Isaiah 38

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

38:1.  “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death.  And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.”


Hezekiah means strengthened of Jehovah, and in the extension of his life we have a symbolic picture of the salvation of a sinner.


Note first that he was “sick unto death,” and in this is declared the state of every man born into this world, for we are all born as sinners doomed to die because by natural birth we have inherited Adam’s fallen sinful nature, hence the imperative of being “born again” spiritually by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, to have our lives extended, not just for a few years, but for ever; nor to be continued in a state of sinfulness, but in perfect righteousness, for the new nature received by faith is characterized by the perfect righteousness of Christ.  Faith in Him takes us into a sphere that isn’t governed by the consequences of Adam’s rebellion, but by those of the Lord’s perfect obedience, “... even unto death, the death of the cross,” Philippians 2:8.  Sin is inseparable from the old Adamic nature, as is righteousness with the new nature, which is that of the Lord Himself.


It must be understood however, that that new sinless nature exists in our bodies side by side with the old sinful Adamic nature, there being a continuous state of war between the two, relative to which Paul wailed, “Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24.  (“this body of death” is also rendered this body doomed to death: this deadly lower nature: my own sinful nature.”


His being commanded to set his house in order, i.e., prepare for death, is the reminder that all of us are under the same necessity, that preparation consisting of the admission that I am a guilty sinner without one shred of righteousness, followed by the faith to believe that when Christ died, it was in my place, as my Substitute; and accompanied by the belief that His death has expiated all my sin, and brought me God’s gift of eternal life, so that when I die He will receive me into heaven to dwell there with Him for ever.


38:2.  “Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord,”


In turning his face to the wall he was literally turning away from the things of the world around him, and this is exactly what we should do in every time of difficulty, for it is the Lord alone Who can deliver us.  The injunction given in the chorus line of a well-known hymn applies in every such circumstance, “Take it to the Lord in prayer.”


38:3.  “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.”


This is also translated, “... how I have walked before thee in faithfulness and with a whole heart,” RHM; “... in faithfulness and in truth, with a whole heart [absolutely devoted to You], AMP; “... how I have lived before thee, faithful and loyal in thy service,” NEB; ... how I lived ever mindful of thee, honestly and heartily,” MOFFATT; “... how I have always tried to obey You in everything You said,”


The veracity of his words is attested by the fact that God didn’t refute them, a fact which prompts the question as to whether we could truthfully make the same assertion without fear of His contradiction.


Why he “wept sore (bitterly)” isn’t explained.  Were his tears impelled by the remembrance of much time relative to which he could not have made that assertion?  Surely it would indicate a healthier condition of soul were we also moved to tears by the same realization.


38:4.  “Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying,”


38:5.  “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.”


God’s favorable response to his prayer was impelled by Hezekiah’s descent from David, and it is our relationship with the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ, that secures His favorable response to all our prayers, He Himself giving the assurance to His own when He was here on earth, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son,” John 14:13.


Hezekiah’s experience may be a type of what happens at conversion, the fifteen added years representing the new spiritual life received the moment we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  Since three is the number of resurrection; and five, the number of responsibility, the lesson being taught is that conversion brings resurrection out of spiritual death, and also the responsibility to walk in obedience before God.


38:6. “And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.”


The promise of deliverance has also spiritual significance, for it points to the truth that the believer is freed from the power of Satan; while the deliverance of the city foreshadows the truth that this world, over which Satan presently rules, is also soon to be emancipated from that evil dominion during the arch fiend’s thousand-year imprisonment in the bottomless pit during the Millennium, and then eternally, after his brief release and final rebellion at the end of that glorious era, following which he will be cast into eternal torment in the lake of fire, together with the Beast and the False Prophet, he and they constituting the trinity of evil which now works in opposition to the Holy Trinity.


38:7.  “And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord that the Lord will do this thing that he hath spoken:”


38:8.  “Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.”


This was incontrovertible proof that God would fulfill His word relative to the extension of Hezekiah’s life, for nothing is impossible to Him Who can control the movement of the sun.


38:9.  “The writing of Hezekiah king of Judah, when he had been sick, and was recovered of his sickness:”


38:10.  “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.”


This appears to have been what Hezekiah was thinking during his sickness.  Feeling that he was near the end of his life, he bewailed the fact that God was about to cut him off without permitting him to reach old age.


38:11.  “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.”


His lament continues with the expression of regret that he would not be able to see either God or men again here on earth, forgetting apparently that he would have something better: he would see the Lord face to face in heaven.  His attitude was very different from that of Paul who expected with eagerness to see His Savior face to face, as it is written, “For I am in a strait between two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better,” Philippians 1:23. 


Hezekiah’s attitude however, is an accurate reflection of that of many professed believers today who are so occupied with earthly things that the sadness accompanying their thought of dying nullifies the joy that ought to attend anticipation of seeing the Lord Jesus Christ face-to-face in His heavenly glory.


38:12.  “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 an end of me.”


Believing, mistakenly, that his life was about to end, he described it as having been like the brief stay of a shepherd whose tent is set up only for a night or two until it is time to move on to a place of new pasture; or as being like the thread which is cut when the weaving is complete and the cloth removed from the loom.  He likened its duration to the equivalent of only one day.


38:13.  “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.”


The character of his sufferings he described as being like those of one who had only a few hours to live as the result of having been mauled by a lion.


38:14.  “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.”


“... chatter” means to chirp: twitter: moan: mourn: utter shrill cries.  The sounds he uttered were those of unimaginable distress and physical suffering; and his eyes had become weary with continuous looking toward heaven for deliverance which hadn’t come.  His being oppressed means that he was in anguish.


“... undertake for me” means “be Thou my surety,” i.e., “secure my deliverance.”


No spiritual mind will fail to see in his terrible distress the foreshadowing of that which impelled the Lord’s cry of utter desolation from the cross, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34.


38:15.  “What shall I say? He hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul.”


Translators differ slightly as to the rendering of this verse,  but the general meaning seems to be that Hezekiah was willing to accept God’s will for his life in spite of his being saddened by it.


38:16.  “O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these thing is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.”


The AAT translation of this verse reads, “O Lord, by these things men live, and through all of them is the life of my spirit sustained; therefore do thou restore me to life again,” and Taylor renders it, “O Lord, Your discipline is good and leads to life and health.  Oh heal me and make me live.”  It is the OT equivalent of the truth declared in Romans 12:2, which describes God’s will as being “good, and acceptable, and perfect.”  No matter how adverse it may seem, we should never question His will, for He orders every circumstance of life for His own glory, and our ultimate blessing.


38:17.  “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.”


This confirms that the OT believer had the same assurance of eternal life as does his NT peer, for “the pit of corruption” refers not to the grave, but to hell itself; and relative to our sins being cast behind God’s back, a fact we tend to forget it that the moment we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, all our sins - past, present, and those we will yet commit - are all forgiven even before we commit them.  As far as God is concerned the old “I”, where all sin originates, is dead “crucified with Christ,” and He is now dealing with us, not as unbelieving sinners, but as sons in His royal family as declared in Proverbs 3:12, “For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth,” and 1 John 3:2 assures us, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God ....”


38:18.  “For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.”


Physical death ends for ever the unbeliever’s hope of salvation, for it transports his body to the grave, and his soul into hell (the pit), to await the resurrection of death or damnation, following which both will be cast into eternal torment in the lake of fire, as declared in John 5:28-29, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”


38:19.  “The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth.”


The repeated “the living, the living” emphasizes that it is only the living who can praise God and teach others His truth, for as death ends all possibility of the unbeliever’s being saved, so does it also end the believer’s privilege of proclaiming the gospel.  “... behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation,” 2 Corinthians 6:2.


38:20.  “The Lord was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the Lord.”


Taylor’s rendering of this verse reads, “Think of it! The Lord healed me!  Every day of my life from now on I will sing my songs of praise in the Temple, accompanied by the orchestra.”  Were we less occupied with the things of the world, and more with spiritual realities, this same exclamation of wonder and worship would employ our lips more often during the course of each day.


The believer is to worship as well as witness, the Scriptural order, in fact, being that we come in on the first day of the week to worship, and then go out to witness to others during the week.  (Instrumental music led by a choir, was the God-ordained order for the OT age, but the New Testament is instructively silent relative to any such activity in connection with the worship of the church, the admonition in Ephesians 5:18-19 being, “... be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord ....”).


38:21.  “For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister (poultice) upon the boil, and he shall recover.”


I’m convinced that there is some spiritual significance connected with  this fig poultice, but regret being unable to discern what that teaching is, and would appreciate hearing readers’ views on it.


38:22.  “Hezekiah also had said, What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?”


Hezekiah, upon being told that God would grant him another fifteen years of life, had apparently asked to be given some confirmatory sign, but it is not recorded that any such sign was given.  We are to have faith to accept and believe God’s promises without first demanding proof that they will be fulfilled, for proof would negate faith.

[Isaiah 39]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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