Isaiah 38

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 5, 1999

Introduction

Weíve seen a little peek into some of the historical events surrounding Isaiahís ministry. For the last couple of weeks weíve seen how God brought about a great deliverance for the nation of Judah from the Assyrian invasion. Hezekiah had encouraged the people to trust the Lord and God had responded by sending a single angel, who in one night had dispatched 185,000 Assyrians.

We now take a look at event that happened in the same time frame.

:1-8 Hezekiahís illness

:1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death.

There are several ideas as to exactly when this took place.

We know that it did take place in the same year that Sennacherib came against Jerusalem and was defeated by a single angel. Sennacherib came against Jerusalem in Hezekiahís fourteenth year (Is. 36:1), Hezekiah will be given fifteen more years to live after this (Is. 38:5), and Hezekiah reigned twenty-nine years in all (2Ki. 18:2).

Some have suggested that this took place after Sennacheribís defeat.

From verse 6, it would seem possible that this was taking place at the same time, perhaps even just before the Assyrian defeat.

:1 Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.

As best as we can figure, one of Godís concerns was the fact that Hezekiah at the time had no heir to the throne. He would be the first male descendant of King David who had not passed on the rule of the nation to his son. Josephus tells us that this was the reason why Hezekiah himself was so upset at the news that he would die (Antiquities 10:2:1:26).

And so the prophet comes to Isaiah and tells him to get his house in order.

Lesson

Get your house ready.

I was thinking Iíd kind of skip over this verse at first because I didnít want to make anyone feel as if I was speaking prophetically to anyone here, as if someone here was going to die.

But I got to thinking about it, and the truth is, WEíRE ALL GOING TO DIE.

The issue is not "Are we going to die?", the issue is, "Are we ready to die?".

:3 And Hezekiah wept sore.

Lesson

Donít stop short of the goal

Hezekiah was upset because he didnít yet have an heir to his throne.

So God would give him his request, and extend his life, also making it possible to have a son. But what a son! Hezekiahís son, Manasseh was evil. Very evil. He was the exact opposite of his dad. (2Chr. 33:1-7)

When Godís judgment came on the nation of Judah from the Babylonians, it came primarily because of Manasseh (2Ki. 23:26)

Some have suggested that we ought to be careful what we ask for, because we just might get it. But I donít think thatís the issue here. I donít think Hezekiah was wrong in asking for life or for a son. I donít think God was somehow trying to teach Hezekiah a lesson to be a little more careful in what he asked for. God only answers our prayers with a "yes" when weíve asked for something according to His will. John writes,

(1 John 5:14-15 KJV) And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: {15} And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Iím a little uncomfortable with the idea that Hezekiah was asking God for something that wasnít in Godís will, but God gave it to him anyway.

I wonder if the real issue may have more to do with parenting.

I know that bad people arenít always a result of bad parenting, but I wonder if it could have been that when Hezekiah finally had a son, that he was overprotective of him and spoiled him?

Could it be that he thought that heíd won the race by having a baby, and stopped short of the real race?

The real race we run with our children is not in having them. Itís in raising them. The real race is to raise a godly man or woman.

Illustration

I found an interesting "want ad" Ė

JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term team players needed for challenging, permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills, and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24-hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in faraway cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES: Must provide on-site training in basic life skills, such as nose-blowing. Must have strong skills in negotiating, conflict resolution, and crisis management. Ability to suture flesh wounds a plus. Must be able to think out of the box but not lose track of the box, because you most likely will need it for a school project. Must reconcile petty cash disbursements and be proficient in managing budgets and resources fairly, unless you want to hear, "He got more than me!" for the rest of your life. Also, must be able to drive motor vehicles safely under loud and adverse conditions while simultaneously practicing above-mentioned skills in conflict resolutionÖ

Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippersÖ

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT AND PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION: You pay them, offering frequent raises and bonuses.

BENEFITS: While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock-options are offered, the job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life, if you play your cards right.

Whatís the job? Being a parent.

Know where the goal is and run to the tape.

This applies to more than just parenting. Think of the things youíve asked of the Lord. Are they really a goal in themselves, or are they just a starting point?

:5 I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears:

Lesson

God knows and cares about your sorrow

David wrote,

(Psa 56:8 NLT) You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

When Jesusí friend Lazarus was sick, Jesus waited a few days before going to visit the family. Jesus had known that Lazarus was going to die.

(John 11:32-36 KJV) Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. {33} When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, {34} And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. {35} Jesus wept. {36} Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!

Some have said that Jesus was weeping because of their unbelief, and thatís possible. But note that He did not rebuke anyone for their unbelief as He had when the disciples couldnít heal the epileptic boy (Mark 9). He just weeps. He saw their sorrow and He wept with them. The Jews could tell that He had loved Lazarus.

God did not rebuke Hezekiah for being "weak" and being a "cry-baby". God is not unsympathetic towards your tears. When your tears toward God are genuine, Heís moved. You are His child and He wonít forget about you:

(Isa 49:14-16 NASB) But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, And the Lord has forgotten me." {15} "Can a woman forget her nursing child, And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. {16} "Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.

:6 I will deliver thee Ö out of the hand of the king of Assyria

Some have suggested that this means that the events in this chapter actually preceded the great deliverance God had made for Hezekiah in Isaiah 37. Others have suggested that this simply is God saying that the Assyrians are gone, but they also wonít be coming back.

:8 which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz

sun dial Ė literally, "sun steps". Some translations have "stairway".

Apparently Hezekiahís father, Ahaz, had installed some kind of time keeping device similar to a sun dial. The sign that Hezekiah asks for is that the shadow on a sun dial would go backward instead of forward. An incredible miracle.

How did God do it? Did God play with the earthís rotation? Was this some sort of eclipse? Was it a change in the shadows due to clouds? We donít know. But God is God, and He can do whatever He wants!

:9-14 Hezekiahís song Ė part 1 - complaint

:10 I am deprived of the residue of my years.

Hezekiah had counted on living a lot longer. Hezekiah eventually lived to be 54 (2Ki. 18:2) years old, which means that he had gotten this illness when he was 39 years old.

Lesson

You donít know how long you have.

Donít count on fifteen more years.

Life insurance companies base their rates on what we call "life expectancy". Statistics show that the average person lives a certain length of time. If you smoke, that length goes down. If you work for the post office, it goes down even further (just kidding!). If you eat right, watch your weight, exercise regularly, keep stress down to a minimum, the "number" goes up. But NONE of these things are a guarantee. God is not obligated to make your actual life span equal some number on an insurance agentsí chart.

When we started the church five years ago, one of the gals in the church got word that her mom was severely ill. She had massive, chronic problems. The doctor told her she probably had a year to live. We put her on our church intercessory prayer list. That was five years ago. The mom still has the problems. But sheís as alive as ever.

Some of us got acquainted to a kooky guy at the YMCA named Bill. Among other things, Bill rode his bicycle everywhere. We were all tremendously thrilled one Easter when we heard that Bill had finally opened up his heart to Jesus. He was a part of the church family. But two weeks after having opened his heart to Jesus, Bill was hit by a car and killed.

Moses wrote,

(Psa 90:10-12 NLT) Seventy years are given to us! Some may even reach eighty. But even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we are gone. {11} Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve. {12} Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.

I know this can be a depressing thing to talk about, but itís the hard, cold truth. None of us have a guarantee that we have another five minutes. Make each day precious.

Today is the day of salvation. You may not have another chance.

(2 Cor 6:1-2 NLT) As God's partners, we beg you not to reject this marvelous message of God's great kindness. {2} For God says, "At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you." Indeed, God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.

You may have wasted your entire life, running from God. But if youíre still breathing, itís not too late. Jesus offers you a fresh start. He offers you complete forgiveness if youíll turn around and ask Him for help.

:11 I shall not see the LORD Ö in the land of the living

He was afraid he wouldnít be seeing any more of the Lordís good work on earth.

:12 removed from me as a shepherd's tent

His life is like a tent that is rolled up and carted off (2Cor. 5:1)

:12 I have cut off like a weaver my life

When a weaver is done weaving a piece of cloth, he cuts it off from the loom. His life is getting cut off.

:15-20 Hezekiahís song - part 2 - thanksgiving

The second part of the song changes from his prayer of anguish to thanksgiving when the Lord answers his prayer.

:15 he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it:

God has spoken to me. He and only He has healed me.

:15 I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.

NIV Ė I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul.

His illness has taught him to make the best of his years and to walk humbly.

:16 O Lord, by these things men live

By what things shall man live? By what God has both said and done (vs. 15).

(Deu 8:3 KJV) And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.

What has God said to you? What have you let Him do for you?

:17 Behold, for peace I had great bitterness

Better, "For the sake of getting peace in my life, Iíve gone through this great bitterness."

:18 For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee:

Those that are dead can no longer give God praise upon the earth.

:18 they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.

Those that are dead can no longer hope for Godís faithfulness because for them theyíve already crossed the point of no return.

If they were godly, then they donít hope for Godís faithfulness because theyíve already got it. If they were ungodly, they donít hope for Godís faithfulness because itís too late.

Lesson

Itís over at death.

There are no more second chances after death.

You wonít get an opportunity to come back as some kind of angel and earn your way into heaven. The Bible says,

(Heb 9:27 KJV) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Those here on earth wonít be able to pray you into heaven. There is no purgatory. There is only heaven and hell. No place in between.

This is the time to be making your choices. This is the time to be determining where youíll spend eternity.

:19 the father to the children shall make known thy truth.

A father needs to be around if heís going to teach his children about Godís faithfulness. I wonder if Hezekiah is giving God a great big HINT about a son here!

:21 Let them take a lump of figs

In Isaiahís day, using a poultice of figs was a common treatment for boils and ulcers. We see here an example of Godís healing Hezekiah through a combination of prayer, medicine, and Godís work.

:15 I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.

His illness has taught him to make the best of his years and to walk humbly.

Lesson

What are you learning?

Are your difficulties making you bitter or better?

Some people donít handle conflict with others very well. We can carry grudges for a long, long time.

Illustration

The elderly couple had been married for 50 years -- 50 full years of misery. They had fought every day of their marriage. It was the typical standoff: she said she would change when he did, and he said he would change when she did.

The coupleís children threw a 50th wedding anniversary party for them. After the celebration had ended and the guests were gone, the wife turned to her husband and said, "Weíve lived together for 50 years, but its been miserable. Weíve fought every day."

She paused. "Now I think itís time to change. In fact, Iíve been praying that things would change. Iíve been praying that the Lord would take one of us home. And when he answers my prayer...Iím going to go live with my sister in Grand Rapids!"

One of the greatest challenges to grow from bitter times is learning to face criticism.

Illustration

Jamie Buckingham, in Coping with Criticism, writes,

For a number of years, until her death in 1976, I worked off and on with Kathryn Kuhlman as a writer. Although Miss Kuhlman was very sensitive to criticism, she never let it deter her from her goal. Instead, she used it to help her get thereóalways seeming to make the very best out of even the harshest criticism. Shortly after she went on nationwide television with her weekly program, she received a letter from a public school official in the little town of Iredell, Texas. "I love you and love your program, he wrote. "It would have been much better, however, if you didnít have to spend so much time tugging at your skirt trying to pull it down over your knees. It was really distracting. Why donít you wear a long dress instead?" Kathryn read the letter. "You know, heís right," she said to her secretary. She never wore another street-length dress on her TV program. A lesser person would have responded with anger, or passed it off as just another senseless remark. But she was not that sort of lesser person. She heard. She coped. She let it help her toward her goal of communicating. All of which was possible because there was no root of bitterness to give a bad taste to everything that came into her life which presented another viewpoint.

Better or bitter?

Hezekiah had his prayer answered. He was healed within three days.

But sometimes things donít work out that way. Sometimes it takes years, even a lifetime to get through the trial weíre in.

Sometimes God isnít done using the tool He has His hand on in our life. Let Him finish the work Heís started.