Our reading opens today with a story of illness and prayer, like those from the days gone by. It is important to remember that while these great temporal and eternal waves pass by, people are giving birth, living, and dying. The tale of Hezekiah’s illness is a human story of divine intervention. His psalm of thanks is worth remembering.
Chapter 39, however, opens with a line that should immediately trigger suspicion: At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys and letters and a present to Hezekiah. You’ll remember that Babylon is in the foreground when the LORD promises to “…put an end to the pomp of the arrogant…” Hezekiah receives their envoys; Isaiah is piqued, and lets Hezekiah know how this will all end.
There is a lot of intrigue here. Babylon and Assyria were not friendly with each other. Babylon had chafed under Assyrian rule for centuries, and was perpetually looking for the upper hand. Sennacherib spent most of his reign trying to subdue them. Isaiah and Hezekiah both would have known this history. Judah had just survived its dalliance with Egypt, and now Babylon is hoping to befriend them? It’s possible that Isaiah smells a rat, and wishes that Hezekiah did too.
But be careful about drawing a moral conclusion about Hezekiah’s act. Was it profound carelessness with the LORD’s goodness? Was it pride? Was it testing Assyria’s patience? Isaiah doesn’t name Hezekiah’s error; in fact, what feels like a consequence might only be foresight. More important to the author is this insight into Hezekiah’s thoughts: At least “there will be peace and security in my days.”
Our verse for this week is 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Isaiah 38 and 39. Now let’s read it!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.