By Christina M Wilson. Published previously at https://justonesmallvoice.com/hezekiahs-pride-part-4-isaiah-devotional-journal-84/.
Isaiah 38; 2 Chronicles 32:24 Septuagint Modernized NETS
Hezekiah-Part Nine: Whole-hearted Obedience
Scripture supplies a full picture of King Hezekiah’s spiritual testing. The concern of this portion of Isaiah is to explain how a godly man fell to pride. There are three areas of testing which Scripture fully develops in the reign of Hezekiah as king of Judah.
- duties in the realm of worship
- military leadership
- personal life
We have been examining Hezekiah’s spiritual successes and the concrete actions he took as a result of his whole-hearted obedience to the Lord. He did very well in the areas of personal and leadership worship (see Journal 82). He also did great in the area of military leadership (see Journal 83). Now we come to how the Lord tested him in his personal life, when he became mortally ill. (See Journal 79 for this material with an emphasis on Hezekiah’s prayer life.)
III Hezekiah in His Personal Life
By looking at Kings, Chronicles, and Isaiah together, readers can make a timeline of Hezekiah’s life. It appears that just about the time Assyria attacked and took the cities of Judah, Hezekiah became sick to the point of death. His illness occurred after his spiritual successes in the area of personal worship. He had also led a national spiritual revival. Then, Scripture writes that God allowed the enemy to attack.
After these things and these acts of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah and encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them for himself. (2Chronicles 32:1 ESV)
According to the text of Scripture and the construction of a timeline of his life, Hezekiah fell ill at this same time, more or less.
Isaiah 38:1And it came to pass at that time, that Hezekiah was sick, even to death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, came to him, and said to him, Thus says the Lord, Give orders concerning your house; for you shall die, and not live. (CAB, LXE) [“in those days”–ESV]
I personally think it likely that Hezekiah fell ill and recovered after Sennacherib’s general arrived at the city gate. It may have been during the three year period (Isaiah 37:30-31) after Isaiah prophesied Assyria’s defeat and the angel of the Lord miraculously slaughtered one hundred and eighty-five thousand of its soldiers (Isaiah 37:36). In any event, Hezekiah’s first response to his illness was to pray. Recall that he had also responded with prayer to the threat of Sennacherib (Journal 78). In all this, he did well.
Hezekiah Calls Upon the Lord
When Hezekiah became ill, he immediately turned to the Lord in prayer.
Isaiah 38:1 And it came to pass at that time, that Hezekiah was sick, even to death… 2 And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, (Complete Apostles’ Bible, Brenton Septuagint)
“TURNED HIS FACE TO THE WALL”
What does this scriptural phrase mean, “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall”? It appears from the literature to have entered the English language from this very passage.
- Literally, ancient near eastern couches, or beds, were placed alongside the walls. The corner of any room was the place of honor. Most likely, the sick king turned onto his side to face the wall. By doing so, he hid his face from the center of the room and any guests or attendants who may have happened to be there.
- Having done this, he prayed. Therefore, the spiritual significance of turning his face to the wall would amount to entering his prayer closet. He achieved the maximum privacy available to him.
SCRIPTURE RECORDS THE KING’S PRAYER
Scripture records Hezekiah’s prayer in two separate places. The first, Isaiah 38:3, provides a simple, one sentence account of his actual words.
2 And Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, 3 Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before You in truth, with a true heart, and have done that which was pleasing in Your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (CAB, LXE)
The second, Isaiah 38:9-20, combines a narrative recall with a fresh prayer of adoration directly praising the Lord. The Bible labels this passage as prayer.
9 The prayer of Hezekiah king of Judea, when he had been sick, and was recovered from his sickness:
The structure of Isaiah 38:10-20 is interesting. It divides into halves.
- In the first half (verses 10-15), the king narrates his traumatic experience from a vantage point after his healing. He sums up the content of his prior prayer and how he felt at the time about his impending death. He does this as though he were telling a listener about his illness after the fact.
- The second half (verses 16-20) of the passage, however, becomes a fresh prayer addressing the Lord directly. Hezekiah no longer recollects. Rather, he confesses the Lord, praises him, declares his intent to teach children about the righteousness of the Lord, and vows to bless the Lord with the psaltery (a stringed instrument) all the days of his life (Isaiah 38:16-20).
- Readers will discover no sin or pride in this portion recounting King Hezekiah’s personal life.
What Did Hezekiah Pray?
Hezekiah never asked the Lord to heal him (Isaiah 38:3; 2 Kings 20:2-3). Clearly, however, his emotions spoke the fact that he did not want to die.
13 In that day I was given up as to a lion until the morning; so has He broken all my bones; for I was so given up from day even to night. 14 As a swallow, so will I cry, and as a dove, so do I mourn; for my eyes have failed from looking to the height of heaven to the Lord, who has delivered me, 15 and removed the sorrow of my soul. (CAB, LXE)
The Lord Replies
God sent Isaiah his prophet to King Hezekiah to answer his prayers. His reply took two forms. First, he gave Hezekiah a sign. Second, he healed the king and added fifteen more years to his life.
The sign that God through Isaiah granted is nothing short of amazing and spectacular. The shadow of the setting sun went backward ten steps.
2 Kings 20:11 And Isaiah the prophet cried to the Lord, and the shadow returned back ten degrees on the dial. (CAB, LXE)
The king chose this sign because it would be difficult to perform. Joshua 10:12-14 records how Joshua through the Lord commanded the sun to stand still, and it did. Scripture does not say that God stopped the sun for Hezekiah. Nevertheless, the shadow of the setting sun moved backward. And then, of course, Hezekiah recovered his health. He lived and did not die.
HEZEKIAH’S HUMILITY AND HIS PRIDE
- Humility: So far, in the biblical narrative of the book of Isaiah, Hezekiah does not commit the sin of pride. As already mentioned, he responds to his healing by turning again to the Lord in prayer. He acknowledges God alone as the source of his healing (Isaiah 38:9-20).
- Nevertheless, Isaiah 39 reveals that something is amiss.
- The book of 2 Kings does not address the issue of King Hezekiah’s heart.
- Pride: However, this book also reveals an underlying core of rot. 2 Kings 20:16-19 and Isaiah 39:5-8 are basically identical. Both identify the king’s prideful heart before the prince of Babylon. They both also identify his selfish weakness as regards his progeny.
- How did this great change occur? Neither Kings nor Isaiah provide many clues. There is the third book, however, which does.
Fortunately, Scripture includes the book of 2 Chronicles to unfold its many details concerning the state of King Hezekiah’s heart. King Hezekiah truly was a good king. We’ve seen how God tested and proved him in the areas of worship (Journal 81 and Journal 82), military leadership (Journal 83), and his personal life (this post).
We will close up this section concerning Hezekiah, and with it Volume 1 of Isaiah, in the next post. There we will discover what 2 Chronicles reveals as the apparent source of King Hezekiah’s sinful pride.
To be continued…