Have you ever come to the aid of a friend that needed extreme support and miraculous type help and as a result was “delivered,” experiencing great success; however, in the retelling of the incident they never even mention you or gave you thanks in return?
If so, you share a mutual experience with God and with the prophet Isaiah.
This week’s lesson focuses on Isaiah 36–39. Within these chapters we find the story of King Hezekiah’s latter reign and years. 2 Kings 18:1–8 provides a summary of his earlier years, by highlighting his notable actions. Verses 5–7 state,
He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel, so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD; he did not depart from following him but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. The LORD was with him; where he went, he prospered.
Years pass and Isaiah Chapter 36 takes one immediately to a monumental event for both king Hezekiah and the nation. “In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, King Sennacherib of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.”
Sennacherib was widely known for his cruel decimating force used in conquering people and cities.
The “Lachish Reliefs” portray siege ramps built against city walls, attacks by masses of soldiers, with graphic details of prisoners impaled or with throats slit. Terror, force, and destruction were the means used to instill surrender and defeat. The “fortified cities of Judah” had been conquered and King Sennacherib now turned his attention toward Jerusalem.
“The king of Assyria sent the Rabshakeh from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem, with a great army.” (vs.2)
His ambassador, Rabshakeh, proceeds with tactics to instill terror by shouting to King Hezekiah’s representatives and the people listening on the wall of the city with vile examples of the futility of trying to fight back. His tirade and confrontation continue with taunting King Hezekiah and trying to instill doubt into the people as to the king’s ability to deliver his people from King Sennacherib.
His threats and loud words culminate in defiance of the ability of Judah’s God to deliver his people from the Assyrians.
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD, saying: “O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, you are God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD and hear; open your eyes, O LORD and see; hear all the words of Sennacherib, which has sent to mock the living God . . . so now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the LORD” (37:14–20).
The God of Judah responded, and Isaiah prophesied; “Then the angel of the LORD set out and struck down one hundred eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians.” King Sennacherib left and was murdered by his two sons as he worshiped in the house of his god.
God’s words through his prophet were fulfilled.
Isaiah 38 depicts King Hezekiah’s later condition. “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover’” (verse 1).
Once more Hezekiah turned to God in prayer. God’s response was swift. “Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: ‘Turn back, and say to Hezekiah prince of my people. Thus says the LORD, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; indeed, I will heal you’” (2 Kings 20:4–5).
Hezekiah asked for a sign of confirmation and this is what happened next: “The prophet Isaiah cried to the LORD; and he brought the shadow back the ten intervals, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz” (2 Kings 20:11)—a display of God’s astronomical power and cosmic control.
2 Chronicles 32:25 fills in the blanks as to what happened next: “But Hezekiah did not respond according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud.” Verse 31 goes on: “So also in the matter of the envoys of the officials of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.”
What seemed to be on King Hezekiah’s heart? “Hezekiah welcomed them; he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2).
Isaiah 39 brings an end to King Hezekiah’s story with this incident of the Babylonian envoys. It is not the story ending that might be expected. Isaiah’s words of rebuke reveal that left on his own Hezekiah did not succeed in the test that God gave him to check the pride in his heart.
During extreme adversity Hezekiah had turned to God and Isaiah, during abundant flattery by the Babylonian envoys his pride was fed and he missed a moment to “respond according to the benefit done for him.”
Hezekiah did not turn to God and Isaiah with gratitude for their role of intercession nor the astounding divine power of the true God. Both had been integral in his deliverance from King Sennacherib and his physical recovery.
Scholars Lawrence O. Richards and Gary J. Bredfelt observe that, “We tend to think of people in Bible times as far different from ourselves.” However, “We deal with the same issues, emotions, questions, and concerns. Human needs are similar across time, geography, and culture. This commonality in our lives gives the Bible its timeless quality in application.”
Consequently, what lessons and relevance can we draw from King Hezekiah’s story?
Sometimes God might test us, post miracles and divine deliverance, so that we too might assess what is in our hearts. A heart obviously can be filled with pride or with gratitude to God and faithful friends.
How can we take inventory of what fills our heart?
Why not take intentional pauses to hear ourselves sharing the stories of our life. Who’s the hero or heroine of the story? Who is getting the credit? What are we showing off?
Now, imagine what it might be like to take the next opportunity to turn flattery into praise and thankfulness for God’s goodness.
Imagine how that might sound to God’s ears.
Now, don’t imagine but thank faithful friends for their prayers of intercession and support! And yes, include them in your story.
 Lawrence O. Richards and Gary S. Bredfelt, Creative Bible Teaching (Moody Publishers, 1998), 71.
Maria Ovando-Gibson, PhD, MDiv is a practical theologian and the founder behind the Nourish to Flourish Apprentice Series. This workshop sequence equips the local church member with skills and tools for Christian growth and development. Maria believes as the Apostle Paul exemplified that theology and local church ministry go hand-in-hand.
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