The Prophet Continues to Chronicle the King

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Moreover, the stunning lack of commentary in the New Testament concerning the nature of the kingdom argues strongly for an unaltered Jewish apocalyptic view of the kingdom. Though the meaning of the kingdom is an endless source of contention today, the New Testament is generally unconcerned with its definition (focusing rather on the meaning and contention of the cross). The nature of the kingdom receives little exegetical attention, and when it does it falls in line with Old Testament and intertestamental views (cf. 1 Cor. 15: 20– 55; 2 Tim. 4: 1– 18; 2 Peter 1: 10– 21).  If the kingdom, which was the greatest hope of the Jewish mind and heart, had now been “inaugurated,” “realized,” or “spiritually fulfilled” in some way, would not this grand event be the center of all thought and exhortation? Where is the fanfare? Where is the hoopla? If the kingdom had finally come, then it seems like a strangely inverted case of “little ado about much.”

Rather, the “kingdom of God” is simply the messianic kingdom, to which the Jews commonly looked (as they do today) and to which the church sets its hope in the return of Jesus (cf. 1 Cor. 15: 50; 2 Tim. 4: 1; 2 Peter 2: 11).  The modern academy has shaped the kingdom of God in its own image, making it so complicated and obtuse that no one outside its esoteric circle can understand it or practically apply it, which makes George Buchanan’s oft-quoted characterization of historical research concerning the kingdom painfully true: “Scholars have internalized, de-temporalized, de-historicized, cosmologized, spiritualized, allegorized, mysticized, psychologized, philosophized, and sociologized the concept of the kingdom of God.”  If an illiterate peasant (which is what most of the New Testament hearers were) cannot understand and immediately respond to the message of the kingdom, then it probably ought not be spoken in the first place! – John P. Harrigan, The Gospel of Christ Crucified: A Theology of Suffering before Glory

The narrative of King Hezekiah goes on…

About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill, and the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to visit him. He gave the king this message: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Set your affairs in order, for you are going to die. You will not recover from this illness.’” When Hezekiah heard this, he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have always been faithful to you and have served you single-mindedly, always doing what pleases you.” Then he broke down and wept bitterly (Isaiah 38:1-3 NLT).

This was the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, so his sickness took place during the time of the Assyrian invasion, prior to the final Deliverance of Jerusalem.  From the account in Chronicles, it would appear the king’s sickness was brought on by his heart being filled with pride.

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.  Nothwithstanding 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 (II Chron 332:25-26 KJV).

The “turning his face to the wall” denotes a turning away from all his accomplishments, supposed merit, and things he held so dear.  As well, it also spoke of his helplessness.  The king was only 39 years old, and as yet, he had no son to succeed him.

Then this message came to Isaiah from the Lord: “Go back to Hezekiah and tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your ancestor David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. Yes, I will defend this city. “‘And this is the sign from the Lord to prove that he will do as he promised: I will cause the sun’s shadow to move ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!’” So the shadow on the sundial moved backward ten steps (Isaiah 38:4-8 NLT).

As far as we know, this is the only time that the LORD ever informed one as to exactly how much longer they would live.  The Promise must have been very sweet to his ears.  His life would be extended and Jerusalem would be delivered.

The Scripture emphasizes that this was the “sundial of Ahaz.”  Ahaz was so unbelieving and so lacking in desire to serve God that he ignored the offer of the LORD as it regarded a “sign.”  Now, the LORD will give Hezekiah, Ahaz’s son, a “sign” on the same sundial.

When King Hezekiah was well again, he wrote this poem: 10 I said, “In the prime of my life, must I now enter the place of the dead? Am I to be robbed of the rest of my years?” 11 I said, “Never again will I see the Lord God while still in the land of the living. Never again will I see my friends or be with those who live in this world. 12 My life has been blown away like a shepherd’s tent in a storm. It has been cut short, as when a weaver cuts cloth from a loom. Suddenly, my life was over. 13 I waited patiently all night, but I was torn apart as though by lions. Suddenly, my life was over. 14 Delirious, I chattered like a swallow or a crane, and then I moaned like a mourning dove. My eyes grew tired of looking to heaven for help. I am in trouble, Lord. Help me!” (Isaiah 38:9-14 NLT).

Hezekiah writes a Psalm concerning the great Miracle the LORD had performed.  The sundial had gone backward ten degrees, constituting a “long day.”

But what could I say?  For he himself sent this sickness.  Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt. 16 Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live!  Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. 18 For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. 19 Only the living can praise you as I do today.  Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. 20 Think of it—the Lord is ready to heal me! I will sing his praises with instruments every day of my life in the Temple of the Lord (Isaiah 38:15-20 NLT).

Hezekiah is at a loss to express his wonder and gratitude.  In the added years that the LORD will give him, he intends to walk humbly before Jehovah.

Isaiah had said to Hezekiah’s servants, “Make an ointment from figs and spread it over the boil, and Hezekiah will recover.” 22 And Hezekiah had asked, “What sign will prove that I will go to the Temple of the Lord?” (Isaiah 38:21-22 NLT).

The “boil” symbolized the sinful corruption that had polluted his life.  The “ointment from figs” laid on the boil symbolized the Healing Power of God, Who Alone can remove the corruption of sin.

Soon after this, Merodach-baladan son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent Hezekiah his best wishes and a gift. He had heard that Hezekiah had been very sick and that he had recovered. Hezekiah was delighted with the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything in his treasure-houses—the silver, the gold, the spices, and the aromatic oils. He also took them to see his armory and showed them everything in his royal treasuries! There was nothing in his palace or kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.

Despite his declared intentions, it appears Hezekiah fell back into his old ways when the Babylonian envoys arrived.  He directed attention to the wonders of his palace rather than the true Wonder of God’s action in retiring the shadow of the sun and healing the his sickness.

Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked him, “What did those men want? Where were they from?” Hezekiah replied, “They came from the distant land of Babylon.” “What did they see in your palace?” asked Isaiah (Isaiah 39:1-4 NLT).

In this instance, Isaiah was not sent for.  He came unbidden to rebuke the king.  But Hezekiah is so lifted up in pride, that he glories in what has happened.  He proclaims that he desired the envoy from Babylon to see all of his great riches and power.

“They saw everything,” Hezekiah replied. “I showed them everything I own—all my royal treasuries.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Listen to this message from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: ‘The time is coming when everything in your palace—all the treasures stored up by your ancestors until now—will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left,’ says the Lord. ‘Some of your very own sons will be taken away into exile. They will become eunuchs who will serve in the palace of Babylon’s king’” (Isaiah 39:5-7 NLT).

Isaiah was a true and brave servant of the Gospel; he did not fear to warn even kings of the Wrath of God.

Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “This message you have given me from the Lord is good.” For the king was thinking, “At least there will be peace and security during my lifetime” (Isaiah 39:8 NLT).

The king’s repentance was sincere and accepted by the LORD.

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 (II Chron 32:36 KJV).