Isaiah 39

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 12, 1999

Introduction

Weíve been taking a break from the purely prophetic, and looking at some historical events during the life of the prophet Isaiah.

We saw the advance of the fierce Assyrian army followed by Hezekiahís prayer and Godís great deliverance. God only sent a single angel in response to Hezekiahís prayer, but that one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in a single night.

We saw last week the episode of Hezekiahís severe, terminal illness. This apparently took place around the time of the Assyrian invasion. Hezekiah was told to he would die of his illness. He cried and prayed to the Lord. God healed him.

Weíve seen great miracles done as Hezekiah learned to trust and cry out to the Lord. Today weíll look at a time when Hezekiah stumbled.

:1 Merodachbaladan Ö king of Babylon, sent letters

Merodachbaladan Ė This guy was an interesting character in history. He was a Chaldean prince from the area of the Persian Gulf. While the Assyrians had been ruling the world, he led a revolt against Assyria and captured the city of Babylon and ruled it from 722-710 BC. He was run out of Babylon in 710 when the Assyrians took it back, but was able to briefly recapture it from 705-702 BC, when the Assyrians again kicked him out. Itís now a year later, and heís on the lookout for allies in his fight against the Assyrians.

Keep in mind, the Babylonian kingdom has yet to become a world empire. This wonít happen until Nebuchadnezzar rises up and defeats the Assyrians for good a hundred years in the future.

:1 for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.

This seems to have been at least the primary, up-front reason for the visit from the Babylonians. But there may have been other reasons.

The writer of Chronicles records,

(2 Chr 32:31 KJV) Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land Ö

Itís a little vague here. It could be that the Babylonians have heard of the defeat of their common enemy, the Assyrians, through some sort of miracle.

The ancient historian Josephus records (Antiquities, 10:2:2:30) that Merodach was looking for allies against the Assyrians.

It would make sense that if Hezekiah had seen the Assyrians defeated, that Merodach would like to be his friend.

It could be that theyíve heard about the sign of the shadow on the sundial, where Hezekiah had asked God to move the shadow backwards. In Babylon, the sun was worshipped as a god. If it was true that the sun had obeyed Hezekiahís wish, these Babylonians wanted to hear about it.

:2 And Hezekiah was glad of them

It seems that when Hezekiah had been healed by the Lord, something changed in his heart.

(2 Chr 32:24-25 NLT) About that time, Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the LORD, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. {25} But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the Lord's anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem.

Hezekiah was quite proud of what the Lord had done in his life. The pride is reflected in how heís showing the Babylonians all his treasure.

Lesson

The danger of pride.

Whatís so odd about this is the fact that Hezekiah claimed to have learned humility through the illness he had just been healed from:

(Isa 38:15 NIV) ÖI will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul.

Itís not hard to get a little puffed up when youíve had something great happen to you. But when we find ourselves filled with pride, we find ourselves at odds with God.

(1 Pet 5:5-6 KJV) Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. {6} Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

If we are proud, we will find that God will be fighting against us instead of for us.

Illustration

A man and his son were taking a walk. In the far corner of the field they found a small patch of beautiful and fragrant flowers. They were in the middle of weeds, almost completely hidden and unnoticed, yet the flowers were blooming in full beauty and you could sense their fresh fragrance.

All of us have met persons unnoticed by many, but who in the middle of struggle and unlikely surroundings far from the center of attention live lives of beauty and fragrance. And living lives which seemed obscure they faithfully fulfilled Godís calling for them. Godís question on the last day will not be, "How much were you noticed?" or even "How much did you do?" Rather, His question will be, "Were you faithful in fulfilling your calling where I placed you?"

Paul and the thorn in the flesh.

Paul was actually glad when he had difficult times, because they helped keep him humble. Paul had experienced incredible revelations from God, but God had developed a way to keep Paul usable:

(2 Cor 12:7-10 KJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. {8} For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. {9} And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. {10} Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

The ironic thing is to look at how Hezekiah did in this chapter in contrast with earlier chapters.

When the fierce Assyrian army was on his doorstep, he stepped up to the plate and met the challenge. Yet he is brought down with something so deceptive as a kind compliment.

Warren Wiersbe writes,

"When Satan cannot defeat us as the "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8-9), he comes as the deceiving serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). What Assyria could not do with weapons, Babylon did with gifts."

We know how to be on the lookout for bad things coming our way, but do we ever stop to consider being on the guard for the "harmless" things as well?

Illustration

Palm Monday Donkey

The donkey awakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride. He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. "Iíll show myself to them" he thought. But they didnít notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind. "Throw your garments down," he said crossly. "Donít you know who I am?" They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move. "Miserable heathens!" he muttered to himself. "Iíll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me." But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market place. "The palm branches! Where are the palm branches!" he shouted. "Yesterday, you threw palm branches!" Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. "Foolish child," she said gently. "Donít you realize that without him, you are just an ordinary donkey?"

Edited from More Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks by Wayne Rice. Copyright 1995 by Youth Specialties, Inc.

:2 the house of his precious things

Hezekiah had become quite wealthy.

After the Assyrians had been wiped out by the angel of the Lord, there was quite a lot of spoil to be collected. But in addition, people from all over the world started sending Hezekiah presents because of his fame (2Chr. 32:22-23).

:2 all the house of his armour

Thatís like showing a foreign ambassador all the secrets of the Pentagon, CIA, and the National Security Agency.

:3 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah

Itís just like the Lord to have sent Isaiah to Hezekiah after this slip up. Christians always get caught. God loves us too much to let us get away with things that are dangerous to us.

:3 What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee?

Note: Isaiah asks TWO questions. Hezekiah only answers ONE.

:3 They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon.

It could be that Hezekiah is flattered to find that he has become famous even in distant Babylon.

It could be that Hezekiah just doesnít see them as a threat. These guys come from a place so far away, whatís the big deal?

Lesson

Distant things donít seem dangerous.

When Joshua was conquering the Promised Land, he was met by a group of ambassadors claiming to be from a distant land (Josh 9:9). They were wearing worn out clothes and carried stale bread. Joshua went ahead and made a treaty with them, only to find out a few days later that they were from just around the corner. The Gibeonites proved to be much trouble for Israel. It all happened because the Israelites relied on what their eyes saw instead of asking God for His advice.

Since Isaiah is asking about the Babylonians, itís a fair guess to assume that Hezekiah didnít bother asking God for advice about them.

Sometimes we can be warned about things far in advance, but we can tend to put it off.

For some people, Y2K seemed like a distant threat. Now theyíre concerned about what their computer will do next month.

Jesus is coming back. And itís not in the distant future. Are you ready?

:4 there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them

It seems that in Hezekiahís response to Isaiah that he didnít think he did anything that was that bad.

In fact, this is very similar to what Solomon had done with the Queen of Sheba. She had heard of the fame of Solomon and showed up one day with a huge entourage. Solomon showed her everything and answered all her questions. When she left,

(1 Ki 10:6-7 KJV) And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. {7} Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard.

What Hezekiah doesnít realize is that heís been in a test. The writer of Chronicles records,

(2 Chr 32:31 NIV) 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.

Lesson

Going solo, the test of being alone

It seems that God refrained from sending Isaiah to Hezekiah before the Babylonians came in order to let Hezekiah have a peek into his own heart.

The test has shown that Hezekiah was quite proud.

What do you do when you are alone? Or at least when you think youíre alone? Thatís the best test of your relationship with the Lord.

(Isa 29:15 KJV) Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

(Ezek 8:12 KJV) Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.

(Jer 23:24 KJV) Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.

Illustration

Before you can get your pilotís license, you have to do your "solo". You have to fly the plane by yourself. No help from anyone. It shows you can really do it.

Itís good to have accountability. Itís good to have friends or family that help keep you away from places you donít belong. But ultimately, we need to get to the place where we do what is right because itís right.

Do you look forward to being alone because thatís when you can do your secret little sins without being caught? If you didnít have your spouse or your friends to bug you all the time, would you ever pick up your Bible and read it during a moment of free time?

Dry times Ė

Thereís a sense in which we can apply this to those "dry" periods we go through, where nothing much is happening in our walk with God. Not much good is happening. Not much bad is happening. In fact, it seems like God isnít really all that close anymore.

What do you do during those times? This is a test.

:6 that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day

Hezekiah had made a point of saying that he had shown these Babylonians all his treasures. Isaiah subtly reminds Hezekiah that he was just the caretaker, and the wealth wasnít his alone.

:6 shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left

This is the first time we hear a specific prophecy about the Babylonian captivity.

Moses hints at a day (Deu 28:64) when they will be carried away as captives to a foreign land, some of which has happened in the Northern Kingdom with the Assyrians.

The Babylonian captivity actually happened in stages. During the first stage, just royalty and the smartest of the people were taken captive to Babylon, along with great treasure. The prophet Daniel went in this group (606 BC). In the second stage, the Babylonians came back and took many of the people with them to Babylon (597 BC). The prophet Ezekiel went in this group. In the final stage, the Babylonians came and leveled Jerusalem (586 BC), including the temple, and took many, leaving only the poorest to stay behind in the land.

:7 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget

Hezekiah probably at this time does not yet have a son still, but this has been a great desire of his life. And now he hears that his actions have led to their eventual captivity.

:7 they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon

Keep things in perspective.

Hezekiahís sin isnít what causes the captivity. Itís the building sins of the people, and especially those of Hezekiahís son, Manasseh, thatís going to lead to the captivity.

But Hezekiahís sin is going to determine the destination of their captivity.

In reality, itís probably because of the historical records that Merodachís ambassadors made of all the treasures that helped Nebuchadnezzar know that he wanted to go to Jerusalem some day.

:8 For there shall be peace and truth in my days.

He is glad that God has at least given a measure of grace.

:8 Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken.

It seems as if Hezekiah is just this selfish guy, who is only glad that the judgment wonít come until after heís gone.

But in reality, we know that Hezekiah was truly humbled by what Isaiah has said. The writer of Chronicles states:

(2 Chr 32:26 KJV) Notwithstanding Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the LORD came not upon them in the days of Hezekiah.

Apparently, Hezekiah means that all of Godís Word, even the rebuke, is "good".

Lesson

God's Word is good, even if it hurts a little.

John tells us how Godís Word can sometimes be sweet, sometimes be bitter:

(Rev 10:10 KJV) And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

Sometimes we can enjoy the great promises of Godís Word. We find peace, comfort, and hope in itís pages. But sometimes Godís Word brings conviction. And it leaves a bitter taste.

Hezekiah was willing to admit that Godís Word was good, even when it hurt.

Two reactions to Godís Word:

1. When Asa, who was a good king, fell away from the Lord, and was confronted by a prophet for his disobedience. Asa had stopped trusting in the Lord. Hereís how Asa responded when confronted with his lack of trust:

(2 Chr 16:10 NLT) Asa became so angry with Hanani for saying this that he threw him into prison. At that time, Asa also began to oppress some of his people.

2. King David was a great sinner. He had fallen into lust with his friendís wife and got the gal pregnant. Then he had his friend killed to cover it all up. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin. Nathan told a story about a rich man who was entertaining guests and decided to steal his poor neighborís lamb instead of taking one of his own lambs to feed his guests.

(2 Sam 12:5-7 KJV) And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: {6} And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. {7} And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.

David was outraged at the man in Nathanís story. The idea of a wealthy man taking advantage of a poor man made Davidís blood boil. Until he realized it was all about him.

Others might have gotten mad at Nathan for tricking him. But Davidís response was simple. "I have sinned" (2Sam. 12:13).

Jesus didnít die on a cross just so you get a ticket to heaven when you die. He died on a cross to pay for your sins so you could start having a relationship with God now. He died on a cross because the consequences of our sins are so horrible. And God doesnít want you to stay in a horrible place.

Donít get mad when God nails you with your sin. Admit youíve been wrong and ask God for help.