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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 38

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Chapter 38

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 your house in order: for you shall die, and not live ( Isaiah 38:1 ).

These are pretty heavy tidings. You get sick and a prophet of God comes and says, "Hey, set your house in order, man, this is it. You're going to die and not live." There are things that we must take care of before we die. Important things to take care of. The most important thing that I take care of before I die is my relationship with God. And that's really what the prophet was referring to. "Set your house in order. You're going to die and not live."

So Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech thee, how I have walked before you in truth and with a complete heart, and have done that which is good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept. Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen your tears: behold, I will add fifteen years to you. And I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that he hath spoken; 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 ( Isaiah 38:2-8 ).

Interesting thing. Just to prove a point that what God said is true. "All right, I'll give you fifteen years. Don't cry. And to prove it, I'll bring the shadow on the sundial back ten degrees." So here is actually a long day. Ten degrees backward, and by the time it started again would give you about a forty-five minute lapse time here as God took... Now how did God pull that one off? I don't know. There are those who scoff at the miracles in the Bible and try to either rationalize them completely or just say that they didn't exist. We have the case in Joshua's time where the sun stood still for the space of almost a day in order that Joshua was able to completely wipe out the enemies.

Now if the sun stood still in the evening time and the moon there in the valley of Ajalon, then it would mean that over here on this side of the earth they would have had a long night, which, of course, the Aztec and Inca records do record. And Velikovsky in his book, Worlds in Collision, traces this long day of Joshua around the world. Now there are the scoffers who say, "Wait a minute, the sun doesn't revolve around the earth anyhow. We have that kind of an illusion only because the earth is spinning on its axis. So rather than the sun standing still, it must be that the earth came to a halt. But the earth is spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and if the earth would suddenly stop, everybody would be thrown off." And so they tried to deny the reality of that miracle through this idea that anything stopped spinning at a thousand miles an hour, everything would be thrown off of it.

Well, who said God put on the brakes that hard? Say God took fifteen minutes to slow the earth to a stop? Oh my, that's easing down, because from a thousand miles in fifteen minutes, you would hardly even notice the brakes being applied at that speed. So if God, say, slowed it down in five minutes, it would be like applying your brakes at sixty miles an hour to stop at a signal that is a half a mile away. So there's no problem. God didn't just slam on the brakes, yank, and everybody goes flying off. He just applied the brakes, stopped the thing. The miracle to me is how did He get it going again? Now here is a little bit better. He actually reversed the thing a little bit. Let it go back ten degrees before He fired it up. So the only reason why people have difficulty with these facets of scriptures is because their concept of God is so small. And the reason why their concept of God is small is because they have created their own ideas of God.

If you believe in the God that is revealed in the Bible, then these things present absolutely no problem at all. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" ( Genesis 1:1 ). That's a pretty big God. And if He created the heavens and the earth, He has no problem in guiding and directing and in stopping if He wants the rotation of this earth upon its axis for a moment. Starting it up again. It's an interesting thing Velikovsky in his book believes that when God started up again, He started in the opposite direction. That actually the earth used to rotate from west to east. He believes and seeks to prove it in his book. But interesting. God just to prove to the king, "Hey, I mean it. Show you little proof just to encourage you."

Now when Hezekiah was sick, this is what he wrote. You talk about a negative confession. I mean, this guy had a classic negative confession. So this is what Hezekiah wrote when he was sick.

I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go down to the gates of hell: I am deprived of the residue of my years. 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. 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. 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 ( Isaiah 38:10-13 ).

Boy, what a negative confession! Now if what you say is what you get, then Hezekiah really would have been done in. But in spite of all of his negative confessions, God answered his prayer and gave him fifteen years. But that brings up a problem. Should he really have died at that time? It would appear that God's primary will for Hezekiah was that he should die at that time.

There's a theological debate on whether or not prayer really changes things. Can I by prayer really change the mind of God? God declares, "Behold, I am God, I change not" ( Malachi 3:6 ). Should I by prayer seek to change the mind of God? What would be the purpose of changing the mind of God? The only purpose I can see of seeking to change the mind of God is that I've got a smarter thought than God does. "Now God, I want You to see it my way."

It is interesting how that so often in our prayers they are really real hyped jobs in trying to, in a sense, change the mind of God-at least the way we pray it. It is as though we're trying to make God see it our way and to convince God that our way is right. To sell God on my program here. But is that really the real thrust of prayer and the purpose of prayer, to change the mind of God? Does prayer really change God?

Now it would appear that there is a direct will of God for our lives, but then there is this area that we might title the permissive will of God for us. And quite often, God's direct will is expressed first. This is what is best. But I get in there and I begin to push and shove and insist and God says, "Well, all right. If that's what you really want, have at it."

It would appear that this did happen when Barak the king sent to Balaam to curse the people that were coming through the land. And Balaam prayed unto the Lord and the Lord said unto Balaam, "Do not go down to the king. Do not curse these people because they are My people." So Balaam sent back a message to Barak and said, "I'm sorry, king, I can't come down. The Lord won't let me. Neither can I curse these people for the same reason." So king Barak sent other messengers with great rewards, a lot of loot, and said, "Just come on down and counsel me concerning these people that are coming through the land." So Balaam was a greedy fellow and when he saw all the loot that the king was offering for counseling fees, he thought, "Wow, could I ever use that! Get me a new donkey and a new house." And greed really filled his heart.

So he prayed again. Now God had already said don't go down. But I can hear Balaam this time, "Oh, Lord, just please let me go. Lord, just, I'll be good, Lord. But oh, just let me go down, Lord. After all, what can it hurt me going down, Lord? Please, God." God finally said, "All right, go ahead, but you just be careful you don't say any more than what I tell you." But the anger of the Lord was kindled against Balaam. Evidently, you see, though Balaam insisted and God more or less gave him a tentative, "Sure do it," yet it wasn't God's direct will for this guy's life because an angel of the Lord stood in the path with a drawn sword. And that wise little donkey saw the angel though Balaam didn't. And he turned off the path and Balaam beat him and got him back on the path. But again the angel of the Lord stood where there was a cliff and the donkey edged up against the side of the cliff and got old Balaam's ankle, and he beat the donkey again and got him going. The third time and the angel stood in the path there was no place for the donkey to go; he just sat down. And Balaam began to beat him. And the donkey turned around and said, "You think that's right beating me three times? Haven't I been a faithful donkey ever since you owned me? Have I ever done anything like this to you before?" Balaam was so angry he answered the donkey back and said, "You bet your life I'd do right to beat you. If I had a stick I'd kill you."

He evidently was insisting that God allow him to go and God permissively said, "Yes, go." And yet, it wasn't the direct will of God. God allows things that are not His direct will. I can force my will. I can force my way. Where God more or less reluctantly says, "Well, if that's what you want, have at it." But yet, it isn't really pleasing to God. Now whenever these issues are forced, then the consequences are always disastrous.

I believe that Hezekiah's time to die had come and I think he would have been much better off. I know the nation of Israel would have been much better off had Hezekiah died at that time. Those extra fifteen years that God allowed him were disastrous. For two years later he had a son named Manasseh who became the ruler, the king over Judah when Hezekiah died, and Manasseh was indeed the foulest, rottenest king that ever reigned in Judah. And it was a result of Manasseh's ungodly reign that Judah got on the road downhill from which it was never able to recover. Now had Hezekiah died when God planned and wanted him to die, then Manasseh would never have been born and the history for the nation could have been different.

Whenever we insist upon our way over God's, you're not getting the best. God's way is always the best. Though we may not understand it or see it at the time, God's way is always the best. So it is possible that through our pig-headed bullishness, we might be able to get God to consent to something that we desire. But the result is always negative. How much better that we learn to say, "Oh God, Thy will be done," and to flow in the center of God's will. So Hezekiah prayed, cried, oh, he really was going at it.

Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter ( Isaiah 38:14 ):

All night long here he was chattering like a little bird.

I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me ( Isaiah 38:14 ).

You see, he was really going at it. And God said, "Come on, you want fifteen years, all right." The guy's just really going at it. God said, "Ah, shut up. Fifteen years, go ahead, take it."

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. 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. 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. For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth. The LORD was ready to save me: therefore will we sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life ( Isaiah 38:15-20 )

So this is a song that he wrote during this time and it's a psalm of Hezekiah.

For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it on as a plaster on his boil, and he shall recover. Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD? ( Isaiah 38:21-22 ) "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 38". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/isaiah-38.html. 2014.
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