In Chapter 38, Isaiah records a strange instance where God sends him to tell Hezekiah to get his affairs in order because he is going to die. The Bible says it is appointed unto men once to die. (Heb 9:27) We all have an appointment. For some reason, Hezekiah was informed about his appointment in advance. Even more bizarre than that though, is the fact that Hezekiah managed to persuade God to reschedule his appointment. Why would God tell Hezekiah that he was going to die, and then decide to add fifteen more years instead? Many commentators use this story as an example of God’s perfect will and his permissive will. They cite the examples of Hezekiah’s blunder with the ambassadors from Babylon after his recovery (Isa 39) and his fathering Manasseh, the worst king in Judah’s history, as examples of why Hezekiah should have accepted God’s will to begin with, which would have worked out better supposedly. That may be true, but maybe there is more here than meets the eye.
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.
2 Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD,
3 And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.
4 Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying,
5 Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years.
6 And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.
7 And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken;
8 Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.
Like Joshua’s long day, this is an amazing miracle. To doubt this miracle is to have a small view of God. Because I believe Genesis 1:1, Isaiah 38:8 is not hard to believe. If God created the heaven and the earth, He has power over what He created to direct it according to the good pleasure of his will. (See Mk 4:39) I doubt God reversed the rotation of the earth, but rather I suspect He bent the light somehow.
9 The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:
10 I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.
11 I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.
12 Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
13 I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.
14 Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me.
15 What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.
16 O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.
17 Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.
18 For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
19 The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.
20 The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.
Theoretically, Hezekiah may have been the author of some of the ‘orphanic’ psalms, the psalms for which no author was given. Some say Hezekiah wrote Psalm 116 after his prayer for life extension was answered. Some say Hezekiah wrote Psalm 126 after God delivered Jerusalem from the Assyrian army.
21 For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.
22 Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?
The Bible says that Hezekiah trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him. (2 Kings 18:5) Despite all Hezekiah’s reforms and the revival that took place during his reign, is it possible that Hezekiah neglected his most important duty of all? According to the Talmud, Hezekiah’s disease was the result of him refusing to marry and have children. Working from the hypothesis that this was indeed the case, let us consider what happened next. Hezekiah did indeed father a son after he recovered. That son was named Manasseh.
God’s first priority under the old covenant was to bring our Redeemer into the world — our kinsman Redeemer; He had to be a direct descendant from Adam (Lk 3:28),* from Abraham (Gen 22:18), from Judah (Gen 49:10), and lastly from the line of David (1 Ch 17:14). Manasseh provided a link to the Messiah meeting these criteria. (Matt 1:10)
While it is true that Manasseh’s wickedness was far beyond all the other kings of Judah, it is also true that he repented and received God’s grace and forgiveness. (2 Chron 33:13ff) This is an example to anyone who thinks they are beyond God’s grace. Although Manasseh caused his children to pass through the fire, filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and although he made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel, God’s grace was still available to him.
That same grace is available to you and me.
Father, thank You for working all things together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to your purpose. Thank You for your mercy that endures forever, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
* Mary’s genealogy in Luke, which records Messiah’s unbroken bloodline, shows that Jesus was a direct descendant from Adam, who was a direct descendant from God.