24 “In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. 25 But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26 But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah” (2 Chronicles 32:24–26).
Isaiah 39 is a brief, and concluding, historical narrative which began in Isaiah 36. Today’s text picks up shortly after King Hezekiah’s illness and healing (Isaiah 38; 2 Kings 20:1-11). It concerns a visit from Merodach-baladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon (Isaiah 39:1; 2 Kings 20:12-21).
Apparently the Babylonian king heard that Hezekiah had been ill and had recovered. He then sent envoys to Jerusalem not only with letters but also a present for Hezekiah. We may presume that the letters and present were expressions of well-being on Hezekiah’s behalf by King Baladan.
Isaiah 39:2 says, “Hezekiah was pleased, and showed them all his treasure house, the silver and the gold and the spices and the precious oil and his whole armory and all that was found in his treasuries. There was nothing in his house nor in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.”
Why did King Hezekiah do this? We cannot be absolutely sure. Perhaps he was trying to impress the Babylonian envoys. 2 Chronicles 32:25 indicates that Hezekiah was a very proud king. He may also have been trying to establish an alliance with Babylon against the Assyrians.
2 Chronicles 32:27-31 is a parallel passage to Isaiah 39. 2 Chronicles 32:31 says, “And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart.”
The LORD was not pleased. He saw the pride within the heart of the king. Isaiah then came to Hezekiah. “3Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and said to him, “What did these men say, and from where have they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come to me from a far country, from Babylon.” 4 He said, “What have they seen in your house?” So Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing among my treasuries that I have not shown them.”
Hezekiah sinned against the LORD by displaying his wealth before the Babylonian visitors. The king’s sin of pride would be further compounded by his son, Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-15).
Isaiah 39:5-7 is God’s pronouncement of judgment upon Hezekiah and the nation of Judah. “5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. 7 And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (2 Kings 24:1-16; 2 Chronicles 33:1-11; Daniel 1:1-6).
Isaiah 39:8 provides us with Hezekiah’s response. “8 Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”
Dr. John MacArthur comments that Hezekiah’s statement was, “A surprising response to the negative prophecy of vv. 5–7! It perhaps acknowledged Isaiah as God’s faithful messenger. Hezekiah perhaps reacted selfishly, or perhaps he looked for a bright spot to lighten the gloomy fate of his descendants.”
Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Pastor Robert Rayburn writes, “To put pride to death is lifelong work of the most difficult kind. We get no help from our culture. Pride is a topic of little interest to modern psychology or the self-help industry, and self-congratulation has become an accepted art form in the era of the “touchdown dance.” Nowadays, low self-esteem is likely to be thought a far more serious problem than pride. But the godly have always known that true goodness requires the killing of their pride, and they learned soon enough that there was no gentle way to go about it. It had to be hacked to death. One good man after another has instructed himself in these or similar words: “Talk not about myself”; “Desire to be unknown”; and “Lord, Deliver me from the lust of vindicating myself.”
Soli deo Gloria!