|'Coming Storm', gouache, (c) D. Secor|
This morning I read Isaiah 39, the chapter where King Hezekiah shows the Babylonian ambassador all his treasure, and then hears some really bad news from the prophet Isaiah.
“Hear the word of the LORD of hosts,‘Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day will be carried to Babylon; nothing will be left,’ says the LORD. ‘And some of your sons who will issue from you, whom you will beget, will be taken away, and they will become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.’”Isaiah 39:5-7 NASB
If you've studied the Bible, you know the outcome. The rest of the chapters in the book of Isaiah warn of the coming time when Babylon will destroy Jerusalem. In the first chapter of the book of Daniel we see a firsthand accout of when he, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (whom you may know better as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego) are taken captive. In other words, we know that the prophecy came to pass.
But we have the perspective of time on our side. The fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC is ancient history to us. To King Hezekiah, Babylon looked like a really good ally, I expect. They were the archenemy of Assyria, which was the immediate problem plaguing the king.
Okay, stick with me here. You need a litle background to get this next part. You see, God had just granted King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life!
“‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city.”’ Isaiah 38:5-6
Yes, this man was blessed with the knowledge that he had these remaining years--can you imagine? How many of us would like to have a pretty good time frame like that, direct from God? Not to mention the assurance that looming national security issues would be eradicated.
But put yourself in Hezekiah's shoes. He just heard some really good news: Fifteen more years, plus national deliverance, so he's more than happy to work with the Babylonian ambassador. In fact, maybe he figured this was the means God was using to work out the promised deliverance from Assyria. He had no idea at the time that this guy was the spear point of a coming invasion.
But then he hears the really bad news: Babylonian captivity. Don't you think his heart had to be hitting the floor at that point? So when you read the next verse, what do you think he meant?
Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “For there will be peace and truth in my days.” Isaiah 39:8
Huh? 'Scuse me? What did he say? Surely the Hebrew has some obscure meaning here.
Uh, no. No, that's pretty much just what he said.
Are you as boggled by that as I am? It stopped me cold.
But then I spent a little time meditating on his response, and after mulling it over for a while I think that even though the way it's said is grating, it's okay. Hezekiah trusts God.
You can review the little power demo God did for him in Isaiah 38:8, turning back the clock for a few minutes. I think Hezekiah knows God's power, and as a result he believes God's promises. So when the bad news comes, even though he knows his actions precipitated things, this maturing believer chooses to respond in faith:
God's word is good. In my lifetime there will be peace and truth.
That's a marvelous thing to know. He's old enough to recognize that life is full of trouble, and that even though he's the king, he doesn't hold the future in his grasp.
Any more than you do, or I do.
Trouble is coming, friends. As my beloved Pastor Bob Brown often said, either you're in a storm, you're just coming out of a storm, or you're heading into one soon. I think Hezekiah knew this and could still say with certainty that God's word is good.
But he had been told that in his lifetime there would be peace and truth. Do I know the same thing? There's no prophet standing in front of me speaking for God.
Oh, wait, maybe there is.
I have the Bible sitting in my lap. It's open to John 16:33, where Jesus says:
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage;
I have overcome the world.”
I live in a world full of tribulation--that word means oppression, affliction, trouble, distress. This place is a mess. No one escapes. And the longer you live, the more real those things become, right?
So, yeah, it sounds really jarring to hear Hezekiah call all this bad news "good," but then again, what better response is there to trouble than to stand on the promise that God's word is good?
Jesus promises peace. He said it clearly. IN ME YOU MAY HAVE PEACE.
Today. Now. In real life. Whatever is happening. So you and I, like Hezekiah, may also say:
“The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good...
For there will be peace and truth in my days."