Isaiah 39: The Way of the Prophets

CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 39.

This is the last chapter in the series since chapter 36 that have taken a time out to discuss actual historical events rather than only prophecies with layers of history in them (including history yet to be). This chapter goes along with 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chronicles 32. It jumps back to the story of Sennacherib trying to attack Jerusalem, Hezekiah turning to the Lord, and so the Lord fighting that battle for the people by sending a plague that killed 185,000 soldiers overnight. When Sennacherib woke up to find most of his army dead, he fled back to Ninevah in fear – leaving the spoils the army had collected along the way behind. These riches included the precious treasures of the temple, which Hezekiah had given in hopes of paying off Sennacherib so he wouldn’t attack. When the people of Jerusalem saw that the Assyrian army had fled, leaving all their wealth and riches behind, that was almost as much of a miracle as them not being conquered. They gathered up the spoils, returning the temple treasures, and making Hezekiah one of the wealthiest kings in all the land.

Following this, many of the surrounding countries sent gifts and tributes to Hezekiah, making him even wealthier. These were gifts because they were impressed that Hezekiah won against Sennacherib, but also tributes of political alliances now that Hezekiah was seen as a powerful king. No one had been able to stop the Assyrian conquest, so many revered Hezekiah, not understanding it was the Lord who had fought the battle. This was part of Hezekiah’s testifying (see previous chapter), to make the world understand that it was the Lord who had fought their battle.

However, instead of testifying as he had promised, Hezekiah got proud (2 Chronicles 32:25).

Worse, he didn’t pay his tithing on all this new wealth.

That’s where this chapter opens.

Specifically, it begins with delegation from Babylon sending gifts to Hezekiah to congratulate him on the win against Sennacherib and his recovery from his illness (and his recent gain of wealth) (verse 1). At this time, Babylon is one of many countries conquered by Assyria, and one who has three times already revolted against Assyria (721, 710, and 704). It would be their continued efforts against Assyria that would eventually conquer them a hundred years later. But for now, they are still subject to Assyria, but on the rise, and hungry for power – and hungry for the wealth to feed that power.

Instead of being humble, and testifying of the Lord fighting the battle for him against Assyria, Hezekiah is proud. He shows off all his treasures, literally given them a tour of everything. Verse 2 says that “there was nothing… that Hezekiah showed them not”.

The Lord was not pleased.

Besides the offense against the Lord, and besides not testifying to the Babylonians, Hezekiah was being a fool and putting his people in danger just after the Lord had delivered them!

Then we get an insight into how the gift of prophecy works: Isaiah can sense the Lord is not pleased. He feels the drop in power, like when the woman with an issue of blood touched the Savior’s clothes. He can tell something is amiss, something is not right, and something is wrong.

The Lord is real, and our prayers are conversations with Him, and as we get to know the Lord through our prayers, we will know and understand and feel these things as well.

Isaiah does not know what has happened, but he knows the Lord is not pleased with Hezekiah. So he goes to find out what has happened, and questions him (verse 3). Hezekiah tells him that he has just met with the Babylonians, and given them a tour. Isaiah asks what kind of tour Hezekiah gave the Babylonians, and Hezekiah says that he showed them everything (verse 4).

This gives us even further insight into the work of prophecy. Isaiah still had to “study it out” and discern what had happened. Faith, or a testimony of faith, requires not only knowledge of God, but accurate knowledge of God – and also the knowledge that our lives are in tune with His, that we are living according to His will (Lectures on Faith, section 3, page 36). Isaiah knows if there has been a loss of power, it is because something has been done that is not in accordance with the Lord’s will. That is what he must “study out”: where was the error and what is not in accordance with the Lord’s will. Only then can it be repented of, and only then can the people be brought back into alignment with the will of the Lord, and only then can their power be restored.

Hezekiah makes it clear what has gone wrong.

We then get the next insight into the prophetic pattern: once Isaiah understands that much, then the Lord can reveal the next piece.

Line upon line, one layer at a time.

So once Isaiah understands what Hezekiah has done wrong, then He knows how to ask the Lord about it, and the Lord does reveal to Him an answer (verse 5).

The Lord’s answer follows His law, in that we “get” what we “give”. This is the underlying truth of karma, the true principle of getting what we dish out. Because Hezekiah has showed off his treasures to Babylon, someday Babylon will carry off all the treasures and “nothing shall be left” (verse 6).

But there is also always a penalty specific to each law broken. Because Hezekiah has not tithed, and so not given to the Lord what is His, so also will the Lord take what is Hezekiah’s: all his descendants will also be carried off to Babylon (verse 7).

Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken”….

Verse 8 is not a rejoicing in what Isaiah has said, for it is very bad news. But it is an understanding of what the prophet has said, and an understanding of why the Lord has declared. 2 Chronicles 32:26 gives us more to the story, about how this news humbled Hezekiah from his recent pride. In fact, that verse says that it is because Hezekiah (and his people) so quickly confessed and repented, that this is why it would happen later and not right away.

But it will happen.

Hezekiah knows the Lord and His laws.

He knows the blessings of covenant-keeping and the penalties of covenant-breaking.

He knows better.

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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