Set Your House in Order, For You Will Die (Isaiah 38; Isaiah 39)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 38; Isaiah 39

The capital city of Jerusalem, had been gloriously delivered by the LORD from Sennacherib, the Assyrian king. Hezekiah was 39 years old at the time, and at the peak of his manhood. With the promise the nation would be delivered from the Assyrian menace, Hezekiah was confident he had many years to rule Judah and reign in Jerusalem. Yet, one visit from Isaiah, and the king’s world was suddenly turned upside down.

Isaiah 38

The Power of Prayer (38:1-3)

Isaiah 38 is a remarkable chapter, for God sent Isaiah to deliver a sobering message to the king, saying, “Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (38:1).

Such a message ought to be expected by all, for it is a reality that all sinners, great and small, will inevitably face death. The Scriptures warn, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). Nevertheless, we cherish life as a precious gift, and younger men and women give little thought to the brevity of life.

How did Hezekiah respond to the news of his imminent death? He “turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord” (38:2). Hezekiah’s prayer is a model for all believers. He prayed earnestly, and reminded the LORD how he had been faithful. He gave testimony that he had walked in the sight of the LORD “in truth and with a perfect heart, and [had] done that which is good in [God’s] sight. And Hezekiah wept sore” (38:3).

God Answered Hezekiah’s Prayer (38:4-8)

The LORD sent Isaiah with a second message, and what a pleasant message it was! The prophet assured the king his prayers had been heard, and God would “add unto [his] days fifteen years.” Not only would he continue to live, but the king was promised the LORD would be the defender of Jerusalem and He would “deliver [the king] and this city [Jerusalem] out of the hand of the king of Assyria” (38:6).

Isaiah then prescribed a treatment for Hezekiah’s affliction (38:21), and the king requested a sign that he would be restored to health (38:22). So, God gave Hezekiah a miraculous sign leaving no doubt what the LORD promised would come to pass. What was the sign? That the shadow on the sun dial would turn back “ten degrees” (38:8; 2 Kings 20:8-11).

Hezekiah’s Psalm of Praise and Thanksgiving (38:9-22)

Hezekiah was overwhelmed with the good news, and when he was “recovered of his sickness” (38:9), he related in a song his emotions and sorrow when he first received the news he would soon die.

He had reasoned with the LORD, “I am deprived of the residue of my years” (38:10). He bemoaned he would not live to see “the LORD, in the land of the living,” and would be cut off from fellowshipping with his family and friends (38:11). He made observation how the life of a man is temporal, like taking down a tent. When a man’s life is finished, it is like the weaver removing the beam from a tapestry loom (38:12). The king confessed he was a man with a broken spirit, for he had borne the pain of his sickness night and day (38:13). His eyes hurt from weeping, and his spirit was oppressed (38:14).

The news he would be healed, and the promise the LORD had added 15 years to his life, had revived his spirit. The king declared he would make God’s mercies and healing known to all (38:15-16). His heart rejoiced, for his sins were forgiven, for the LORD had “cast all [his] sins behind [His] back” (38:17).

How would the king use the gracious gift of years he had been promised? He set his heart to praise the LORD, observing the grave and death “cannot celebrate” the LORD (38:18). He would live with the earnestness of a father teaching his children truth, for the LORD had saved him from death (38:19-20a). Restored to health, the king set his heart to go to the Temple and sing “songs to the stringed instruments” all the days of his life (38:20).

Isaiah 39 – Hezekiah’s Foolish Decision

Emissaries from Babylon came to Jerusalem under the guise they had brought good tidings from the king of Babylon on the news he had been healed (39:1). Hezekiah felt honored by the visit, and in his zeal to welcome his guests, he made a foolish decision. The king allowed those strangers to observe his wealth, and see the riches with which the LORD had blessed him and the nation (39:1-2).

Hearing of the strange visitors, Isaiah came to the king and questioned him: Why had the men come? From where had they come? “What have they seen in thine house?” (39:3-4)

Hezekiah confessed; he had showed the men of Babylon all he possessed. Isaiah then admonished the king, and declared that Hezekiah had made a foolish decision. The prophet foretold all the wealth he had displayed to the strangers would inevitably be taken to Babylon. Even the sons of his lineage would become servants “in the palace of the king of Babylon” (39:8). Hezekiah repented for his arrogance, and humbly accepted the consequences of his pride (39:8).

Closing thoughts: I have seen men who, after experiencing a degree of success in their endeavors, allowed their hearts to swell with pride. Those men set aside their dependence on the LORD, and sacrificed the humility that had been the incentive and catalyst for God’s blessings on their lives.

Life Lesson: Wise men deflect the best things men say about them, and don’t believe the worst, for somewhere in the midst is the truth about their character and person.

Proverbs 16:18 – “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith