Hezekiah’s Psalm

Isaiah 38: 12-14. “Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life: He will cut me off with pining sickness: from day even to night wilt Thou make and end of me. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will He break all my bones: from day even to night wilt Thou make an end of me. Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter; I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward:  O LORD, I am oppressed: undertake for me.

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As Hezekiah recounts his illness. we see the depths of his despair.  He had feared death, and felt that God had cut him off.  In verse 10 there are seven regrets Hezekiah shares that are not uncommon to anyone who is facing death.

  1. I am deprived of the rest of my years
  2. I will not see the LORD in the land of the living.
  3.  I will not behold man with the inhabitants of the world.
  4.  My plans for serving God among men are ended
  5. My plans for helping my fellowmen on earth are blasted.
  6. My age is departed; I am too young to die; my useful years are removed like a shepherd’s tent
  7. My life is cut off like a weaver taking his work from the loom and departing with it.

It is easy to see that Hezekiah was not ready to die.  He was sick, probably in pain, his body poisoned from the ulcer or boil that was slowly taking his energy and vitality away. I think he was depressed. His thinking was clouded with doubt, fear, and deep regret that he would die so young.

In his sorrow, he does speak to God in prayer.  The good news is that as he seeks God, his mood lifts, and of course he had already received the promise of 15 more years of life. What I find most interesting about this psalm is the way he traces his emotional response to his impending death through his sorrow and back into joy.


Hezekiah Writes

Isaiah 38: 9-11.” The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:  I said in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the LORD, even the LORD, in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.”

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Think about what it must have been like for Hezekiah to hear his death sentence from the mouth of Isaiah, the prophet of God.  It doesn’t surprise me that he was distraught.  Anyone would be!

When he prayed, and God gave him a reprieve of 15 years, he wrote the psalm that we see in vv. 9-20 of this chapter.

In v. 10, Hezekiah, relating his emotions on hearing of his impending death, says he will go to the gates of the grave.  The Hebrew word is sheol, the unseen world; the place of departed spirits, not the physical grave.

Like most of us, he thought he was entitled to more years than those he had already lived. He had looked forward to a long life and a prosperous reign, and now suddenly his hopes had been dashed to the ground. He then  lists seven regrets, which we’ll look at tomorrow.

This past week, two of the older people in our church died within a couple of hours of each other.  They had both struggled with illness for some time, and both were ready to go to heaven to see their Savior.  We will miss them, but we rejoice that they are out of pain.

How much harder it is when someone dies while still young, having looked forward to many more years. We find it much harder to accept that, but the truth is that God knows the number of our days before we are ever born.  There is no guarantee that we will all live long lives.  The things we need to be sure of is that we are ready to meet God at any moment through the course of our lives.

Hezekiah knew he had 15 more years.  I don’t think I’d want to know exactly how many more years I have to live. One day at a time, always thankful for each day that God gives me, but looking forward more and more to heaven–that’s how I want to live.


The Sun Dial of Ahaz

Isaiah 38:7-8. “And this shall be a sign unto thee from the LORD, that the LORD will do this thing that He hath spoken; Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degree backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.”

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I’ve always been fascinated by sun dials. Whoever first came up with the idea must have spent a great deal of time observing the  position of the sun in relation to the earth, and watching how the shadows fell as the day moved into night.

Maybe this sign from God could be considered the first instance of daylight saving time 🙂

God offered a sign, or a proof, to Hezekiah that his life would be lengthened for 15 years.  That sign had to be something that man could not devise. This is the only timepiece mentioned in the Bible, but there must have been others, ways to count the hours of the night, and to count the watches of three and four hours.

Moving the shadow backward ten degrees was a miracle of God. There is no doubt that Hezekiah was convinced that the promise of 15 more years would come true when God’s promised sign came to pass.

I wonder if Hezekiah, Isaiah, and others stood by the sundial to watch this amazing event. I wonder if they gazed into the sky, squinting and shading their eyes, to see the sun move backward ten degrees.

I imagine that event was discussed in many of the houses, shops, and streets of Jerusalem, and even outside the city where God’s promise may not have been known. Think of the consternation of the people, the watchers of the sky, when the sun moved backward ten degrees!  And it was all simply to assure King Hezekiah that God could and would keep His word.  Amazing.

A Reprieve

Isaiah 38:4-6. “Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears; behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city.

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God is merciful.  He heard Hezekiah’s prayer, saw his tears, and decided to give him the gift of 15 more years of life.

Note: David was not literally the father of Hezekiah, but Hezekiah was a descendant of David, and David also tried–and often failed–to please God.

This is the first and only time that God told a man how long he would live.  Why He chose 15 years, we do not know.

Verse 6 confirms that these events happened during the time Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem.  Part of God’s promise to Hezekiah was that  He would deliver the city from Sennacherib, a prophecy that we have already seen fulfilled.

Hezekiah is Sick unto Death

Isaiah 38:1-3. “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and sakd unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live. Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, And said, Remember now, O LORD, I beseech Thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore.”

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(For more information about this part of Hezekiah’s story,  consult 2 Kings 18:2; 2 Chron. 32:24-26.)

Hezekiah was suffering from some sort of ulcer or boil that was poisoning his whole body (v. 23). He didn’t have long to live, but clearly he wasn’t ready to accept that verdict. He turned his face to the wall when he heard Isaiah’s announcement of his impending death, and he wept as he prayed, asking God to remember how he had faithfully served Him.

Hezekiah had indeed been a good king, but perhaps his illness at this time was because, as we read in 2 Chronicles, his heart had become “lifted up,” or full of pride.  Maybe he was taking too much credit for the defeat of Sennacherib.  We don’t know if that was the specific problem, but we do know that pride had slithered into his thinking.

The timing for this part of his story is put together  from several things.  First, v. 1 says “In those days” which implies that this all took place during the same period of time of the events in chapter 37. He reigned for a total of 29 years, and the events with Sennacherib took place in the 14th year of his reign. We know that God relented and gave him another 15 years, totaling the required 29.

In his prayer, he was truthful for the most part. He was one of only a handful of  kings of Israel, from Saul to the captivity, who were somewhat godly.

Tomorrow we’ll see how God responds to Hezekiah’s sorrowful prayer.

The Rest of the Story

Isaiah 37:36-38. “Then the angel of the LORD went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia: and Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.”

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Such a dramatic story, told in so few words!  If you’ll remember,  in verse 7, Isaiah prophesied that God would send a blast upon Sennacherib, and he would hear rumors of other kings marching against him; he would head home, only to be killed by the sword in his own land.

An angel who killed 185,00 prime Assyrian soldiers in one night was certainly like a mighty blast. The scriptures do not say that the angel used a sword, although a precedent for that exists in 2 Sam. 24 (I Chron. 21:16,27). In any event, when the ones who were left alive in the morning saw the dead bodies all around them, they wasted no time in heading back to the safety of their homeland.

Then one day, as Sennacherib worshiped in the temple of Nisroch, two of his sons attacked and killed him.

Nisroch was a supposed god who had an eagle’s head and a man’s body. The corresponding female goddess was Ashera, also known as Astarte.  Sennacherib’s gods didn’t come to his aid, and I’ve wondered if he thought about that as he lay on the temple floor, dying.

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The sons who killed Sennacherib fled to Armenia, while a third son  took his father’s place on the throne of Assyria. And so the boastful, arrogant Sennacherib came to a sad and ignoble end, murdered by his own sons in the temple of the god he felt sure was on his side.  His mockery of the Holy One of Israel  came to a bloody end.

I Will Defend This City!

Isaiah 37: 33-35. “Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the King of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, not come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it for Mine own sake, and for My servant David’s sake.”

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Sennacherib was very sure of himself.  After all, he’d defeated so many people who relied upon their idols to save them.  He had not come up against the Holy One of Israel, though, and he was in for a series of unpleasant surprises.

First, he would never enter Jerusalem. He would never shoot an arrow there, never have his army with their shields within the city; nor would he build any kind of fortifications against the city. In fact, he would end up returning from Jerusalem using the same path he had followed as he sent his armies to destroy the city.

God would save Jerusalem this time. He would do so for the memory of David; He would do so for His own reasons.