Isaiah 38 Hezekiah’s Life Is Extended.
It is one thing to have anyone say, “Set your house in order, for you shall die” (v. 1). If one heard this from a doctor it would certainly carry some weight, but to hear it from one who was a proven prophet of the LORD, there could be no doubt about it. To change the outcome would definitely require some prayer (v. 2). Hezekiah was no last minute pleader though. In fact, he appeals to the LORD based on a life lived and service rendered to the LORD from a “loyal heart.” Since the bible uses heart to refer to one’s core, Hezekiah claimed integrity-a life lived for the LORD (v. 3). From the content of his words, and the expression that he “wept bitterly,” it seems clear that Hezekiah’s real motivation was having the opportunity to serve the LORD further in this life. To this end the LORD, through the same prophet Isaiah, assured the king that he would have 15 more years of service (vv. 4-5).
We must not lose sight of what is contained in the LORD’s answer-Hezekiah’s life would be extended based on the LORD’s commitment made in the Davidic covenant, so that, first of all, once healed he “shall go up to the house of the LORD” (II Kgs. 20:5). The whole focus of the Davidic covenant was the building of God’s house, and for the good of the LORD’s house Hezekiah’s life is extended. From the book of II Kings it is confirmed that Hezekiah suffered from a boil which was dressed (20:7; v. 21), but still Hezekiah asked for a sign that he would go up to the house of the LORD (Is. 38:22), which Isaiah offered up to him – “shall the shadow go forward ten degrees or go backward ten degrees” (v. 9)? This changing of the relationship of the sun to the earth would be something truly sign worthy, since it was so clearly contrary to the ordinary, not availing of any other explanation.
It is interesting that Hezekiah imagined it “an easy thing for the shadow to go down ten degrees,” perhaps it was because of the time of day-late with the sun setting anyway (v. 10). However, even here it would not be normal for it to immediately move forward ten degrees as though it did not have some “natural course”. Nevertheless, in his mind it would be more impressive that the LORD might cause the arc to go backwards or stop for ten degrees. Did he imagine that either the sun or earth could move faster but not slow down or stop? In any case the shadow did indeed go back ten degrees, so that Hezekiah knew he would be healed in three days and go up to the house of God and reign another 15 years (v. 11). Upon his recovery Hezekiah had words from the LORD which were put into writing in this book, a hymn for him as he went to the house of the LORD (Is. 38:9).
Hezekiah did not want to be deprived of more years of service (v. 10). He still wanted to see Yah and his fellow men “in the land of the living” (v. 11). All day long the LORD was making an end of him (vv. 12-13). Dying is oppressive, and for Hezekiah a cause of bitterness to him (vv. 14-15). However, this bitterness was for Hezekiah an occasion for repentance. We are not told that his boil was as a result of some sin, but the immanence of his death did lead him to repentance and seeking the LORD’s forgiveness, for he says “You have cast all my sins behind Your back” (v. 17). Hezekiah received a word of promise from the LORD who backed it up with acts, and this is the nature of the covenant relationship in its simplest form (vv. 16). He was spared that he might continue to worship and serve the LORD, and others would join with him in song (vv. 18-20).