THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Praising God for Preservation
Isaiah 38 9/22/13 SCC
How many times have I stood by a near death person and you can see it in their eyes. Death is hauntingly surrounding a life and squeezing the last of its breath from the body. But what if, at this very moment, life was somehow restored? What would we think? Hezekiah had such an experience and he leaves us his praise to God for such a turnaround in his own near death experience.
This chapter records another lesson on faith for believers of all times. It is faith in the power of the Lord to do what seems to be the impossible. In the sickness of death, King Hezekiah prayed and had his life extended by fifteen years 1-6. For a sign of that promise, the sun went back ten degrees on the sundial 7-8.
The Song: 38:9-20
In response to this gracious provision of extended life, Hezekiah recorded his song of thanksgiving for that answer to prayer 9-20. The last two verses record what Hezekiah had done for the healing, and what he had asked as a sign 21-22. Apparently some type of infection in his body was killing him. This is a declarative praise song that would be offered in the Sanctuary, accompanied by the giving of the peace offering. So it is jubilation! It is praise in celebration of life, thanks to divine intervention. The point is captured by anyone who has had health restored, especially if dramatically from an apparent life-threatening situation.
1. Faced with the prospect of possible death, believers can pray to God for help 10-14
Believers may face the threat of pre-mature death 9-12
Verse 10: begins the Report of the Deliverance. The king is recalling what he thought when he learned that he might die pre-maturely. This is looking back—he is no longer in danger for this is a praise psalm!
As he reasoned through what was happening, perhaps expressing his amazement that he might die, the point is that this is not the death of someone in a ripe old age—it was at the noontime of his life, before he lived out his whole course. His illness came at the prime of life. Convinced he should live and worship God in this life as long as he could, to die and go to the next world was not a wonderful thought, nor a solution to anything. Death was an enemy that God could and should conquer.
Verse 11: the expression “see the Lord” refers to worship in the Sanctuary where he would see evidence of the Lord’s favor through the praises of Israel. Certainly going to heaven would be perfection and glory; but edifying praise, prayers for intervention, and active participation in God’s spiritual program only work in this life while we have life. Hezekiah did not want this experience to end early on earth.
Verse 12: This verse uses two similes to make the point. The habitation or dwelling is probably his life, or more specifically his body; like a tent it was being folded up and taken away—you have to imagine here Bedouin tents and how easily they are removed. The other image is that of the weaver; Hezekiah’s life, under this figure, was rolled up and about to be cut off—he had spun his last work. God was bringing him to an early and sudden death.
Believers may pray for divine healing 13-14
Verse 13: In these two verses Hezekiah recalls how he prayed for God to intervene and spare his life.
This verse tells how Hezekiah waited for the Lord to restore him. He “composed himself” accompanies his praying. The word “morning” is comparing the recovery to full health to the morning. But it did not come quickly because the Lord was apparently “destroying” him. “Bones” is referring to the whole person encased in the boney framework. “Lion” is another simile. And the expression of breaking all the bones pictures his entire body being racked with pain and succumbing to the process of death.
Verse 14: Here we have the praying and the prayer that occurred while he was waiting on the Lord. His cries and moans of pain are compared to bird’s suggesting he was losing his strength and resolve and could only moan softly like the doleful sound of a dove. To “look on the heavens” is where he looks and hopes for his prayer. When he prayed he grew tired and exhausted because of his sickness. The “eyes” are singled out for the whole body because they easily indicate failing health and vigor, both to himself (he cannot see, or cannot keep his eyes open) and to others (who see in his eyes that he is near death).
His prayer is for God to come to his aid. He wants God to pledge to him, or perhaps, to be his pledge, his assurance, his surety of life. He wants God to assure him of life and health.
2. God can answer our fervent prayers for deliverance from death 15-16
A fervent prayer is answered 15
The king was amazed at the change of events. Nevertheless the bitter disappointment that had come into his heart because of the prophet’s announcement of impending death was something he would never forget. God is the one who can deliver Hezekiah; but God is the one who has done this to him. How can that be explained? Probably not to our satisfaction! One can only conclude that God has a plan for our lives that can put us through all of this, so that we might cry to Him for healing. Therefore, faced with such power over our lives, and seeing no one else we can turn to for help, we like this king must “walk softly” before Him. This would refer to a careful life of humble obedience—making sure that we do not make the wrong step. He realized that this experience should humble him and us.
God delights in saving life 16
Here is the clear report that the prayer was answered. He prayed that others would learn from his experiences, as he himself would. Those who believe in the Lord and pray to Him, living a life of cautious humble obedience—God blesses them with life. And this is why God blessed Hezekiah—his spirit revived when he knew what God was doing to him, and what God wanted to develop in him. So from this comes the great proclamation of praise, you restored me to health; you let me live. It means, of course, that God has power over our health, our life, and our death. Psalm 116 affirms, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His saints”—or, nobody dies without God’s “say-so.”
3. God answers prayer and restores health in order that His people might praise Him in life 17-20
Praise is edifying 17
Here begins the Actual Praise for the Deliverance. Here the king acknowledges that this bitter anguish was for his benefit, his welfare, or wholeness, or completeness—his health and well-being. There is simply no other way to develop this in us. Jesus Christ, even though he was a son, the Book of Hebrews tells us, learned obedience through the things that He suffered. To learn from suffering is critical; it is not sufficient merely to recover or be healed.
The king then explains that God kept him from destruction by His love and did not let his sins condemn him. Here is praise for the attribute of faithful love that was the cause of the deliverance, and that did not use his sins as reason to destroy him. Have you ever been happy about that in your life? I bet you have. Most praises will focus on one attribute of God—this is it. So we learn from this and other Scripture that God loves His people and will preserve them from destruction; but in the process He may put them through bitter anguish so that they might have a stronger faith, greater obedience (tread softly) and better praise.
Praise is the declaration of God’s faithfulness 18
Here we have a teaching that is common to the psalms. The grave cannot praise—he is no good to God if he dies and goes to the grave because he could not then tell how God saved him from the grave. Only the living can praise God’s faithfulness. Hezekiah’s experience of God’s faithfulness was that God mercifully restored to life His covenant believer. We will be able to praise God in heaven throughout eternity; but only in this life can we praise God by saying, “He kept me alive to serve more in this life.”
Praise is to be unending 19-20
The praise of Hezekiah will encourage others to pray when they are sick, so that the living will rejoice and praise in the way that God grants full life. The theme of this praise: God restored the king to life. Therefore, today and throughout all his life, he says, he will praise the Lord—not just once for the answer to the prayer. Every day that he has is a gift from God, and he will declare that truth.
1. If God restores us to life—or even preserves our lives from danger—unending praise must come from us to Him and before others. Interesting that we are eager and diligent to pray, because we are in a panic and desperate. But how soon we forget the reason that God delivers us from illness and death. He expects our public praise.
2. People should be praising God publicly, individually, for the additional life given to them. God restores people to life to serve Him further, and God lets people go through anguish for their welfare—to improve. There is always the praise for the healing, but there will certainly also be the questions as to why God allowed this to happen. The welfare of the sufferer concerns spiritual benefits too and that means that the faith of him and others will be strengthened through the entire process. It is sad that in order for people to grow spiritually God often has to put them in positions of desperate dependency on Him. Usually when they have things going their way the spiritual life becomes less urgent.
3. Encourage others who are ill and suffering, or even at death’s door, to pray for life. God will not always grant it, as was the case for David’s child he prayed for or Christ’s death on the cross when Jesus prayed for the cup to pass from him. While he has not promised to restore life we can pray for such as Hezekiah did. That is the purpose of a testimony of praise.