By Christina M Wilson. Previously published at https://justonesmallvoice.com/king-hezekiah-prays-isaiah-devotional-journal-78/
Isaiah 37 Septuagint Modernized NETS
King Hezekiah-Part Four: Hezekiah Prays
The prophet Isaiah records three prayers of Hezekiah to God Almighty. In response to each of these, God answers with direct speech and action. Notably, God speaks his words not to Hezekiah but to the prophet Isaiah. The first two interactions concern the imminent siege and attack by the Assyrian army against Jerusalem. The third concerns Hezekiah’s mortal illness. In the first instance, Scripture does not record that Hezekiah prays. Rather, he asks the prophet Isaiah to pray. In the second and third instances, Scripture records the words that Hezekiah prays himself.
I. Isaiah 37:1-7
HEZEKIAH’S THREE RESPONSES
When the Rabshakeh came threatening annihilation to Jerusalem, Hezekiah responded in three ways.
- He tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth. These are outward signs of inner grief, mourning, humility, and repentance. More modern equivalents might be wearing black to a funeral, physically dropping to one’s knees to pray, and bowing the head in prayer.
- Hezekiah also “went up into” (NETS and Brenton) the house of the Lord. Only the Greek Septuagint includes two separate words for “went up” and “into.” Both are important. The Masoretic Hebrew writes “into” alone. Hezekiah did not move laterally to his own home or to the home of his friends. Nor did he go down to some other location. Rather, he made the effort to go up to where God is. He entered into the presence of the Lord. Spiritually speaking, supplicants must acknowledge the Lord, approach him, and enter into his presence in order to initiate speech with him.
- Finally, Hezekiah sent emissaries to Isaiah the prophet with exact words to tell him. It is not wrong to ask friends to pray for us. There are many fine reasons why a believer might want others to join them in prayer. If the Lord wills for us to be alone with him, he has power to make third parties unavailable. Hezekiah gave these words to Isaiah.
3 Today is a day of affliction, and reproach, and rebuke, and anger; for the pangs have come upon the travailing woman, but she has not the strength to bring forth. 4 May the Lord your God hear the words of Rabshakeh, which the king of the Assyrians has sent, to reproach the living God, even to reproach with the words which the Lord your God has heard; therefore you shall pray to your Lord for these that are left. (CAB, LXE)
Hezekiah’s prayer expresses two main thoughts. First, he appeals to the “living” God’s own honor, and second, he desires the preservation of the remnant, “these that are left.”
Just as a first responder giving immediate first aid, the living Lord’s first response was, “Do not be afraid,” (verse 6). The enemy’s goal, as represented by the Rabshakeh, is to blind and confuse believers to make them give up in fear. The Lord’s goal is to comfort, “Do not be afraid…I will” do such and such (verse 7). He shifts the fearful person’s attention away from themselves and the situation and onto himself, his power, and his goodness. In this instance, Isaiah told Hezekiah that the Lord would take care of it all. He himself need not lift a finger.
II. Isaiah 37:8-38
Hezekiah prays a second time. This prayer is strikingly different from the first. No longer does the king tell Isaiah how to pray for them, but he himself prays directly. His prayer focuses on faith statements of God’s attributes and power. He sees the Assyrians minimized in comparison with God Almighty. He asks specifically for God to save them from the Assyrians so that “every kingdom of the earth may know that you alone are God,” (verse 20, NETS). In other words, his expressed concern is for the testimony and glory of God alone.
The king does one other thing that bears attention. Because God was already at work against the Assyrians, Rabshakeh did not speak in person this second time at Jerusalem’s wall. Rather, messengers sent from the Assyrian king had given Hezekiah a scroll (or scrolls). The NET translation expresses well the impact of Isaiah 37:14.
Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it. Then Hezekiah went up to the LORD’s temple and spread it out before the LORD.
This verse presents a graphic image of the meaning of prayer (Isaiah 37:14). All the problems are reported in one place. Hezekiah takes these and spreads them out, possibly as he kneels upon the floor. As he opens them up before the Lord, he turns them over to him. By doing so, he asks God to carry the burden for him. Hezekiah also speaks out loud his faith and trust in God, his Lord.
Scripture records no message from Hezekiah to Isaiah. Yet, Isaiah spoke God’s reply. This time, God’s first words confirm Hezekiah’s expressed faith. “I heard what you prayed to me,” (verse 21). I grant your request. This is what I’m going to do. And here is a sign, so that you will know I will do what I say.
God gives two reasons for his positive reply to Hezekiah’s prayer for help.
- First, he protects Jerusalem for his own sake. Jerusalem is where God’s temple resides. God protects his own glory.
- Second, he protects the city for “My servant David’s sake.” God had promised David that Messiah would come from his loins (2 Samuel 7:12-16; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 22:16).
Verses 36-38 record the fulfillment of God’s promise to Hezekiah through Isaiah the prophet (Isaiah 37:36-38). It happened just as he said it would.
…Hezekiah’s third prayer to be continued