Explore the Bible: Isaiah 38

King Hezekiah of Judah is an important example to us of the power of passionate prayer.  As we continue to seek God for our city, we need to take some lessons from this king.  During the Assyrian threat against Jerusalem Hezekiah did not pray as a first resort, but when he did pray he prayed fervently.  He set an example that we should follow of presenting God with a heavenly reason to answer his prayer.  He pointed out to God that the King of Assyria had mocked God.  He ask God to vindicate His own name by saving the city. 

In chapter thirty eight of Isaiah, the King is told that he is going to die.  Hezekiah called out to the Lord with tears.  He affirmed his faithfulness through the years and implied that this faithfulness would continue.  God heard his prayer again.  He also gave Hezekiah assurance that the Assyrians would not conquer Jerusalem.  He further provided a miraculous sign of a moving shadow on a stairway.  Hezekiah’s life was to be extended fifteen years. 

    Does God ever change his mind?  Some are very uncomfortable with this question.  It seems that there are some things that are eternally fixed or prophecy would be unreliable.  If words mean anything, God can change His plans in relation to the timing of events and even in relation to some details.  Some would quickly add that God already knew what He would do.  That may be true, but still the witness of Scripture lends itself to presenting a God who moves through prayer and is moved by prayer.  To conclude otherwise sounds like fatalism.

Hezekiah may have been a prayer warrior, but he was often unwise.  He had previously paid tribute to Assyria out of the royal treasury, even going so far as to strip gold from the Temple.  This only provoked further greed by the Assyrians.  Now he will make a similar mistake by showing off his treasury to the Babylonians.  When God tells him of the coming destruction, he is comforted that it will not occur in his own lifetime.  Somehow this picture of Hezekiah is unflattering.  We should be burdened for generations to come and do all we can to influence the future through our prayers, our ministry, and our witness.  Sadly, many of us may be too much like Hezekiah and be content with our own blessings.

Dan Wooldridge

2 thoughts on “Explore the Bible: Isaiah 38

  1. I believe that our free will and God’s sovereignty are not mutually exclusive. He always knows exactly what we will do, or how we will decide in any situation, but he does not “coreograph” our final actions. A question: Do you think that God has an infinite number of paths to His will being fulfilled in our lives?

    For example, as a programmer I can write logic in code that says if this condition is met, then do this, else do this set of actions. In Hezekiah’s case, maybe God had a plan to work one way in dealing with the Assyrians, but because the king prayed he fell into another set of conditions. Since, I’m human and finite I can only write so many conditional statements to handle different situations, but maybe God has an infinite number of “conditionals” placed in His ultimate plan, His will, for every individual’s life.

    Just a curious thought, I don’t ever want to sound like I’m saying that a formula can be met through prayer to make God do different things. That’s not what I’m getting at. I’m just wondering if when it appears that God changed His mind because of our prayers, maybe we were just falling more in line with His will and He is able to act more mightily on our behalf.

    This is a genuine question. I don’t know the answer, but somehow it comforts me to know that God is not subject to “mind changes.” Am I off base here?

  2. Scot,
    I like the way you think. I agree that God is sovereign in all things. He is Lord over history. Prayer is mysterious and yet Jesus set us a powerful example through His own prayer life. In the grand scheme of things God’s will must be done. However, how could the wicked things that happen in this world be termed as God’s will. In my view they cannot. The term we often used in my younger years was to say that God is “divinely self limited”. For instance, the author of Hebrews says that it is impossible for God to lie.
    You can be sure that God will not change His mind about those things that have to do with the eternal realities. I for one am comforted that there is evidence that He will never change His mind about the destiny of those who are in Christ Jesus.

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