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King Hezekiah Prays: Isaiah Journal 78
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
Hezekiah-Highlights: Isaiah Journal 77
By Christina M Wilson. Originally published at King Hezekiah-Highlights: Isaiah Devotional Journal 77 – justonesmallvoice.com.
Isaiah 36-37 Septuagint Modernized NETS
King Hezekiah-Part Two: Highlights
When reading the four Isaiah chapters concerning King Hezekiah, certain highlights, or themes, shine through.
- Hezekiah’s trust in God
- his vibrant prayer life
- his successful leadership of those under his authority
- God’s testing of him
- his pride
- his selfishness
- the fact that godly character is not inheritable
The crux of King Hezekiah’s history in the context of Israel’s history, however, is not Hezekiah’s character, but the character of God.
Will God Come Through for Jerusalem?
“Rabshakeh” is the title given the emissary/military general who represented the King of Assyria (36:2). The threat was real–very close, very imminent, right at Jerusalem’s front door.
Rabshakeh lied. He bluffed. His purpose in Isaiah 36 was to talk his way into victory. He pressed all the psychological buttons he could think of. His purpose was to get the people to forsake their king (Isaiah 36:14) and give up without a fight (Isaiah 36:16-17). He promised them peaceful prosperity until the day when he would take them away to the happy, happy land of captivity.
Rabshakeh exemplifies the tactics of our spiritual enemy, Satan. Satan attacks our faith in God by subtly twisting his character and lying to us about him. His goal is to make us fearful of possibilities and potential outcomes that have not yet occurred. He paints a very dour picture of the present and future, tempting us to give up without a fight.
These were the tactics of Rabshekah. His main argument was that Hezekiah’s God was no different than all the other “gods” whom Assyria had vanquished. Hezekiah realized that indeed these other “gods” were false idols, blocks of wood and stone (Isaiah 37:18-19). They failed the countries which clung to them. But Hezekiah knew that his God lived, had power, and would save them. And, in the end, God did. He came through for Jerusalem at this time, because of Hezekiah’s strong faith in him.
King Hezekiah-Overview: Isaiah Journal 76
By Christina M Wilson. Published simultaneously at King Hezekiah-Overview: Isaiah Devotional Journal 76 – justonesmallvoice.com.
Isaiah 36-37 Septuagint Modernized NETS
King Hezekiah-Part One: Overview
Four narrative chapters concerning King Hezekiah bring the first portion of the prophetic book of Isaiah to a close. At the same time, these chapters serve to introduce the latter half of Isaiah. Barry Webb calls them a “bridge” between the two major portions of the book (1).
Even casual readers will notice that the first portion of Isaiah differs from the latter portion in tone and content. Speaking in general terms, the first portion represents God speaking harshly to his people in terms of accusation and judgment. Historically, the first portion encompasses the permanent carrying off into captivity of the northern kingdom. It also prophesies the carrying off of Judah into exile more than a century later.
Isaiah also judges the nations in the harshest of terms, providing much end time material. Not all the end times, or eschatological, material is bad news, however. Interspersed throughout the judgment of the nations are passages of hope in a future Messiah. This Messiah will bless not just Judah and Jerusalem, but the whole world. This includes Gentiles.
The Lord speaks more fully in the second portion of the book. He develops in greater detail the nature of the coming Messiah. And, for the first time, he introduces the suffering which will characterize Messiah’s life. Overall, however, Isaiah’s message is one of comfort, hope, restitution, and glory.
Who Is King Hezekiah?
Four chapters of straight narrative in the prophetic book of Isaiah is unusual in itself. These chapters resemble a stand alone packet. Indeed, they are a packet, because they appear in 2 Kings 18:13, 17-20:21 in much the same form. This history appears in 2 Chronicles 32:9-26, as well, though shorter. 2 Chronicles devotes four entire chapters to Hezekiah’s complete reign, 2 Chronicles 29-32. Does a reader get the impression that there is something about King Hezekiah which God wants us to grasp?
2 Chronicles records this about King Hezekiah:
20 Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and faithful before the LORD his God. 21 And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20-21 ESV)
Scripture also reports this:
22 So the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib king of Assyria and from the hand of all his enemies, and he provided for them on every side. (2 Chronicles 32:22 ESV)
Christianity’s “Every Person”
Hezekiah (though he predates the incarnation) represents what it means to follow Christ and be “Christian.” Within the Christian world, he would be an “every person.” Scripture makes clear that Hezekiah, as an “every person,” was not perfect (Isaiah 38:3 and 39:6-8). Concerning his imperfections, he resembles King David. But also like David, Hezekiah’s heart of faith, expressed by his actions, remained loyal and steadfastly true to his God. I believe the Bible contains so many chapters devoted to Hezekiah’s life and actions because God holds him up as a model for us to imitate.
Facts of King Hezekiah’s Reign
Isaiah’s period of prophecy and King Hezekiah’s reign mostly overlap (Isaiah 1:1 and 39:8). Apparently, Isaiah ceased prophesying some time before Hezekiah died (Isaiah 1:1). This extensive overlap carried practical implications. Because of Isaiah’s physical proximity to Jerusalem and its king, the prophet and Hezekiah interacted on major occasions, such as the invasion by the Assyrians. Also, because of Isaiah’s importance as a prophet, he would naturally have much to say to and about Judah’s king.
God himself excoriated the “apostate children” in Isaiah 30:1 forward (Septuagint). In the post for that chapter, I disagreed with many commentators by making the case that verses 1-18 applied not to Judah but to Israel. Given the Bible’s witness to the favor God granted King Hezekiah and his faithful heart, I stand by that assessment. God would never speak to his faithful children using the words he uses to chastise the hard hearted, distant, and disobedient children of chapter 30. Rather, when Scripture does portray the failings of Hezekiah’s character (Isaiah 39 and 2 Chronicles 32:24-31 Septuagint), it does so without the harsh, condemnatory words of Isaiah 30:1-17. The link to the prior post is here: ISAIAH 30 SEPTUAGINT-TWO KINGDOMS: JOURNAL 64.
1 Webb, Barry. The Message of Isaiah: On eagles’ wings, part of the series, The Bible Speaks Today, Old Testament portion edited by J. A. Motyer. Published by Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1996, page 147.