What shall I say? he hath both spoken unto me, and himself hath done it: I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul. — Isaiah 38:15
Can you think of a time in your life when God’s goodness or provision has left you speechless? At one point in our married life, my husband and I were both unemployed. The situation was desperate and we had very little food. One night, after searching through the cupboards, I threw the only things we had left into a frying pan in an attempt to make some dinner. However, even my husband — who is an easy one to please — couldn’t force himself to eat the end result! We were in a bad spot.
It was mid-week and we went to prayer meeting at the little church where we worshiped. As we headed back to our car afterward, you can imagine our surprise and delight when we saw that the entire back seat was filled with bags of groceries! We were literally speechless! God had clearly placed us on someone’s heart. There was no note from our benefactor, no name of anyone we could thank, but we certainly had a heart full of praise to God for His goodness.
Our focus verse starts by Hezekiah asking, “What shall I say?” Hezekiah found himself in a situation where he struggled for words when he thought about the goodness of God. Though he had been “sick unto death” (verse 1) God had heard his desperate prayer and had granted him fifteen additional years of life. In addition, He promised to release the Children of Israel from their bondage under Assyria. A miraculous sign was given as a confirmation of these promises of deliverance: the sun went back by ten degrees. In response to the promises, Hezekiah praised God by writing a poetic song of praise to the Lord.
When God moves in our lives, we stand in awe. We may feel like asking, “What can I say to thank God? How can mere words express what I feel?” Although we might not be poetic by nature, we can all praise God for His goodness. We do not need to be eloquent; the Bible tells us to simply “make a joyful noise” unto the Lord (see Psalm 100:1). When God answers prayer for us, in matters large or small, let us be sure to lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving to Him for His goodness! God loves to hear our praises.
Historians believe that chapter 38 actually belongs before chapter 36 chronologically, because of its reference to the Children of Israel’s captivity by Babylon. Parallel passages are found in 2 Kings 20:1-21, and 2 Chronicles 32:24-33.
Following Isaiah’s announcement that Hezekiah was going to die from his ailment, Hezekiah asked God for an extension of his days so he could continue to serve God and complete the restoration of the nation. While he was concerned about his own life, he also had a burden for the people he led.
Hezekiah reminded God that he had walked before Him in truth, and with a “perfect heart,” one of integrity. The Hebrew word shalem, translated perfect, means “complete” or “whole.” Thus, the king was reminding God that he had served Him with a whole, or morally healthy, heart.
In response to Hezekiah’s brief prayer, God answered very quickly, and granted him fifteen additional years of life. As a sign of God’s promise to Hezekiah, God turned the clock back ten degrees or approximately twenty minutes. The phrase “shadow of the degrees” could also be translated “the shadow of the steps.” It is possible that the sundial was a pillar whose shadow marked the hours on a set of stairs.
Historians are unsure as to the physical alterations God made — whether the return of the sun by ten degrees was caused by a reverse in the earth’s rotation or by some other geophysical means. However, there can be no doubt that a supernatural miracle was involved in this event.
Although the text does not indicate precisely what was wrong with Hezekiah, there is reference to shechiyn or a boil (the same word was used in reference to the plagues of Egypt) and the use of figs — possibly as a medicinal poultice — for healing. Even this is miraculous: boils are caused by a staph infection, which would have been extremely difficult to combat without modern-day antibiotics.
The events recorded in this passage caused Hezekiah to have a new appreciation for the power of prayer (verses 13-14) and for opportunities for serving God (verses 15-20).
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The historical interlude: The Holy One of Israel delivering from Assyria
B. The extension of Hezekiah’s life (38:1-22)
1. Hezekiah’s sickness (38:1)
2. Hezekiah’s prayer (38:2-3)
3. Hezekiah’s increase (38:4-8)
4. Hezekiah’s thankfulness (38:9-20)
5. Hezekiah’s instruction (38:21-22)
The next time God moves on your behalf, whether in matters large or relatively small, lift your heart and voice in praise. Let’s reflect on His goodness today!