Isaiah 38:2-3

Sermon preached on October 29, 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.

Sooner or later we all get bad news. Life can be full of disappointments, things we didn't want to happen to us or people close to us. Many times they are things that we'd like to change. Many times the first thing we do when faced with things we don't like is to go to God and ask Him to change them.

Going to God in prayer is good. If that's the first thing you do when trouble comes to you then you're doing the absolute best thing. King Hezekiah is a great example to us here. We have a God who loves us and who always hears our prayers. We must not underestimate the power of prayer. It is a great gift that God has given us and He uses our prayers to change things. James 5:16 says,

"The prayer of a righteous man
is powerful and effective."

When Hezekiah receives notice of his impending death he thinks of nothing but turning to God. We read, (Isaiah 38:2–3)

"Hezekiah turned his face to the wall
and prayed to the Lord,
'Remember, O Lord,
how I have walked
before you faithfully and with
wholehearted devotion and have done
what is good in your eyes.'
And Hezekiah wept bitterly."

He wants God to change his situation, to give him longer on this earth. It is certainly right and proper for us to ask God to change things in our life. In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul prayed that God would deliver him from the thorn in the flesh that was afflicting him. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said, (Matthew 26:39

"My Father,
if it is possible,
may this cup be taken from me."

He asked for His situation to change. It is often proper to ask God to change your situation, to get you out of it, to give you relief from it.

Yet it was important to note that Jesus continued,

"Yet not as I will,
but as you will."

That is the key. Whenever we are in a situation we don't like, there must be a submission, an acceptance of God's will. Paul asked God three times to remove his thorn in the flesh. But when God said, 'no', Paul accepted it as God's will.

In many ways King Hezekiah is a great example to us here. What he did can be a great help to us when facing difficulty. Hezekiah went to God and poured out his heart to him.

The first thing I want you to see here is that

King Hezekiah never said or did anything inappropriate.

John Calvin says of Hezekiah, (Calvin's Commentaries)

"He does not break out into rage or indignation like unbelievers, but bears this affliction patiently. He does not debate with God, as if he had already endured enough of distresses from enemies, and ought not to be again chastised so severely by a new kind of afflictions."

John Oswalt summaries Hezekiah's prayer this way, (The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 1–39, NICOT; p. 676)

"he does not withdraw from God. Neither does he rage against God nor does he demand that God heal him in payment for 'services rendered.' Rather, he simply pours out the feelings of a wounded heart to a heavenly Father."

Hezekiah's prayer is the lament of a righteous man, one who continues to be righteous even when he receives bad news from God.

Hezekiah is not like Job, who in his affliction said some inappropriate things—like when he said he wished he had never been born, that the day of his birth be cursed, that he had died stillborn. (Job 3) Job also said that his days had no meaning (Job 7:16) Job also said that if God gave him a hearing, God would, (Job 9:17)

"multiply my wounds for no reason."

In saying that Job suggested that God was, at times, a capricious God. In his suffering Job said some inappropriate things.

But we see nothing like that in King Hezekiah. He has no complaint against God. His prayer is a prayer based on a righteous life. Such a prayer is good and proper.

There was nothing wrong with this. Indeed, some of God's promises to the righteous have to do with long life. Deuteronomy 30:16 says,

"For I command you today
to love the Lord your God,
to walk in his ways,
and to keep his commands,
decrees and laws;
then you will live and increase,
and the Lord your God will bless you
in the land you are entering to possess."

Exodus 20:12 says,

"Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land
the Lord your God is giving you."

So in going to God, in being disappointed, Hezekiah looks to these promises and puts before God his righteous life.

Then he weeps bitterly. Some have criticized King Hezekiah's weeping bitterly. They point out that his attitude is much different than the attitude of the apostle Paul toward death that is given to us in Philippians 1:21–24. Paul wrote,

"For to me,
to live is Christ and to die is gain.
If I am to go on living in the body,
this will mean fruitful labor for me.
Yet what shall I choose?
I do not know!
I am torn between the two:
I desire to depart and be with Christ,
which is better by far;
but it is more necessary for you
that I remain in the body."

But King Hezekiah's knowledge of the future was far below what is given to us in the New Testament. The New Testament gives us such wonderful teaching about Jesus, His work, His conquering death and the hope that we have we have because of the wonderful promises of the afterlife. Completely unknown to King Hezekiah were passages like John 14 where Jesus told His disciples that that He was going to prepare a place for them, 1 Thessalonians 4 where Paul told Christians not to grieve like men who have no hope, where he described the second coming of Jesus, Romans 8:35f where we are told that we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and how nothing in all creation, (including death) (Romans 8:39)

"will be able to separate us
from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Even as Christians death is not all good for us. Yes, it is a doorway to Christ. But it means the destruction of the body, for a time. It means that our souls and bodies are separated. It's not natural. As created by God, in His image, we were never meant to die. Death is a horrible end to someone made in the image of God. So Hezekiah was not wrong in wanting to live.

Hezekiah did so well. In his trouble He turned to God. He turned his face to the wall. John Calvin says of the phrase this action, turning his face to the wall,

"in consequence of being overwhelmed by shame and grief, as if he shunned the face of men, he summons up his energy, and turns wholly to God, so as to rely entirely upon him. The mere attitude, indeed, is immaterial; but it is of very great importance to us, that nothing should be presented to our eyes or senses which would drag us away from prayer, that we may pour out our desires more freely before God."

Like fasting, turning one's face to the wall gets rid of all distractions and helps one focus totally on prayer. Hezekiah was totally focused on God.

Did Hezekiah do well in reacting to the bad news? Yes. Absolutely. He went to God in prayer. He poured out his heart to God. He didn't say anything inappropriate.

But did Hezekiah react the best way?

Looking at this story as a whole, I think that we can say that King Hezekiah didn't have enough trust in God's plan.

Hezekiah was distraught. He was overcome with grief. He really wanted to live. God granted Hezekiah 15 additional years.

Was that a good thing? Did Hezekiah use those 15 years wisely? The answer is no. Raymond C. Jr. Ortlund notes, (Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word; p. 223)

"Hezekiah made poor use of his new lease on life."

We see this in three things that happened during the 15 years that King Hezekiah was given. First, in 2 Chronicles 32:24–25 we read,

"In those days Hezekiah became ill
and was at the point of death.
He prayed to the LORD,
who answered him and
gave him a miraculous sign.
But Hezekiah's heart was proud
and he did not respond
to the kindness shown him;
therefore the LORD's wrath was
on him and on Judah and Jerusalem."

King Hezekiah became proud. Pride is a great sin. It takes glory from God and puts it on oneself. The Bible tells us that Hezekiah repented of his pride but it was still a great flaw, something we didn't see in him earlier.

Secondly, when news of Hezekiah's recovery reached the king of Babylon, the king of Babylon sent envoys to Hezekiah with letters and a gift. Hezekiah showed them everything that was in his storehouses, (Isaiah 39:2)

"the silver, the gold,
the spices, the fine oil,
his entire armory and
everything found among his treasures.
There was nothing in his palace
or in all his kingdom
that Hezekiah did not show them."

There seemed to be some pride in Hezekiah doing that. At any rate, Isaiah the prophet came to Hezekiah, and after learning what he had done, Isaiah said to him, (Isaiah 39:5–7)

"Hear the word of the Lord Almighty:
The time will surely come
when everything in your palace,
and all that your fathers
have stored up until this day,
will be carried off to Babylon.
Nothing will be left,
says the Lord.
And some of your descendants,
your own flesh and blood
who will be born to you,
will be taken away,
and they will become eunuchs
in the palace of the king of Babylon."

We see the third bad thing in his response to God's words about judgment coming on Judah. We read, (Isaiah 39:8)

" 'The word of the Lord
you have spoken is good,'
Hezekiah replied.
For he thought,
'There will be peace and security
in my lifetime.' "

Raymond C. Jr. Ortlund writes, (Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word; p. 222)

"The contrast between Hezekiah's anguish over his own illness at the beginning of chapter 38 and his blasé contentment with the captivity of his nation at the end of chapter 39 is striking. When his own life is on the line, he's devastated. But if a later generation is doomed, no problem!"

What's wrong with Hezekiah? There's no grief for the great tragedy that would befall his descendants. He's just happy that the disaster is not going to come in his lifetime.

The last 15 years of Hezekiah's life are noteworthy for his sins. Would it have been better if he had died of his sickness? In many ways, yes. The last 15 years were the worst of his reign.

I believe there's a great lesson for us here. It seems that one thing that King Hezekiah lacked in reacting to the bad news was that he didn't have the confidence in God, in His plan, in His will that he should have.

When we get extremely bad news, like Hezekiah received here, we should remember that in Jesus are hid all the treasures and wisdom and knowledge.

You should have absolute confidence that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows what He is doing when He orders our lives.

When he was afflicted with cancer in 2000, James Montgomery Boice read a statement to his congregation. Here's part of it.

"When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It's not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by. It's not the answer that Harold Kushner gave in his book, Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. God does everything according to His will. We've always said that. But what I've been impressed with mostly is something in addition to that. It's possible, isn't it, to conceive of God as sovereign and yet indifferent? God's in charge, but He doesn't care. But it's not that. God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything He does is good. And what Romans 12: 1 and 2 says is that we have the opportunity by the renewal of our minds--that is, how we think about these things--actually to prove what God's will is. And then it says, 'His good, pleasing, and perfect will.' Is that good, pleasing, and perfect to God? Yes, of course, but the point of it is that it's good, pleasing, and perfect to us. If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you'd change it, you'd make it worse. It wouldn't be as good."

Isn't that incredible an incredible expression of faith? So often we want to change our situation. As I said before, it's not wrong to ask God to change your situation. But praying for change should not be the only emphasis of our prayers at such a time. We should also focus on accepting the situation if it's God's will. Always remember how Jesus concluded His prayer.

"Yet not as I will,
but as you will."

That's the key. Sometimes God wants us to go through what we are facing. We should be asking God for grace to endure, to overcome, to bring Him glory.

Our attitude ought to be, Lord, if you want to take me, that's good. I will accept it and look forward to entering my true home. However, if you do spare me and grant me more days, grant me the grace in those days to live them to your glory. While I live, while you give me breath—don't let me bring disgrace on the cause of Christ.

One of the saddest things to see is someone who lived a great life, who was a wonderful servant of God, fall into sin when they reach old age. To some extent, King Hezekiah did that. King Solomon did that.

When I was a young boy I remember hearing of the disgrace of an older minister who began acting inappropriately around young women. It was such a disgrace to then cause of Christ.

No doubt you've heard the news this past week of the elder President Bush. He's 93, in a wheelchair and he's admitted that in the past two or three years he's did inappropriate things. What a disgrace.

We all want to live long and healthy lives. But besides praying for that, we ought to be praying that if God spares us, that He will give us more years for His glory. We need to pray, Lord, if you give me more years, let me bring you glory all those days. If you don't spare me, let me, in the few days I have left, bring you nothing but glory.

Trust God. Submit to His will. In order to save us, that's what Jesus did.

"Yet not as I will,
but as you will."

May God give us grace to embrace His plan for our lives.