitment, which led him to reform Judah from the evil, idol-worshipping nation under his apostate father, to the faithful, God-worshipping nation of his ancestor David, lie in ruins.
Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and said to him, "What did these men say, and from where have they come to you?" And Hezekiah said, "They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon." 4 And he said, "What have they seen in your house?" So Hezekiah answered, "They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasuries that I have not shown them." 5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the Lord of hosts, 6 'Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left,' says the Lord. 7 'And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.'"
Isaiah says, “If you love Babylon so much you will be glad to know that all your ancestors and you have accumulated, as well as some of your sons, will be going there.” After all that Hezekiah had recently seen by God, and he was a very good and faithful king to God for most of his rule (2Ch 29-31), he had thrown his lot with Babylon, the historical opposite of God’s city Jerusalem.
After hearing Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the export of Israel to Babylon, Hezekiah’s retched response seals his fall from grace - pure self-absorption to the exclusion of even his own sons.
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good." For he thought, "For there will be peace and truth in my days."
In his sickness he was in prayer and in tears, but now he had been given the chance to play politics in the big-leagues. He wasn’t about to return to the ‘milk and water’ of faith and true religion. “When pride replaces humility, self-satisfaction replaces concern for others, and works replace faith.
This is a sea-saw spiritual life. In grave danger by God’s discipline he becomes tears and prayer. In prosperity and a chance to be grand on the world-stage, he becomes proud and self-satisfied. When danger through discipline comes again, which it soon will as Assyria threatens the annihilation of Jerusalem, he will again become tears and prayer, and God, our faithful God, will once again deliver him and the city. That deliverance (chapters 36-37) will be the final showing to Jerusalem of God’s incredible grace and faithfulness to His covenant. If the people don’t turn to Him after witnessing all of this, then they will be destroyed. When the word of God is met with smugness instead of tears and prayers, the word proves its obduracy and accomplishes its grim promises.
Beware a fickle spiritual life. There is nothing more important than our faithfulness to God’s will in every circumstance.
Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.