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Read Isaiah 39
Envoys From Babylon
39 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of his illness and recovery.2 Hezekiah received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine olive oil—his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them.
3 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”
“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came to me from Babylon.”
4 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”
“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.”
5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your predecessors have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.Nothing will be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
8 “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”
This brief chapter serves as a transitional bridge to the second half of the book of Isaiah. In the first 38 chapters Isaiah describes the threat of the Assyrian empire, but the rest of the book warns against the Babylonians. This context is an important lens when reading today’s verses.
Merodach-Baladan’s envoy was not just coming to wish Hezekiah well on his miraculous recovery. This was a Babylonian leader trying to sway the allegiance of Hezekiah from Assyria to Babylon through flattery–and Hezekiah fell for it hook, link, and sinker. Hezekiah threw open the doors and showed them everything in his storehouses, the bounty of which had been given to him by God. But Hezekiah did so without consulting God or Isaiah. Not only did he show them all of his supplies and wealth, it says that he did so “gladly.”
Merodach-Baladan found Hezekiah’s blind spot–his pride. As the smaller, less powerful Judah, it made Hezekiah feel important to puff his chest and show off everything in his possession in order to impress the visitors. Rather than remember the divine intervention of God in restoring him to health, in this decision Hezekiah lived for the praises of man. It seems as if he had no clue that he had acted unwisely, because in verse 4 he proudly describes what he has done to Isaiah. Merodach-Baladan attacked Hezekiah in his blind spot, and it made Hezekiah blind to his own prideful, foolish decisions. We can see Isaiah’s prophecies about these decisions leading to Babylon’s triumph are fulfilled in 2 Kings 24-25. Even sadder still is Hezekiah’s response to the awful news he receives from Isaiah: “Well, at least everything will be ok for my lifetime!”
Even though Hezekiah started out as a godly king, he did not finish well. He was given an extra fifteen years of life, but chose to waste it. What are we doing with our time here on Earth? James 4:14 tells us that our life is but a vapor, so how are we going to spend it? Hezekiah shows us that it doesn’t matter how much time we get, it’s how we use the time we have that matters.
- What blind spots do you have that the enemy could use to distract you? If you don’t know, ask your community to help you be aware of what those might be.
- How are you using your time? Is it wisely or wastefully?
- How can you make sure you finish well? Are you concerned only about your lifetime or do you have an eternal focus?
By the Way
For more on this story read 2 Chronicles 32:31 which also describes this visit by Merodach-Baladan’s envoy, wherein we learn that God left Hezekiah to test him and “know everything that was in his heart.”
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