The Book of Isaiah
James J. Barker

Lesson 33

Text: ISAIAH 38:1-22


1.     I mentioned last time that Isaiah 36 & 37 begin a new section in the book of Isaiah.  They, along with chapters 38 & 39 serve as a transition from the Assyrian to the Babylonian period.

2.     Chapters 36 & 37 conclude the Assyrian period and deal with the invasion of Assyria under King Sennacherib (cf. 38:6).

3.     Isaiah chapter 38 begins with the words, “In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death.”  It is the same time period. The Scofield Study Bible says it was around 710 BC.

4.     King Hezekiah, the king of Judah, was “sick unto death” (38:1).  He was having trouble with a “boil” (38:21) that was about to kill him.

5.     We saw in chapters 36 and 37 that King Hezekiah was under tremendous stress, and he was now “sick unto death” (38:1).

6.     King Hezekiah was a great king.  Second Kings 18:5 says, “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.”

7.     That is a wonderful tribute to a great man of God.  But now this great king was told to set his house in order, for he was about to die (Isa. 38:1).

8.     This is a very interesting story, and it is mentioned three times in the Bible – here, in II Kings 20, and briefly in II Chronicles 32.

9.     I have divided my exposition into three simple parts: death, prayer, and salvation.


I.     DEATH (ISA. 38:1).

1.    Isaiah the prophet came unto King Hezekiah and said: “Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live” (38:1).

2.    How would you like to receive a message like that? 

3.    Every day we are reminded of death.  Just yesterday the undertaker down the street stopped by to say hello.

4.    Every day we are reminded of the brevity of life. Both my parents died within this last year.  The Psalmist wrote, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

5.    And then, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

6.    James 4:14 says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

7.    Spurgeon said: “To be familiar with the grave is prudence.  To prepare for death, it is well to commune with death.  A thoughtful walk in the cemetery is good for our soul’s health.”

8.    The sentence of death was delivered to King Hezekiah by the prophet Isaiah. How do you think King Hezekiah felt?  He was only 39 years old, in the prime of life, and with no heir to succeed him to the throne.

9.    Furthermore, there were the problems with King Sennacherib and the Assyrian army (cf. 38:6).

10. The sentence of death was delivered to Hezekiah and the sentence of death rests upon each one of us.  The Bible says, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). 

11. Let me ask you: How would you react if you were in King Hezekiah’s shoes?  If you were told, “Thus saith the LORD” (not, “Thus saith the doctor,” for doctors can be wrong.)

12. How would you react if God told you your time was up?  Very few of us know the time they are scheduled to leave this world. There are a few inmates on death row who know the time, but even that is not always certain (because of the courts, lawyers, etc.).  

13. Unsaved friend, consider this: you are on God’s death row. In fact, you are in worse shape than some of the convicts on death row.  Because some of the convicts on death row have trusted Christ and have made peace with God, but if you are not saved you are not ready to meet God.

14. Amos 4:12 says, “Prepare to meet thy God.”  Are you prepared to meet God? Years ago I saw a card that said: “You may tie your shoes in the morning, but the undertaker may untie them at night.  Prepare to meet God!”

15. In Luke 12, our Lord told the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:16-21).  The fool was very happy with his great wealth.   But the Lord said to him, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:20).

16. So the first thing we are struck with here in Isaiah 38 is the cold, hard reality of death.

          Oh, what is this I cannot see,

          With icy hands taking hold of me?

          Oh, I am death, none can excel;

          I open the doors of Heaven and Hell.


          Oh death, Oh death, how can it be;

          That I must come and go with thee?

          Oh death, Oh death, how can it be;

          I’m unprepared for eternity?


          Yes, I have come to get your soul,

          To leave your body and leave it cold,

          To drop the flesh off from your frame;

          The earth and worms both have their claim.

17. King Hezekiah describes poetically what happens to the soul the moment it leaves the body (Isaiah 38:10-13).

18. Hezekiah was a great poet and musician (cf. 38:20), as well as a great king, and statesman, and reformer, and soldier, and engineer, and the leader of a great heaven-sent revival.

19. In his poem, King Hezekiah vividly described death. Something happens the moment a man dies.  If he is saved, his soul goes to heaven.  But if he is lost, his soul goes straight to hell.


II. PRAYER (ISA. 38:2, 3, 14b).

1.    “Then Hezekiah turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the LORD” (38:2).  We can say this about King Hezekiah: he was a praying man.  He knew how to pray.  Hezekiah prayed and God answered his prayer (38:4-6; 37:14-20).

2.    Let me add that King Hezekiah wanted to live because he wanted to continue serving God.  His was not a selfish prayer.

3.    Furthermore, King Hezekiah was burdened for the safety of Judah.  He had no heir and the kingdom was threatened by the Assyrians.

4.    It is important to note that the LORD identified Himself to King Hezekiah as “the God of David, thy father” (38:5).  This refers to the covenant that the Lord made to King David.

5.    Second Samuel 7:16 says, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”

6.    But if King Hezekiah was to die without an heir, the Davidic dynasty would come to an end, God’s covenant with David would be abrogated, and the Messianic line would be cut off.

7.    We know from Matthew 1:10 that our Lord was descended from King Hezekiah through his son Manasseh.  But Manasseh had not been born yet.

8.    Hezekiah was given a sign to confirm his answered prayer.  The Lord offered him a choice as to whether the shadow on his sundial would miraculously go backward or forward (cf. II Kings 20:9).

9.    King Hezekiah asked that it go backward.  This was a greater miracle (Isa. 38:7, 8).

10. The sundial is referred to as “the sun dial of Ahaz” (38:8), perhaps because King Ahaz (Hezekiah’s father) brought it back from a trip to Damascus.

11. Second Chronicles 32:31 refers to this miracle as “the wonder that was done in the land,” suggesting that the miracle was a local miracle not seen in Babylon or the other surrounding countries.

12. King Hezekiah was a godly man and so God answered his prayer – which brings us to my final point.



1.    King Hezekiah was a saved man (Isa. 38:17).  His mortal sickness dramatically connects sin with sickness and death (cf. 33:24; Matt. 8:16, 17).  Start in the book of Genesis and you can trace it all through the Bible – sin brought sickness and death into the world.

2.    “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

3.    “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  “The wages of sin is death.”

4.    “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

5.    It was the love of God that delivered Hezekiah’s soul “from the pit of corruption” (Isa. 38:17).  This love was demonstrated at the cross (John 3:16).

6.    “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

7.    King Hezekiah looked forward to the cross, as we look back to the cross as the basis for our redemption (cf. Isa. 53:3-6).

8.    King Hezekiah rejoiced that the LORD had cast all his sins behind His back (Isa. 38:17).  Thank God, the Bible tells us that God “in love” forgives our sins, and pardons our sins, and cleanses us from the very stain of sin. 

9.    Micah 7:19 says, God casts all our sins into the depths of the sea.

10. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.”

11. Hebrews 10:17 says, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

12. King Hezekiah did not have the New Testament. King Hezekiah lived 700 years before the cross. But King Hezekiah understood this much – that when God saves us from sin, He literally goes down “in love” to the very pit of corruption and He delivers our soul, and cleanses our soul, and purifies it.

13. And then He takes all our wicked sins and puts them in a place where no one can ever see them – “for Thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (Isa. 38:17b).



1.    I will conclude with one more quote from Spurgeon. “When a man casts his sins behind his back God will put them before his face; but when in penitence a believer sets his sins before his own face to mourn over them, then the Lord in mercy declares that He will cast them behind His back.”

2.    If you were in the same situation as King Hezekiah, what would you do?

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