Imagine a prophet of God who is never wrong knocking on our door and saying, “Set your house in order, for you are going to die in less than a week. Get your will ready. Make sure everything is the way you would like to have it because you are going to die.”
What would we say? If we are 99 years old, we may say, “I’ve had my house in order the last twenty years. I knew this day was coming. I’m ready to go to the house of the Lord.”
But, what if we are not 99 years old, but we are much younger? How would we feel?
Hezekiah is at the ripe age of 39 when Isaiah tells him he is going to die. Historical records of that time tell us that people in that time expect to live to be at least 80. Dying at the age of 39 is considered tragic.
Hezekiah is in his prime. Things are going well for him as king. Most recently, the Lord miraculously saves Jerusalem from the Assyrian army.
The Bible tells us how Hezekiah responds. He weeps bitterly. He is remorseful and very sad. Hezekiah turns his face to the wall and prays to the Lord. He cries out and begs God to show mercy.
Let’s put ourselves in his shoes. Hezekiah is a very good king in the sight of God. In Hezekiah’s prayer, he prays: “O Lord, I beseech You, remember how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight.”
Don’t You remember God? I’m one of the good guys.
Hezekiah stands on solid ground when he appeals to God saying he serves as a truthful and good king. He is the opposite of his idolatrous father. At the age of 25, Hezekiah becomes king, and he restores the worship of the Lord in Judah.
The first thing he does as king is gather the priests Levites and tells them to cleanse the temple of everything unclean. It takes sixteen days to clean out the idols and unclean junk from his father and the kings before him.
Once the temple is made clean, Hezekiah orders the priests to make sacrifices to the Lord. It is going to be a great time of worship. He gathers musicians. Trumpets are blown. Songs to the Lord are sung. Once the burnt offerings are completed, Hezekiah and all who are present with him, bow down and worship the God of Israel. It is an enthusiastic outpouring of devotion by God’s people.
Hezekiah is just getting started with the revival. He reinstitutes the Passover. He sends couriers throughout Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah telling people, “Do not be like your fathers and your brothers, who were unfaithful to the LORD God. Do not stiffen your neck, but yield to the LORD, and serve the LORD your God, that His burning anger may turn away from you.”
Solomon is the last king to celebrate the Passover feast. 13 kings and 200 years come and go with no Passover in Jerusalem or anywhere in all of Israel. There is great joy in Jerusalem! There is so much joy that everyone decides to celebrate Passover all over again for another seven days (2 Chronicles 30:23).
After the Passover, the people go throughout the kingdom and tear down all the pillars, altars, and high-places of the false gods. Hezekiah does not tell them to do this; it is because God works in their hearts to willing destroy the idols.
There is more Hezekiah does. Suffice it to say that Hezekiah is personally responsible for a great revival of God’s people. Knowing this helps us understand what it may feel like to be in Hezekiah’s shoes, at age 39, and God says, “Get your house in order.”
Hezekiah is devastated. He writes a psalm about his experience. He writes, I am in the middle of my life, and I am about to enter the grave. I am being deprived of the rest of my years. Life feels like a shepherd’s tent being pulled up. It feels like a weaver at the loom being yanked from work. It like a lion breaking my bones. The news of his life ending is painful, unfair, and a rude interruption.
We might feel the same way as Hezekiah. It’s just not right. The younger the person, the more unfair it seems.
Hezekiah repeatedly says in his psalm, “From day until night You make an end of me.” He recognizes that the Lord is the source of his affliction. Our lives are fragile. Our lives are in the hand of God. He may take our life anytime He desires. God gives life, and God takes it away.
When we are young, we all think we are invincible. The older we get, we realize we are born to die. Our life is but a vapor. We fade like grass. There is nothing we may do to add one day to our life. We may exercise and eat right and die in an accident at age 41.
Living in this physical tent is not easy. Regardless of our status in society or the church, God is not a respecter of persons. We are not super-human. We are frail with aches and pains, and groaning from illness. Our organs fail. There is no end to the number of ways our physical bodies may be harmed and for our lives to be snuffed out.
Like Hezekiah, we only have one hope, and that is God will grant us the mercy of continued life.
Hezekiah calls upon God, and God mercifully answers Hezekiah’s prayers. Isaiah is making his way back home, and the Lord tells Isaiah to go back and tell Isaiah He has heard his prayer and has seen Hezekiah’s tears. God grants Hezekiah longer life as part of His purpose and plan.
Isaiah tells Hezekiah that, after three days, go to the house of the Lord, and the Lord will add fifteen years to his life. We might imagine Hezekiah will do as Isaiah says. But, Hezekiah’s faith in the word of the Lord through Isaiah is weak. Hezekiah asks Isaiah, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?” He believes he was going to die, but now he doesn’t quite believe he will live.
Hezekiah knows Isaiah is a prophet of God. In his life, he hears Isaiah say many times, “thus says the Lord.” But, Hezekiah’s faith is weak. He needs a sign before he will go to the house of the Lord three days hence. God’s word is not enough for him to believe.
Isaiah gives Hezekiah a sign so that he will know that the Lord will do what He has spoken. Isaiah tells Hezekiah to go to the stairway of Ahaz. The shadow on the steps will go backward ten steps. And, just as Isaiah says, the sun’s shadow went back ten steps on the stairway. God gives Hezekiah the sign he needs to believe.
Hezekiah’s faith is frail. Hezekiah shows weak faith when he seeks help from the Egyptians. He shows weak faith when he pays Sennacherib a bribe. And, in this narrative, Hezekiah knows God’s word is true, but he still seeks a sign.
Before we point fingers at Hezekiah, let’s examine our own lives. We are often frail in our faith. We have the sure Word which proves to be true historically and prophetically. We say we believe the word of God is true and good, but we rebel and are unfaithfully disobedient. We say we believe with our mind, but fail to show our faith with our hands and feet.
We are frail in our faith when we look at circumstances and have a hard time believing God is working all things for good. We wonder, “God, how may You possibly be working all things for good and yet allow ‘this’ or ‘that’ to happen?
We are frail in our faith when we ask God for a sign. We will say, God, a miraculous sign will help our unbelief. Stand before us, Jesus. Let us be like Thomas and put our hands in Your side and our fingers in Your feet and hands. Do that, and we will live forever serving You.
Our faith is frail when we say God is a providentially good. We say we believe that everything comes from His hand. Yet, we murmur and complain when we don’t get something we want. When life is not going as we like, we get bitter, discontented, or angry. We look at others and think, why do they get it so good and not me? We say we have faith that God is in control of all things and He is our Provider all the while we complain or are unhappy about life.
Our faith is frail when we are anxious or fearful. God says He is our Protector, yet we worry needlessly. The Bible says to cast our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:6-8). Jesus says, Don’t worry about life because our Heavenly Father knows our every need and He is watching over us (Matthew 6:25-34). We fail to trust God and take Him at His word.
One of the ways our frail faith reveals itself is when we have a lack of prayer in our lives. God commands us to pray without ceasing, yet we fail to be faithful. Phillips Brooks said, “If man is man and God is God, to live without prayer is not merely an awful thing; it is an infinitely foolish thing.”
Lastly, our faith is frail when we lack assurance of salvation. We reason in our minds the truth of God’s word which says we are saved to the uttermost. We know God says that He will never leave or forsake us. But, we sometimes wonder if we will lose our salvation. We have doubts. We don’t always believe God loves us even though He sent His Son to die for our sins.
Hezekiah’s faith is weak. Our faith is weak. We cannot trust our faith to be unwavering and rock solid. We rely solely on God to be faithful. We are saved, not because we have super-duper rock-solid faith, but we are saved because God is faithful to save us. If we have to rely on the strength of our faith, we are doomed. God is gloriously faithful to love us and save us. God alone is our hope for salvation.
These chapters reveal that, although Hezekiah is a great king, he is frail morally. In his pride to feel good about himself, he gives in to the temptation of flattery.
Merodach-baladan, the king of Babylon, hears that Hezekiah recovers from sickness. He sends a delegation with letters and a present to Hezekiah. He doesn’t care about Hezekiah. The letters and gift are a ruse to get an inside look of Hezekiah’s treasure chest. Hezekiah takes the bait hook, line, and sinker.
Hezekiah is a wealthy king, and like many people of wealth, he wants to show off. Hezekiah invites the delegation into his treasury and shows them everything. There is nothing in his house or his dominion that Hezekiah does not show them.
Isaiah gets wind of the ordeal and asks Hezekiah about the delegation. “What did these men say, and where are they from?” Hezekiah replies, “They have come from Babylon.” Isaiah asks, “What have they seen in your house?” Hezekiah answers, “Absolutely everything.”
Isaiah tells Hezekiah, hear the word of the Lord of hosts. Everything you own will be carried to Babylon. Some of your sons will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.
Hezekiah says one thing and thinks another. He tells Isaiah, “The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good.” But, he thinks, “For there will be peace and truth in my days.” In other words, at least it will not happen in my lifetime. I will be able to live out my life in peace.
Hezekiah is a great king in the lineage of Christ, but he is a man with lapses of moral failure. God graciously gives him 15 more years of life, but he is unable to resist his prideful temptation. Give him a little flattery, and his discernment goes out the window. Hezekiah seeks to impress Babylonians with his great riches without thinking about the ramifications of his actions. His pride colors his judgment.
We are just like Hezekiah. Each one of us is seduced by something. In our weakness, we sin. Think of the many men of God falling prey to the seductress whispering in his ear. How many of us have given in to the temptation to lie or gossip so we may look good to others? How many times are we tempted to take something wrongfully or cheat on our timecard?
Our Christian moral fiber is frail. Each one of us struggles with temptations. Despite the goodness of God and having all that we need, the enemy finds a way to seduce us into thinking we need more. And, to get what we want, we fail morally. None of us may say that our morality is protected by impenetrable, shining armor. Our morality is exposed to the arrows of the enemy. We are frail and weak. We are fools if we may think we may go all day tomorrow without sinning against God. At any given moment, each one of us is a Hezekiah standing on the precipice of failure, walking on the edge of temptation awaiting the slightest breeze to send us teetering off the edge. Take heed lest we fall.
Our only hope is the Lord. We may not trust ourselves to live sinless the rest of our lives or even one day. Hezekiah teaches us not to put our faith in our ability to resist temptation. Our only hope is in the mercy and grace of God. We have faith that we will sin. But, more importantly, we have faith in the forgiveness of God and that Christ will present us holy and blameless before the throne of judgment.
We are frail physically. None of us has any guarantee we will be alive tomorrow. We are frail in our faith. We experience doubt. We may be on the super-faith path one moment, and a train-wreck life experience comes our way, and we find we need the help of others to clear the doubts away. We are frail in our morality. Many who appear to be mighty Christians have fallen only to find themselves humbly licking their sin-inflicted wounds. Success in our Christian walk happens not because we are super-Christians, but because God’s grace keeps us in His hand.
In the first 35 chapters, Isaiah’s message is a continual plea to trust in God alone. The people of Judah trust everything but God. They trust in their riches, armies, lifestyle, and idols, and they fail to trust in God for deliverance. They wander from God’s covenant intent on doing things their way. God lovingly calls people to repentance.
Chapters 38-39 of Isaiah are a bridge to the remainder of the book. Isaiah shows his readers that God is ready to deliver and prosper His people when they repent. Even though the people have turned against Him for twenty years (35 chapters), we read in chapters 36 and 37 the testimony of God’s deliverance and grace.
Chapters 38 and 39 reveal that even the mightiest of God’s people still need God. Hezekiah is a great king, but Hezekiah is frail and weak. Without God, he is nothing. The people are not to turn to a man for their hope. In other words, Isaiah uncovers to the people of Judah, and to us that, Hezekiah is no Messiah.
The bridge Isaiah builds in chapters 36-39 brings us to chapters 40 to 66. He proves in the first 39 chapters that our hope is not found in ourselves. We are a people in desperate need of a Savior. We easily succumb to sin and temptation. We easily stray from the covenant with our God. If it were not for God’s grace, we would be like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Our only hope is God. In the first 39 chapters, Isaiah reveals the hope of living in Mount Zion with the Messiah as our Lord. In the remainder of the book, we will see even more beautiful descriptions of the glory of God in the face of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is our hope. He is our Savior who loves us and saves us from our condemning sin. Today, after reading about Hezekiah, we may give God the glory knowing that despite our frailties, God is full of grace and mercy.
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.