Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 38

Chapter 38 of Isaiah contains one of my favorite Old Testament stories. That story is the dramatic recovery of Hezekiah and how God caused the sun to move backwards in the sky. We all know several stories of God performing miraculous signs such as the burning bush, feeding the 5,000, and the like. What I like about this story is that God does something that leaves little doubt as to His power. Basically, God reversed the rotation of the earth briefly, without the side effects that such a change would cause, and then turned things back the way they were. If you look at the sheer physical energy needed to accomplish such a task, you realize that it is virtually impossible to do. It is not impossible for God, however.

4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 "Go and tell Hezekiah, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.

 7 " 'This is the LORD's sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.' " So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down. – Isaiah 38:4-8

This raises an important question: Does God change His mind based on our prayers? As I was studying this chapter in my study Bible this morning, it had an interesting theory about this. Basically the commentary on this passage stated that God always has a plan in place, but He allows for slight changes along the way as long as the ultimate goal is achieved. The author of the commentary likened it to a traveling who has a specific goal when driving, say going from New York City to Los Angeles. The goal remains the same along the way, but the plan would allow for detours, side trips, and stopping wherever the heart desires. Perhaps I relate to this vision of God so easily because I have always been the type of person more concerned with the result and not the journey. In relating that to Hezekiah's situation, God may have seen that the ultimate plan He had in mind could be accomplished with or without Hezekiah. When King Hezekiah came to Him with this prayer, He rewarded the king with a longer life of serving Him.

15 But what can I say?
       He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
       I will walk humbly all my years
       because of this anguish of my soul.

 16 Lord, by such things men live;
       and my spirit finds life in them too.
       You restored me to health
       and let me live.

 17 Surely it was for my benefit
       that I suffered such anguish.
       In your love you kept me
       from the pit of destruction;
       you have put all my sins
       behind your back.

 18 For the grave cannot praise you,
       death cannot sing your praise;
       those who go down to the pit
       cannot hope for your faithfulness.

 19 The living, the living—they praise you,
       as I am doing today;
       fathers tell their children
       about your faithfulness. – Isaiah 38:15-19

I have never faced a serious illness or death. Still, verse 17 speaks to me because it talks of how even in our suffering God does not forget us. It takes a deep commitment to the Lord to stare suffering in the face and still see God. In doing so, we have no choice but to praise Him. When we are in these moments of suffering and despair we have two choices: we can wallow in our self-pity or we can rely on God to show us what lesson needs to be learned. As long as we are living we can give praise to God, even if that praise simply consists of being thankful for being alive. King Hezekiah saw this in his suffering, and even though he could have squandered the wonderful gift of life that God gave him he chose to devote himself praising God and following the plan laid before him.


  1. What are your opinions on God changing His mind?
  2. What are some other miracles that have left little doubt God was behind them?
  3. Why would God make Hezekiah suffer in order to learn something?

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