In this chapter we have the conclusion to the historical interlude in Isaiah where we have noted several important interactions between the prophet and the king. Up to this point they have all seemed to shine a positive light on the man Hezekiah who was a good leader in Judah. Now we begin to see the limits of his understanding.
The occasion for this story was that Hezekiah had recovered from a life-threatening illness. We saw that the Lord gave Hezekiah an additional fifteen years in response to the king’s earnest plea before God. This was an answer to prayer, and the beginning of a new day for a man who had faced troubling challenges from the Assyrians.
Now another people group, the Babylonians, expressed interest in the life of the king in Judah. The Babylonian king sent friendly letters and a special gift to Hezekiah. Hezekiah’s response was most cordial. He welcomed them gladly, and showed them everything about Jerusalem that might make it attractive to the invading force of a foreign power. After the visitors had departed, Isaiah told Hezekiah that it would be this Babylon that would eventually carry off everything of value in Judah back to Babylon, even some of the king’s own descendants.
Hezekiah’s reaction to this prophecy? Instead of repentance or regret, the king received the message as “good.” His reasoning? There would be peace and security in his day.
How can we understand the king’s words? Hezekiah might have taken it as a foregone conclusion that the Lord was going to eventually fulfill His word in sending His people into exile. He may have had a great sense that the time was very near. He may have also concluded that there would ultimately be no amount of tears that would change this situation. With that in mind, it was good news that the day of reckoning for Jerusalem would not come immediately. Nonetheless, would it not have been better to mourn before the Lord as the king had on two earlier occasions? The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 32:31 indicates that “in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon… God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.” Was this a time for proud boasting in front of the Babylonians? Hezekiah was a very good king, but he was not perfect.
What are we to think about the day of destruction that would come upon Jerusalem? We are of two minds. On one hand, we mourn the fact that fierce Gentiles would capture the Lord’s holy possessions. We also consider the tremendous loss of life and civil freedom that would be coming to God’s nation. So many people would die, while others would suffer and then live on as slaves in a foreign land. We can only grieve about these things.
On the other hand, we too know that the exile of Judah would have to eventually come, just as the Lord had said for so many centuries. Even more than this, the way of approaching God through ceremonies designed for only one nation would eventually have to end, giving way to a New Testament life built on the blood of the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.
The plan of God for the salvation of the nations was older than Adam. It was stated very clearly through Abraham, for this man of faith was to be a source of blessing to all the peoples of the earth. New Testament life and worship would ultimately come through Abraham’s descendant, Jesus Christ, the perfect King of kings. Paul, Peter, and James would one day be able to see how the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of the Lord was a part of the eternal plan of God. The wrenching fact of God’s discipline of Judah was a step toward the fulfillment of the Lord’s eternal purpose through the work of Jesus “to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10)
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father, do we know an enemy when he visits us with smooth words? Are we so foolish that we say much more than we should? Our bragging will bring us great trouble. Teach us how to be quiet about our accomplishments. There is a day when it is best for us to say nothing. Teach us that the way of pride will not be good for us. If we boast, let us boast in You and not in ourselves.