Isaiah 38:1

Sermon preached on October 22, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I have a memory of reading a book by Elizabeth Elliot about her second marriage. As many of you know, her first husband, Jim Elliot, died a martyr's death in 1956 in South America. They had only been married 27 months. In 1969 she married a professor who taught at Gordon College. Sadly, he died of cancer 4 and a half years after they married. If my memory is correct, in that book she tells the story of them getting the devastating news from the doctor. Reading stories like that are heart wrenching for the reader, how much worse for the loved ones and the one who receives such news. It's one of the most traumatic things to go through.

When King Hezekiah was 39 years old he received such a message. Only his wasn't a message from a doctor, but a message from God through His prophet Isaiah. Our text says, (Isaiah 38:1)

"In those days Hezekiah became ill
and was at the point of death.
The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz
went to him and said,
'This is what the Lord says:
Put your house in order,
because you are going to die;
you will not recover.' "

God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell King Hezekiah he was going to soon die. He needed to put his house in order.

If the Lord tarries we are all going to die. Some of us might die suddenly, unexpectedly with no warning. Others might get news like Hezekiah did. They will know that death is coming. But whatever happens to us—there are some principles about death that we should all be aware of. These principles should greatly impact how we live our lives. If we understand them correctly, they can help us live all our days to God's glory—even days when we get news like Hezekiah received.

One of the great principles we see in our text is that

our lives are in God's hands and He has a right to dispose of them as He sees fit.

That's what our text is all about. God is telling King Hezekiah that he needs to get his house in order because he's going to die very soon. The fact that after Hezekiah's prayer God adds 15 years to King Hezekiah's life doesn't change that fact. Rather it confirms it. Hezekiah's life was in God's hands. God was the One who was giving Hezekiah life and who was in control of when he died.

We see this principle in many places in Scripture. In Acts 17:25 the apostle Paul said that God,

"gives all men
life and breath
and everything else."

It is God who gives us life moment by moment. He is also the one who takes our lives away when we die. Psalm 90:3–6 says of God,

"You turn men back to dust, saying,
'Return to dust,
O sons of men.'…
You sweep men away
in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass
of the morning—though in the morning
it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered."

When our time to die comes, God says, "Return to dust, O sons of men."

In Psalm 22:15 the psalmist said of his death,

"you lay me in the dust of death."

It is God who does that. In fact, God Himself has determined everything about our lives. Psalm 139:16 says,

"All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

All our days have been ordained by God before we were even born. In Acts 17:26 the apostle Paul said,

"From one man he made
every nation of men,
that they should inhabit
the whole earth; and
he determined the times set for them
and the exact places
where they should live."

God determines the times set for us. We see the same thing in Job 14:5, where Job said,

"Man's days are determined;
you have decreed the number
of his months and have
set limits he cannot exceed."

He gives us life, breath and everything else. He has determined the exact places we live.

Unless Jesus comes before our lives He is the One who has decreed and determined our deaths. We even have specific examples of this. In 1 Kings 22:19–22 Micaiah the prophet said,

"I saw the LORD sitting on his throne
with all the host of heaven standing
around him on his right and on his left.
And the LORD said,
'Who will entice Ahab into attacking
Ramoth Gilead and going
to his death there?'
One suggested this,
and another that.
Finally, a spirit came forward,
stood before the LORD and said,
'I will entice him.'
'By what means?'
the LORD asked.
'I will go out and be a lying spirit
in the mouths of all his prophets,'
he said.
'You will succeed in enticing him,'
said the LORD.
'Go and do it."

Even though King Ahab was warned, even though he disguised himself during the battle—he met his death at Ramoth Gilead as God said. God had decreed it. That chapter describes how the battle developed and how King Ahab disguised himself—but then we read, (verse 34),

"But someone drew his bow at random
and hit the king of Israel
between the sections of his armor."

God had decreed that King Ahab would die there and a seemingly random arrow accomplished His purpose. Later that day King Ahab died of that wound.

We see the same thing with King Amaziah of Judah. He had sinned in not seeking the Lord's help. Instead he relied on the gods of Edom. He was filled with pride and, although the king of Israel warned him, (2 Chronicles 25:20),

"Amaziah… would not listen,
for God so worked that he might hand
them over to [ Jehoash],
because they sought the gods of Edom."

God was working to hand Amaziah to the king of Israel. He went to war against Israel and was defeated. His defeat by Israel was but a step to his death. Some of his own people conspired against him and murdered him. As the prophet had said to him when he turned away from following the Lord, (2 Chronicles 25:16)

"I know that God has determined
to destroy you,
because you have done this
and have not listened to my counsel."

But the thing we see in our text is that God also orders the deaths of His faithful followers.

Hezekiah was a good king who followed the Lord.

This message of his impending death came to him in spite of the fact that he was a good king.

Like Job's friends, many people think that if something bad happens to you, then you must be a great sinner. But, like Job, King Hezekiah was devoted to the Lord. This illness was not a warning from God to repent. No. Hezekiah was a good king. In fact, he was so good 2 Kings 18:5 tells us,

"Hezekiah trusted in the LORD,
the God of Israel.
There was no one like him
among all the kings of Judah,
either before him or after him."

So this message was not contingent on Hezekiah's repentance. This message came to a devoted servant of the Lord.

What we have here is sort of the opposite of the health and wealth gospel.

The health and wealth gospel tells you that if you really try hard, if you are sincere about following God and obeying His commands—that good things will inevitably come your way.

The story of King Hezekiah is that if someone tries really hard, if he is sincere about following God and obeying His commands and if he is, in fact, the very best of all the kings of Judah—that he may get very bad news from God.

Holiness does not make us immune to hardship, even the worst of hardships, death. This message of impending death came to the greatest of all the kings of Judah.

The third thing we should understand about this message of impending death that came to Hezekiah was that it came right after another horrible trial.

This message arrived just after he had successfully overcome a horrible trial.

When did this happen to Hezekiah? It happened during either during the time when the Assyrians were besieging Jerusalem or shortly afterwards. Hezekiah reigned 29 years altogether. Since he lived 15 years after his sickness, the puts this episode in the 14th year of his reign. It was in the 14th year of his reign that the Assyrian army attacked Judah and besieged Jerusalem. (2 Kings 18:13)

The destruction of Judah and the siege of Jerusalem were horrible. This message of death came either during or shortly after the siege.

God added repeated blows to Hezekiah. What happened to Hezekiah was similar to Job. One after another the messengers came to Job with bad news. So too, with Hezekiah. John Calvin writes,

"our attention is also directed to an almost uninterrupted succession of events, that we may know that he scarcely had leisure to breathe, but, after having scarcely reached the shore from one ship-wreck, suddenly fell into another equally dangerous."

What are some lessons we can learn from this?

First of all,

this means as a Christian you should be prepared for hardship.

Calvin again,

"Let us therefore remember that believers must endure various temptations, so that they are assailed sometimes by wars, sometimes by diseases, sometimes by other calamities, and sometimes one calamity follows another in unbroken succession, and they are laid under the necessity of maintaining uninterrupted warfare during their whole life; so that, when they have escaped from one danger, they are on the eve of enduring another. They ought to be prepared in such a manner, that when the Lord shall be pleased to add sorrow to sorrow, they may bear it patiently, and may not be discouraged by any calamity. If any respite be allowed, let them know that this is granted for their weakness, but let not a short truce lead them to form a false imagination of a lengthened peace; let them make additional exertions, till, having finished the course of their earthly life, they arrive at the peaceful harbor."

As soon as we believed in Jesus God could have taken us to glory. That is our true home. But He has left us here on this earth to live and die for his glory.

Our main purpose here on this earth is not have a good time, to enjoy life, to indulge ourselves. No, our main purpose is God's glory. We should be pleased to have God use us for His glory in any way He sees fit.

Thus when difficulties and troubles come—we ought to obey the commands in 1 Peter 1 and James one. We ought to rejoice. These troubles come to us for God's glory and for our good—the strengthening of our faith. Every trial is an opportunity to serve and praise God.

Are you prepared to receive horrible news? Are you ready to use that situation to glorify God? Are you ready to die in such a way that you will glorify God? Peter glorified God by his death—are you prepared to do the same?

John Calvin's motto should be our motto.

"I offer my heart, slain, as it were, as a sacrifice to the Lord."

Your attitude should be—whatever God wants to come my way—I will use it to bring Him glory.


as a Christian you should take great comfort in the fact that God orders your life and death.

Jesus is your Good Shepherd. He has all authority and power. In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3)

Trust Him. When bad things came to you don't think that God doesn't care for you. John Calvin says of King Hezekiah,

"But the most distressing of all was, that he might think that God opposed and hated him, because, as soon as he had been rescued from so great a calamity, he was immediately dragged to death, as if he had been unworthy of reigning. Besides, at that time he had no children; and there was reason to believe that his death would be followed by a great disorder of public affairs."

But that would have been the wrong way for Hezekiah to look at it.

No, remember God is in control. He has determined where you live and He has determined what happens to you.

Therefore in all things rejoice, give thanks and give glory, honor and praise to God.

Thirdly, I ask you,

is your house in order?

If you're not a Christian, it most certainly is not. You haven't ensured the safety of your soul in Jesus Christ. In Mark 8:36 Jesus asked,

"What good is it for a man
to gain the whole world,
yet forfeit his soul?"

You need Jesus to save you from everlasting destruction. Go to Him for salvation.

Christians, is your house in order? As you committed to serving God in everything, even in your death. If we received a message of impending death like Hezekiah, many of us would say,

"But I have so many other plans. Now is not a good time for me to die."

Perhaps our main request would be for God to give us another 15 years. There is certainly nothing wrong with asking God to do that. But that shouldn't be our primary request. Our primary request should be for the grace and power to bring glory and honor to God while we have breath.

May God give us this grace.