Salvation in Isaiah 38
If you were told that you had only a few days to live what would you do?
If a dreadful disease had been diagnosed for which there was no cure what would be your priorities of life?
You may make a will. You may wish to instruct your relatives about your possessions that you will leave behind.
You may wish to see all your family to wish them goodbye. You may even wish to see certain people and give them a special message. If you are a Christian you possibly will want to tell as many as possible about your Saviour!
King Hezekiah was faced with such a scenario in this 38th chapter of Isaiah.
The chapter comes a little out of sequence. The details occur in time BEFORE the annihilation of the army of Assyria outside of Jerusalem. Hezekiah developed an illness which ordinarily would be fatal and swift.
In one short chapter we have the account of King Hezekiah’s sickness, recovery and his song of thanksgiving to God. Let us think about this incident.
1. What Hezekiah did first – he listened to God.
Verse 1. Isaiah the prophet, God’s messenger came to the king with some words. By now Hezekiah was conscious of his disease, his sickness. We are not told exactly what it was. One feature was a skin lesion of some kind because in verse 21 we read of a poultice containing figs was applied to the boil, which is some kind of inflammation or ulcerous lesion. It is impossible to rightly identify the nature of the sickness – but we do know that it was life threatening.
Isaiah said to him in verse 1 that he would die and not live – therefore set your house in order. This is the modern equivalent to our doctor telling us that we have a terminal disease – although I am sure that our doctors would be a little more discreet and careful in the way that they broke the news to us. But before we criticise Isaiah we must remember one vital difference between the doctor and the prophet. The difference is stark and it is in 4 words right in the centre of verse 1 –
THUS SAITH THE LORD – JEHOVAH that is. The prophet comes with an authority far greater than any physician’s opinion or diagnosis. God said to King Hezekiah, “You will die and not live!”
When God speaks men must listen. Are you listening to what God has to say tonight my friend? God spoke through His prophets – tonight He speaks through the Bible, His word! We have God’s message before us tonight – so This is what the sovereign Lord says.
My friends the sovereign Lord says the same to us – we will die and we will not live! We do not have eternal bodies. They are dying bodies. Sin has brought its devastating effects on our bodies so that we are only temporary residents of them – soon they will die – and then what will become of the real persons that we are – our souls? Death awaits us all. What does God tell us to do? Set your house in order! Make a will. Tidy your affairs. Provide for your death. Think about your funeral.
Oh Pastor, do not be so morbid with all this talk of the end.
But friends this is the message that Isaiah had to take to Hezekiah – and he took it faithfully to the King the highest in the land. What are you going to do with this information that indicates just how temporary each one of us is on this earth? Have you made any preparations to die? God calls us to make spiritual preparation because we are spiritual beings. Our souls need to be saved – made safe – made ready to face the judgement of God on sin. Only Jesus Christ can save us – and He will save any who come to him in repentance and faith.
Hezekiah was told that he would die.
A Chinese Christian evangelist called Chew Fook Wah had been a staunch idol worshipper before he was converted to Christ. He was told by a medium that he would die at age 54. The medium said that this was determined by his fate. Perhaps we could imagine the mounting agony of soul that the man went through as he anticipated his date with death. It seems that Chew Fook Wah enjoyed many, many birthdays beyond the age of 54. The ways of God are worlds above the determinism of fateful philosophies in whatever culture they appear. God’s dealings with man are dynamic.
2. Hezekiah turned to the wall and prayed with weeping.
Verse 2 – Some think that Hezekiah was depressed at the news that he heard and that he withdrew into himself in a kind of stupor.
What is more likely is that the King was too ill to go to pray at the Temple. When he needed to pray it was in the Temple that he usually went. When for instance he received the terrible letter from the messengers of the King of Assyria we can read what he did –
2 Kings 19 v 14 And Hezekiah received the letter of the hand of the messengers, and read it: and Hezekiah went up into the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD.
But now Hezekiah cannot do this.
So he turns to face the temple, in the general direction of the Temple, which was obviously beyond the wall of his bedroom. Next
Hezekiah prayed to the LORD. Matthew Henry says “Afflictions are sent to bring us to our Bibles and to our knees.” If only people would see that today. God is able to speak to us when we are brought low. But for some, He the sovereign Lord is the last person they go to when they are ill! Do we turn to the Lord in time of affliction or illness? When distress comes to our homes or bodies to whom do we go? Do we seek out a Christian friend or relative – or do we seek the Lord? Do we reach for the telephone or sink to our knees? Do we make an appointment with the doctor or reach for our Bibles to look for a word from Him that will speak to our situation?
The words that Hezekiah prayed.
Verse 3. Was the King of Judah being proud and arrogant in his prayer? Was he rehearsing his self-righteous pedigree? No – Hezekiah was pleading with God based on his life of faith – of trusting His God. He had strived to follow God’s laws with truth and a pure heart. He had strived to reform Judah. Idols had been smashed and burned; high places of worship dismantled; temple services were restored and the Temple had been cleaned. He did not always get things right. He had erred in the matter of asking Egypt for help against Assyria. But God counted that as an error of judgement and not a matter of rebellion as had been the case with his father Ahaz. As he wept Hezekiah pleaded with the Lord for his life. Was it a selfish prayer – I want to go on living because I don’t want to die? Not entirely – the King had his people in mind and their safety. If he died there would be a constitutional crisis – at this point aged 39 he had no sons. He may have had daughters but no sons to be King after him and maintain the Davidic line of the house of Judah. In the event Manasseh was born three years later.
When we plead with God in prayer we plead merit – not our own merit or righteousness – but the righteousness of our saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. We plead in His name. We plead for Christ’s sake. We ask God through the Lord Jesus as he has directed us. And we do so because we have no right to plead on our own behalf. Why should God listen to such sinful mortals as we are? What right do we rebels have of asking God for anything? But when we come in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ then God listens, and hears and answers. God’s children by grace through faith will always be heard.
Are you one of God’s children? Are you born again by His Holy Spirit? As fathers are ready to hear the cries of their own children, so God the Father hears His own children when they call. Perhaps your attempts to pray to God have not been heard – because you are not one of His children. Trust Him my friend, turn to Him for salvation – become one of His dear children by repenting of your sins and turning to Him. Believe in Him with all your heart. And He will listen to you and hear you and pardon you and then provide for you for ever!
But if you treat Him as a benevolent provider who can be taken for a ride – then think again!
Isaiah the prophet did not stay with the King to comfort him. Hezekiah retired to weep and pray alone in his royal chamber. So Isaiah left the palace and went into the city. We can note from 2 Kings 20 a little more information to supplement verse 4 of our chapter –
4 And it came to pass, afore Isaiah was gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.
Before Isaiah had time to get any further than the middle part of the city – in other words in a short space of time, perhaps only 20 – 30 minutes, God amazingly reversed the decree and decided to give Hezekiah another 15 years life! And with that promise came another – God would overcome the Assyrians!
6 And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.
Isaiah hurried back into the King’s chamber and told him the news. Could Hezekiah believe it? Perhaps he needed some proof. God had got there before him and promised him a sign, a miracle that would reassure him – the moving backwards 10 degrees of the shadow on the steps that served as a clock.
Some say that prayer does not work! Sometimes we pray hoping. What we need to do is to pray BELIEVING. Yesterday morning we prayed in our prayer meeting that God would hold off the rain so that we could preach the gospel in the open air in the High Street. On the way in to the prayer meeting someone remarked on the strength of the wind and suggested that it would be hopeless taking the board that we use for texts and notices. At the end of the prayer meeting, having prayed specifically for the rain to hold off and the wind to abate we decided to take the board after all. We had been praying believing that the Lord would answer – therefore we had to take the board in faith – in belief that we would be able to use it! The Lord did answer – praise His name!
What about the sundial? 2 Kings 20 introduces a little more information again –
8 And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day? 9 And Isaiah said, This sign shalt thou have of the LORD, that the LORD will do the thing that he hath spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten degrees, or go back ten degrees? 10 And Hezekiah answered, It is a light thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees: nay, but let the shadow return backward ten degrees. 11 And Isaiah the prophet cried unto the LORD: and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz.
Would you like an explanation of this miracle my friend? If you would – then be prepared for it not to be a miracle – for an explained miracle is a nonsense!
Miracles are to be believed and accepted, but never explained! Either we accept it or reject it; but we can never explain it.
Another miracle occurred – Hezekiah was healed. Was it the fig poultice that healed him? No that was only the means suggested by Isaiah, that the Lord used to effect the cure. It was God’s power that healed the king.
This then is the story of Hezekiah.
But as we come towards the end I want us to dwell for a moment on some words in Hezekiah’s song of thanks and praise that make up the rest of this chapter.
We find these words in verse 9ff. From this traumatic experience comes Hezekiah’s psalm of Life.
In it the king says 3 main things.
1. Life is short. Verses 10 – 14.
His life is like a moving tent – no permanence here on earth. Soon it will be cut off like the thread of a weaver’s shuttle. With a limited lifespan, as with all creatures suffering the results of the fall, human mortality is real.
Do you suppose that you will live forever my friend? Will some clever scientist one day invent a means of us avoiding death? And could this happen during our lifetime? Let me tell you that even if this was true death is still the end of all flesh – because God says so. The wages of sin is death. It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgement. The surest thing in life is death. The only variable is the length of life.
What are you doing with the life left to you? Will you live your life for God? Or for yourself? One day God will ask each of us, “What did you do with the life that I gave you? Did you waste it in selfish and fruitless living? Did you squander it not using the time you have to love me and serve me and glorify me your maker?” These are powerful questions that sooner or later we must all face. Have you faced them yet my friend?
2. The Blessings of sufferings. Verses 15 – 18.
Hezekiah believed God’s word that God would heal him and extend his life to age 54. Through the bitterness of his experience he had found peace. He saw God’s love in a new light – you will recover me Lord – and in love you have delivered my soul from the pit of corruption – verse 17. Then he says this –
“for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back”
Hezekiah now believes that God has forgiven all his sins and blotted them out of His divine memory. God has blotted them out, I’m happy and glad and free…
Isaiah 44 v 22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee. 23 Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
Oh my friend do you know this tonight? Has Jesus taken your sins on himself and remembered them no more having paid the penalty for them? Imagine it – every sin that you have ever committed – every duty you have failed in – instead of them being counted against you and saved up for judgment at the final day – they are GONE! Jesus Christ has done this for His people. Are you one of His people by faith in this tremendous news – gospel news – news that sin has been atoned for and paid for? Oh believe it my friend!
3. Rejoicing in Salvation. V 19 – 20.
The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day:
Christians can truly be said to be those who are really alive! They are the living souls who, although in dying bodies, will live for eternity in heaven. They have been made alive by God the Holy Spirit. In regeneration God has quickened them. Hezekiah knew the experience of being saved. This wonderful experience is God’s work and comes at His initiative – Hezekiah realised this –
20 The LORD was ready to save me:
How remarkable my friends! Hezekiah’s story begins with his getting ready to die. Now he is getting ready to live – simply because God was ready to save Him by His sovereign grace! Christians are ready to live for ever! They have been made ready by the Lord Jesus Christ who has dealt with their sins, paying the penalty for them. The question tonight is – are you prepared to accept that God is ready to save you too? Are you ready to turn from sin and turn to God? Will you go to God tonight and ask Him, like Hezekiah did, for mercy?