Isaiah 39:1-2 (ESV)
At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. And Hezekiah welcomed them gladly. And he showed them his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.
This is a troubling chapter to me. After crying out to the Lord and being healed, Hezekiah makes a grave error in judgment with the Babylonian king. Worse still, in my mind, is Hezekiah’s response. Isaiah tells him that because of his actions, there will be a day when Babylon will take away everything and make Hezekiah’s sons eunuch’s in the Babylonian court. Hezekiah’s response? “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’” (Is 39:8). He does not seem to have concern for anyone but himself. “Terrible things are coming? Oh well, as long as they are not in my day, it’s all good.”
A while back I had a conversation with someone who described two different churches. One church is in Brooklyn. It was planted fourteen years ago. It costs them thousands of dollars a month to rent a small place to meet. After fourteen years they have just over a dozen people attending, many of who are not yet believers. The other church is in rural Wisconsin. In its short life it has purchased land, built a large building, is debt free, and has hundreds of people attending. Which church is in more danger?
Like Hezekiah, the church in the most dangerous position is likely the church in Wisconsin. They can easily be tempted to think they have it all figured out. Based on their success, they might even write a book about how to plant churches. The church in Brooklyn knows their dependence on God. The church in Wisconsin is likely to forget that truth. Sickness drove Hezekiah to grief and prayer. Health led him to poor judgment. Sometimes our pain is a blessing. It is a constant reminder of our need for God. Sometimes what we call God’s blessings easily become stumbling blocks. They tempt us to think we have it all figured out. “Thanks God! We’ve got it from here.” That is always a dangerous place to be.
Hezekiah’s real problem, though, was not sickness or healing. It was selfishness. When he was sick, his prayer was not for his people, but for himself. When he was healed, his concern was not the glory of God, but his own glory which he showed off to the king of Babylon. When he was warned by Isaiah, his concern was not for his children, but for his own personal peace. He had fifteen years ahead of him, and nothing bad was going to happen until after he was gone. He could live with that.
Whether in despair or delight, too often our focus is on us. I mentioned two churches earlier. The truth is that either church is in danger if they take their eyes off Christ. If the church in Brooklyn starts comparing themselves to other churches it could easily lead to despair. If the church in Wisconsin delights in their success instead of delighting in the Lord it could lead to pride, apathy, or division. Self-focus never leads to the glory of God.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace
Helen Howarth Lemmel