Isaiah 37-39

Isaiah 37-39…Hezekiah’s prayer.

Hezekiah’s intercession (Isaiah 38) shows the power of prayer before our sovereign Creator, which is also confirmed in today’s passage. This record of Hezekiah’s illness and recovery, Isaiah 38:6 reveals, took place before the events recorded in chapter 37. (Biblical authors sometimes do not order their accounts chronologically.) Therefore, the promise Isaiah gave in 37:5–7 was not the Lord’s first pledge to deliver Jerusalem from Assyria. In His grace, God repeats His promises to us, increasing our confidence in His Word.

Unlike his father, Ahaz, who lacked faith to ask for a sign from God, we know that Hezekiah asked for a sign of his recovery and Jerusalem’s rescue (2 Kings 20:8). God granted this sign, healing Hezekiah and adding fifteen years to his life (Isa. 38:4–6).

God’s granting fifteen more years of life to Hezekiah does not mean He changes His mind like we do. Instead, such accounts show us that the Lord has a real relationship with His people in time and responds to our prayers and actions. Hezekiah did not know how God would answer His prayer for healing, but the Lord did. Similarly, God knows how He will answer our prayers even before we offer them, but that must not keep us from interceding for ourselves and others.

2 Chronicles 28-30

2 Chronicles 28-30…Hezekiah.

Through Hezekiah, God brought both reformation and revival to Judah. In addition to renewing the temple, the king also renewed the celebration of the Passover. Setting aside recent strife in favor of a deeper covenant unity, he even invited people from what remained of northern Israel to come and join in. The letter he sent showed his heart: he wanted the entire nation to return to God, reunite in repentant worship centered around the temple, and be restored to the Lord’s covenant favor. Though many mocked the messengers, some responded openly and humbly.

Hezekiah changed the date of Passover, mainly on practical grounds, since there was insufficient time to prepare the priests and gather the people. In fact, the Law was flexible on this point (see Num. 9:10-11). Despite the delay, many participants still had not purified themselves, but the king prayed for their forgiveness and God graciously “healed the people” (2 Chronicles 30:20). The entire occasion was a high point in post-Solomon Israelite history. This was no short-lived emotional rush, but a genuine recommitment followed by a zealous campaign to wipe out places and practices of idolatry. Hezekiah did everything with careful attention to the Law, following David’s and Solomon’s worship examples.

2 Kings 20-22

2 Kings 20-22…Flawed leaders.

Although the record of leadership in 1 and 2 Kings shows marked failure, rulers like Hezekiah and Josiah were largely faithful. These kings were righteous, but even they could not keep God’s covenant flawlessly. This section of 2 Kings records the occasion when Merodach-baladan, the king of Babylon, sent envoys to Hezekiah, who put on a show of all his treasures and his armory. Clearly this was a mistake, for Isaiah the prophet rebuked him, proclaiming that the empire that came to check out Hezekiah’s resources would be the same empire to exile his sons. Isaiah regarded this error as so troubling that he recorded it in his own book of prophecy.

Deuteronomy 17:16 explains why Hezekiah erred. The king of God’s people was not to go to Egypt to acquire many horses, which were a significant part of ancient Near Eastern armies. This was really a warning against military alliances with foreign powers to bolster Israel’s forces, and Hezekiah knew this warning. Matthew Henry says the Babylonian king “found himself obliged to Hezekiah … for the weakening of the Assyrian forces, and had reason to think he could not have a more powerful and valuable ally.” Hezekiah had successfully resisted Sennacherib of Assyria, and Babylon came knocking at his door to see if Judah might be of help against their common enemy — the Assyrian empire. In showcasing his military and economic strength, Hezekiah implied an alliance was possible.

If good kings like Hezekiah failed, what hope did Israel have for the monarchy? Only the hope that God would put His Messiah on David’s throne (Ps. 110).