Salvation in Isaiah 39
In a country like ours with its traditions and public pageantry mostly connected with royalty, we are used to State visits from the leaders of other countries. There is a protocol to be observed. Gifts are exchanged. Banquets are held in the honour of the distinguished visitors. Relationships are forged or mended on such occasions. People are very nice to each other. Often there are behind the scenes diplomatic meetings. While the figureheads wine and dine in palaces, the civil servants are negotiating and dealing. While the public watch the processions and ceremonies the private meetings go on in secret. Then when the visit comes to an end an announcement is made about the state of affairs between the 2 nations and the business that has been achieved in diplomatic terms. Farewells are said, the visitors leave and normal routine is re-established.
As has been said we are used to such a scene.
The Bible reflects the same process in this account from Isaiah 39 – an incident in the life of good King Hezekiah.
It would be nice to be able to date this occurrence – but the scholars are unable to agree – except to say that it happened BEFORE the siege by Assyria and God’s remarkable intervention on Judah’s behalf. And it happened AFTER Hezekiah’s healing from his disease and the receipt of a promise from the Lord God that he would live another 15 years – as we considered last week.
It can serve us as a transition chapter between the threat from Assyria to the preparation for the Babylonians captivity. Isaiah was Judah’s prophet all this time and he had the foresight of God.
Hezekiah had become very Assyria focussed. They were the enemy at the door. Babylon at this time was a very little nation state compared to Assyria. Hezekiah did not believe them to be any kind of threat to Him or his people.
So as VERSE 1 says
At that time Merodach Baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.
Merodach Baladan sent requesting a state visit.
Perhaps we could read 2 Chronicles 32 to get the background –
24 In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign.25 But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, and upon Judah and Jerusalem. 26 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. 27 And Hezekiah had exceeding much riches and honour: and he made himself treasuries for silver, and for gold, and for precious stones, and for spices, and for shields, and for all manner of pleasant jewels;28 Storehouses also for the increase of corn, and wine, and oil; and stalls for all manner of beasts, and cotes for flocks.29 Moreover he provided him cities, and possessions of flocks and herds in abundance: for God had given him substance very much. 30This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.31 Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart. 32Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and his goodness, behold, they are written in the vision of Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, and in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.33 And Hezekiah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the chiefest of the sepulchres of the sons of David: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did him honour at his death. And Manasseh his son reigned in his stead.
Merodach Baladan is remembered as a clever and an ambitious king. He was also a bitter enemy of the Assyrian Kings Sargon and Sennacherib.
Politically it was not unusual for one country to send and ambassador to another. But this embassy was rather unusual. In the first place a congratulatory letter and a present sent to a far distant king who had just recovered from illness was unheard of in those times. Yet Merodach Baladan did just that. Secondly there was a world of difference, in worldly terms, in stature and rank between this King of Babylon and King Hezekiah of Judah. He was small fry compared to Hezekiah.
Why then did he do what he did?
One reason was that the miracle of the steps or sundial had become told abroad and he wanted to find out about it.
2 Chronicles 32 v 31 Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land,
The King of Babylon was curious and wanted to find out what caused this phenomenon.
A second reason was that the King of Babylon at this stage needed all the help that he could get from other countries. Assyria was threatening him too. He needed allies and was prepared to befriend Judah to that end.
This week the Pilgrim’s Progress presentation has been into the schools and some of us have had the privilege of telling parts of the story. As well as telling the story from the viewpoint of the Evangelist I had to be the Flatterer complete with a net, ready to trap the pilgrims who listened to flattering words. A flatterer is really only as successful as the pride of his listeners permits him to be! We love to have good and nice things said about us. We like to hear what people’s opinion of us is. It feeds our pride – it makes us feel good about ourselves (as long as they are complimentary of course – but then flatterers usually are.)
King Hezekiah was flattered by the nice words in the King of Babylon’s letter and the gift that was sent. We know this because of the candid word of God, that never pulls any punches or covers sins –
His heart was lifted up – 2 Chronicles 32 v 25
And He listened to them – that is he listened and enjoyed listening to the nice things –
he was glad of them
as it says at the beginning of verse 2 of this passage in Isaiah 39.
Who had spared his life? God had.
Who had given him 15 more years? God had.
Who had spared the city of Jerusalem? God had.
Merodach Baladan is certain to have acknowledged that Hezekiah himself had some merit and worth within him that God had been so good to Him in doing these things. And Hezekiah fell for it – he yielded to flattery from the King of Babylon and pride in His own heart.
My friends it is a familiar scripture written by another prophet that must challenge us next –
Jeremiah 17 v 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
And there is another one which goes with it – from Moses -
Genesis 6 v 5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Our hearts can deceive us so easily. We can even be so un-subtle as to be pleased to hear something good about ourselves and then to go and tell someone else what they have said about us! What does that achieve? Not only one person saying how good we are but two or more! But this is wicked pride my friends – and I say this as one who is just as vulnerable in this area. We are all in this together. This incident in Hezekiah’s life sends an arrow into our hearts and convicts us of pride, a most evil sin. Pride was the downfall of this godly King Hezekiah. This humble King, who wept with his face to the wall and asked God for His healing, has now become very conceited. He takes advantage of his health and stops being humble and thankful – but instead accepts the compliments of another King. What can pride do to us?
Psalm 10 v 4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
1. Pride keeps us from seeking after God.
Is that your problem tonight my friend? You are not a believer in Christ because your heart is full of pride – pride in your own achievements – pride in your physical abilities; pride in your energy; pride in your thinking that you are good enough for heaven by your own merits.
Your will is affected by your pride.
2. Pride keeps us from even thinking about God.
This is what the Psalm says – but in effect we know it is true.
Psalm 10 v 4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, God is not in all his thoughts.
Is God in your thoughts tonight? You will probably say Yes – because you are in church. But what about tomorrow and Tuesday and the rest of the week?
3. Pride eventually leads to a downfall.
Hear what Solomon says in Proverbs 16 v18
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
How often we have been caught out with the truth of this scripture – but often we do not learn. Are you prepared to learn my friend? That only a humble surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for sinners can deal with your soul and provide you with an eternal future with God? He was the One who had every reason to proud – He was the richest and most glorious person ever to live in a human body – yet He humbled Himself and came in fashion as a man, and was obedient unto death – a humble death – not a spectacular death, but a humble, ignominious death – in order to deal with pour pride and rebellion – paying for it by Himself!
Are you heading for a downfall? A falling down into hell one day all because you refuse to bow the knee to God and crucify your own pride?
Hezekiah fell through pride. He showed the men who came from Babylon all of his riches and his armour. Many of His riches had been presents from other Monarchs following his sickness. He showed them not only his silver and gold and armour in the garrison – he showed them the costly oils and aromatic spices that had been imported at great cost through his merchants and their navy. Oh how much Hezekiah was trying to impress these men – that he was a king that was worthy of High regard. The end of verse 2
there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.
What would we think if our Military chiefs invited the leaders of all the terrorist groups who threaten us to come to our military bases and show them our defence weaponry and brief them on all the intelligence that we had on them? We would be in utter disbelief.
Yet Hezekiah in his pride disclosed everything to the King of Babylon – such is the power of flattery!
So in verse 3 – 4 it is not surprising to notice that God had something to say to King Hezekiah about this – through Isaiah the prophet –
3 Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? and from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon. 4 Then said he, What have they seen in thine house? And Hezekiah answered, All that is in mine house have they seen: there is nothing among my treasures that I have not shewed them.
First we must notice that Isaiah is not in awe of the King. He is not apprehensive about the possible results of his conversation with His sovereign. Isaiah was God’s spokesman – just as the word of God speaks to us tonight. Isaiah asks three questions.
Question 1 – What did these men say to you?
Hezekiah did not answer.
Question 2 – Where did they come from?
Hezekiah’s answer is full of pride – they came to see ME! They came all the way from Babylon just to see Me! The boastful tone in his words is obvious.
Question 3 – What did they see in your house?
This time we can admire Hezekiah for his honesty – They saw everything! All my treasures – all my wealth – all my armour – all my soldiers – everything!
My friends this was one of the most foolish things that any king has ever done – and King Hezekiah was led into it through his motivation fuelled by pride. What is more he did not even ask God about it. He relied on his own human and fallible intuition. And state secrets were given away and stored up for future use by those who would one day take His people into captivity for 70 years!
After this God spoke to Hezekiah through Isaiah foretelling the carrying away to Babylon of these very riches that he had shown to the men – as well as the capture of some of his own family that would come after him.
5 Then said Isaiah to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day, shall be carried to Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the LORD. 7 And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
What a prophecy.
But now notice Hezekiah’s reply.
V 8 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days.
God’s word is good! Could you say that if you had just been given the bad news that your wealth and family will one day be carried off into captivity?
God’s word is good. It is easy to say that God’s word is good if everything goes in our favour. No matter how God’s word affects us we are taught to say God’s word is good.
Can you say that this evening my friend?
God’s word is good?
But God’s word sais this – “the soul that sinneth it shall die!” Is that good?
The wicked shall be turned into hell – is that a good word from God?
Some people only want God to say good things to them. But there has to be the bad news for us before we can hear the good news of the Gospel.
And now we can hear the good and the bad joined together –
Isaiah 1 v 18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Bad news – your sins are scarlet and crimson – red the colour of blood – blood the symbol of death – and death is what the sinner deserves. Our sins are as heinous as murder – the shedding of red blood. What bad news – all under God’s judgement of sin. God’s word is good?
Yet here is the good news – those sins will be made white as snow and white as pure wool. How? Through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ who took our sins and the awfulness of them and paid for them in full on the cross. What a miracle this is – in Christ, the believer is washed in his blood, and clothed with his righteousness, which is fine linen, clean and white; God, seeing no iniquity in them, has thus graciously dealt with them, and they being without fault, spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Christ’s righteousness is accounted to all those who truly repent and believe.
What a good word this is!
But do you believe it my friend? Will it move your soul to trust the saviour this evening? Seek him tonight. Do not delay. Come to Him and yield to him. Turn from your sin, turn from your pride, and tell Him you are sorry. Then see the Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross for your sins and your proud thoughts and deeds and thank Him for going there for you.
May the Lord give you the knowledge tonight that your sins have been dealt with – for ever!