Isaiah 38:16, 17 - Vital Lessons From Hezekiah's Illness and Recovery.
Isaiah 38:16-17 (NLT) Lord, your discipline is good, for it
leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live!
17 Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from
death and forgiven all my sins.
INTRODUCTION AND OVERVIEW
"I have heard your prayer" Isa. 38:1-22. God is master of the
fate of nations. But is this sovereign God concerned with the fate of
Isaiah now included a report of Hezekiah's struggle with a fatal
illness. The heartbroken king begged God for added years of life,
pleading that "I have walked before You faithfully and with wholehearted
devotion." God answered this prayer, and promised Hezekiah 15 added years.
The story is placed here in part because it shows that God is
concerned with each person. But more importantly, it shows that the plea
of a righteous person can turn aside divine judgment, even after
that judgment has been announced (cf. v. 1).
This has been one of the major themes of Isaiah 1-35. Despite
Israel's sin, God had called again and again for spiritual renewal.
Despite predictions of judgment, a heartfelt return to the Lord would
bring blessing instead. Hezekiah, Judah's righteous king, showed the
way for his whole land. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary re 38]
SICKNESS AND SIN
When Hezekiah found physical life and healing, he also found
spiritual restoration. [SDA Commentary]
Physical and spiritual healing are sometimes linked together
(see 53:4-5). [NIV SB]
The forgiveness of sin and healing are two different aspects of
God's salvation (53:5; Matt. 8:14-17; Luke 5:17-26). Apparently
Hezekiah's poor health was connected to his sin. Yet not all sickness is
due to one's own sin (see Job 42:7-11; John 9:2, 3). [Nelson SB]
People need to recognize that all life is a gift from God and
should not be taken for granted. Illness may be a punishment for sin as
here but is not necessarily so. See Job 1:1-2:10. Whatever the case,
we need to learn from illness the great meaning of life and seek to
find how God is working in our illness. [Disciple SB]
GOD PUTTING OUR SINS BEHIND HIS BACK
When God forgives our sins, He puts them behind His back. This
is a human way of saying God does not see our sins any more.
Forgiveness of sin and recovery from mortal illness are often two sides of
the same experience of God's saving power. [Disciple SB]
God not only puts our sins out of sight; he also puts them out
of reach (Mic 7:19; Ps 103:12), out of mind (Jer 31:34) and out of
existence (Isa 43:25; 44:22; Ps 51:1, 9; Ac 3:19). [NIV SB]
PRAYER IN DIFFICULT TIMES CAN BE LIFE CHANGING
In the prime of life (v. 10), Hezekiah contracted a boil (v. 21)
that so infected his body that he was told he would die (v. 1). All
this happened before the events of chapters 36 and 37 (v. 6), but
Hezekiah knew Assyria was coming. What a predicament to be in!
The king's prayer was certainly a normal response. After all,
most believers want to go on living and serving God. He was
concerned, too, about the future of the nation in view of the Assyrian
advance. At any rate, God not only answered his prayer but even gave him
a special sign to encourage his faith....
Difficult experiences should give us a new appreciation for life
and a new desire to live for the Lord. [Chapter by Chapter Bible
Commentary by Warren Wiersbe]
The affliction that brought Hezekiah so much anguish was not for
his hurt but for his benefit. God looked upon him in tender
compassion and lifted him out of the pit of corruption. It was the power of
divine love that saved him from the power of death. [SDA Commentary]
Hezekiah realized that his prayer brought deliverance and
forgiveness.... Hezekiah knew that God had spared his life, so in his poem
Hezekiah praises God. Hezekiah recognized the good that came from his
bitter experience. The next time you have difficult struggles, pray for
God's help to gain something beneficial from them. [Life Application
Hezekiah saw that his illness was actually good for him because
it enabled him to find God's deliverance. Often our suffering works
some good because it breaks our selfish life-style and brings us to
the point where we realize we need God. We should take a moral
inventory and see if we are living for God or ourself. If God is not first
in our life, now is a great time to put him there. [Life Recovery
Hezekiah composed a psalm of gratitude for the answer to his
prayer. Thanksgiving relives troubled times to recall the wonder of
God's intervention. It leads to a vow of humble devotion. [Disciple
Escape from serious illness and death makes us appreciate more
deeply the saving love of God. [Disciple SB]
Deliverance from sickness and death is a part of God's
salvation. It causes us to express heartfelt thanks to Him in public
worship (v. 20). [Disciple SB]
DOES PRAYER CHANGE GOD'S MIND?
Some say God cannot change his mind without contradicting his
unchanging nature. They say that maybe God intended all along to heal
Hezekiah. Withholding that news from Hezekiah, then, served to stimulate
the intensity of his prayer. In this view, Hezekiah didn't change
God's mind. But prayer helped him discover God's purpose so he could
align his life and actions to it.
Others, however, have another view. They agree that God doesn't
change his mind the way people do. But they suggest a sovereign God can
predetermine to change his course of action in response to our prayers. His
ultimate purposes are unchangeable, they say, but he builds options into
his purposes from the start. They see flexibility in the outcome to
accommodate the various responses of people. In this view, God is something
like a traveler who plans a destination but allows freedom to change
the route or make spontaneous side trips along the way. God's
methods, they say, aren't necessarily, set in concrete: people's actions
can make a difference in the way God works.
The Bible recounts other examples of times that God seemed to
change his mind: After saying he would destroy Nineveh, he didn't
because they repented (Jonah 3:10-4:2). Earlier he had intended to
destroy the Israelites but did not when Moses interceded for them
(Exodus 32:9-14). On the other hand, there is God's response to David's
repentance (2 Samuel 12:13-23). And he told Jeremiah and Ezekiel that he
would not even listen to requests of leniency for Judah (Jer. 7:16;
15:1; Ezek. 14:12-14). [Quest SB re Isa. 38:1-5 mod.]
If you are swept off your feet, it is time to get on your knees.
THE BIBLE - THE COMPANION TO PRAYER
Hezekiah teaches us an important Bible lesson. He listened to
Isaiah's words about God's sovereignty, and trusted the Lord to remove
the Assyrian threat. God did. When Hezekiah became sick, he recalled
what God had said through Isaiah about the Lord's willingness to
restore the godly, even after judgment had been announced. So Hezekiah
called on God, pleading his godly life. And the Lord did heal, even
though He had earlier announced that Hezekiah would die.
But then Hezekiah slipped. Isaiah had also spoken of Babylon as
an enemy of God's people. Yet when envoys from Babylon came to
"congratulate" the king on his recovery, Hezekiah showed them every one of his
royal treasures. A furious Isaiah announced that the day was coming
when the Babylonians would carry Hezekiah's treasures and his
descendants into Captivity.
What is the lesson in Hezekiah's personal history? Simply this.
We need to take all of God's words to heart. We can't just believe
the parts we like, and claim the promises we want fulfilled. We need
to pay close attention to every message of the Word, for forgetting
any words or choosing not to hear can cause us trouble indeed.
The Bible is a good teacher. It provides convicting evidence
that God is real, and is trustworthy. But it is a tough teacher too.
If we fail to learn its lessons, we will surely experience the
consequences. [The 365-Day Devotional Commentary re 38 and 39 mod]
CONSEQUENCES WHEN PRIDE REPLACES PRAYER
Although Hezekiah trusted in God to heal him (38:1-22), he
failed when the Babylonian envoys visited him. After his recovery, he
paraded his own glory, not the Lord's (39:1, 2). Thus he implicitly
placed his confidence in military strength and political alliances
instead of the strength of the Almighty God. Because of his unbelief,
Judah would go into exile (39:3-8). Nelson SB]