These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“Isaiah said … ‘This is what the Lord says …’” (37:5) RSV
All that we have read in 2 Kings over the last few weeks is more or less repeated in these four chapters of Isaiah. They serve to emphasise how much Isaiah was involved in the nitty-gritty of politics and national affairs. Woe betides any church that lives only for its own growth and its local situation. We are part of a movement that seeks to bring God’s timely words of warning or encouragement to those in power.
Isaiah seems to have been a lone, yet much respected voice. We should welcome any opportunity that is offered to us, or our church leaders, to be involved in national or local affairs. Our mission is not just to individuals, though of course it is that. Our mission is to the world that God made and loves.
Isaiah was at the King’s side to encourage his religious reforms. He was there when Assyria was at the gates of Jerusalem. He was there at Hezekiah’s life-threatening illness. And he was there when Hezekiah betrayed the nation and thereby invoked God’s judgement.
A prophet is not there so much to foretell, as to forth-tell. He has the task of bringing God’s immediate and relevant word to people. Whereas the priest represents the people to God, the prophet represents God to the people. The prophet needs to spend time with God so that he has an open ear. He also needs to spend time keeping up-to-date with local and world affairs. Within himself he brings God and the world together, and then hears what God has to say and what God is doing.
Jesus (our PROPHET, priest and king) said that he only did what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19), and only said what he heard his Father say (e.g. John 15:15). In our own small way we need to follow in his footsteps. And we need to pray for Christians who have access to high places, that they may be courageous. We also need to pray that people of influence will be prepared to heed the truth.
Lord, you have called your Church to be a prophetic voice in this fallen world. Help us by word and deed to fulfil this high calling. Amen.
We might be forgiven for thinking that Hezekiah would continue faithful to his God for the rest of his days. After all, he had seen God do a mighty miracle in delivering his kingdom from the hand of Sennacherib and his colossal army. He had also been miraculously delivered from a fatal boil. Surely, fortified by such great interventions by God he would be even stronger in his commitment to restoring Israel’s true religion.
But no, Hezekiah was swept away by pride and confidence. Maybe the feeling that he was in some way especially loved by God and spiritually privileged, gave him the illusion of being special. Pride will get us every time. The occasion of his downfall was a visit by envoys from Babylon. He thus received a potential enemy into his house. With pride he allowed these spies (as they turned out to be) to see all his treasures. Pride makes us blind and naïve.
It took the prophet Isaiah to point out to him the error of his ways. You no doubt remember how the prophet Nathan had to point out to David his sin in committing adultery with Bathsheba and having her husband killed.
Sometimes we cannot see our own folly. We justify to ourselves what we are doing. Or maybe we are so blind we are blithely unaware of our actions. As Jeremiah says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Knowing this we need to make sure that we are teachable. Will we listen if someone approaches us and points out to us the errors of our ways?
If we do not, then let us note the consequences for Hezekiah. Isaiah told him (vv.16-19) that his kingdom would be lost, together with its treasure and even some of his own family. Sadly he took no notice, because it wasn’t going to happen in his own lifetime! But his son, Manasseh, was to be one of the most wicked of kings, and to make it worse he reigned for 55 long years.
Keep me Lord from presumptuous sin. May I be humble, biddable and open to correction. Amen.
1 What is the wisdom that we need to guard against folly?