Historical Division
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 38, as we meditate together on a section of the book that we have referred to as a historical portion of the book of Isaiah. We have been studying the book of Isaiah chapter by chapter on the basis of the natural divisions of the book, placed there by the Holy Spirit. We learned that the section that we refer to as a historical interlude began with chapter 36 and concludes with chapter 39. It describes the actual history which forms the basis of some of the prophecy which Isaiah made.

We pointed out to you that it formed a transition period, because in the first part of the book of Isaiah, Assyria was the normal, natural, stalwart enemy of the people of Israel. In the last part of the book of Isaiah, Babylon becomes the natural, normal, enemy of the people of Israel, and we need to know how Assyria faded into the limbo of the past and how Babylon emerged into the glory of the present.

We learned by looking at chapters 36-37 that when Sennacherib the Assyrian came up outside the walls of Jerusalem, Hezekiah the king laid the matter before the LORD. The LORD sent word through the prophet Isaiah, “You don't have a thing to worry about. I am going to take care of the situation. Sennacherib will hear a rumor that an attack is being made upon his country, and he will turn around and go home. When he gets home, someone will stab him to death, because he will come home a defeated conqueror. I will not only send him home, I will breathe upon his army, and they will die in the very place they have encamped outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem.”

Here in chapters 38-39, we are going to be introduced to a personal experience in the life of Isaiah that occurred right at this particular time. This personal experience which occurred in the life of Isaiah is crammed full of lessons about a number of different things, but I think we will have time only to touch on them in this lesson. We won't have time to examine them in detail, for it would take a whole study for each one of these lessons that we are going to suggest to you. We are going to mention them and trust that the Spirit of God will interest your own heart enough to pursue the study through them and learn more about these things for yourself.

Hezekiah's Terminal Illness

A few simple, historical facts upon which we are going to base the lessons which we will draw from this chapter are suggested to us by two verses in chapter 38. Notice the first statement in verse 1:

Isaiah 38

1In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death…

That is nothing too unusual. A lot of people get sick, and a lot of people get sick with what is referred to as a terminal disease, a disease that will eventually result in death. Hezekiah was just that sick. We don't know exactly what was wrong with him, but if we look down at verse 21 of this same chapter, we see that it was an infection of some kind that was going to bring about his death. In verse 21, we read:

Isaiah 38

21For Isaiah had said, Let them take a lump of figs, and lay it for a plaister upon the boil, and he shall recover.

He had a boil that was going to terminate in his death. Notice the last part of verse 1, for in that last part we are going to notice that God sent His prophet-physician. Prophets in those days did practice to some extent the art of being a physician. Verse 1:

Isaiah 38

1…Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came unto him, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.

He gave him this message three days before death was supposed to occur. It was not very much time to set your house in order, but that was the message which Isaiah gave, and these few facts are the basis of the lessons that I will trust we will be able to learn from this particular chapter.

The Reality of Divine Healing

The first lesson that I would like to emphasize is—listen carefully—divine healing. Do you believe in divine healing? Do you believe that God is able to heal? I believe that most of you do, but listen carefully to what I am going to say. Divine healing can be by the aid of human means. Divine healing can be by the aid of human means. Why do I say that? Why is that a lesson that needs to be learned?

I am going to ask you to turn to II Kings, chapter 20. We are going to notice a little additional information related to the story that we are thinking about today. Why do I say that we need to learn the lesson that divine healing can be by human means? Because there is a feeling on the part of some people that unless God has healed you without the aid of human effort, there is no miracle involved. I want to tell you, by way of personal testimony, that I have experienced both kinds of miraculous healing.

I remember a number of years ago, the doctor came into my home and he said, “You might as well set your house in order, because as far as we can tell, humanly speaking, this is the end. Thank God, I had found Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and I believed in prayer. I said to the doctor, “There isn't anything that you can do?” He said, “Nothing. As far as I know, you are in God's hands now.” I said, “Well, I have always been, but you mean that unless God intervenes, there is no hope?” He said, “That is what I mean.”

I asked my family to call for three old gentlemen whom I had met who believed in prayer. When I say old gentlemen , I say that respectfully, because the Bible says, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if that hoary head knows the Lord.” These gentlemen were all silver-haired. They came to my bedside, and they read James, chapter 5. They annointed me with a little bit of olive oil that you can find in any grocery store, and they prayed over me and asked God for His will to be done.

The doctor didn't come back for a week. He called and wanted to know how things were going, and my Mother (I was not married at the time) said, “I don't know what to say. He looks better, and he feels better.” At the end of the week the doctor came by and he said, “It's a puzzle to me, but I guess you might as well get up.” I got up, and I kept going in the strength of that restoration, and I give God the glory. I kept going in the strength of that restoration for thirty years, and as far as I know, human hands had nothing to do with it.

Human Instruments In Divine Healing

However, I have also experienced divine healing by human effort. I will not go into the details, because most of you are familiar with this. In September, two years ago, I came face to face with death, and with human effort, God worked a miracle and restored me to health and strength. Somebody said, “Oh, that wasn't a miracle. That is what doctors and medicine did.” Is that so? Well, listen to what God says here in II Kings, chapter 20, verse 5:

II Kings 20

5Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD.

Get the picture. Here is a man on his deathbed, and God says to him, “I am going to heal you. Three days from now you will be going to church.” If you were on your deathbed and you got a promise from God like that, wouldn't you believe that God was going to perform a miracle? Of course, you would. What would you expect to do? If you were like some folk who believe that there are no miracles unless it is without the aid of human effort, you would depend solely on prayer. You would seek no physical help of any kind, and you would wait until God did something. I want to say this kindly, but you might be disappointed, because God might choose not to work in this particular instance without the aid of human effort.

That is what I did. I walked out of here one Sunday morning two years ago, to keep from being carried out, because I felt this heart-failure coming on, and I thought it would be less of a shock to everybody if I walked out. When the doctor came to my home, he said there is nothing that can save your life but immediate surgery. I said to him, “Let's wait.” He said, “Why do you want to wait?” I said, “I want to give God a chance to heal me if He is pleased to, without the aid of human effort.” He said, “Well, it is your life, but I think that you are foolish.” I waited two weeks. I literally crawled on my hands and knees up the stairs to broadcast the radio program. At the end of those two weeks, I had another attack, and God spoke as definitely to me, as far as impression is concerned, as I am speaking to you, “You have no choice. I am not going to raise you up like I did before. You go to Houston, and whatever you are told to do down there, you do it.”

Look at verse 7:

II Kings 20

7And Isaiah said, Take a lump of figs. And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.

I don't know anything about the medicinal properties of a lump of figs, and I don't know anything about the boil that Hezekiah had, but I do know that Hezekiah knew that God was going to heal him, because in verse 8:

II Kings 20

8And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah, What shall be the sign that the LORD will heal me, and that I shall go up into the house of the LORD the third day?

There was no question in his mind as to who healed him. When they saw Hezekiah at church three days later, they said, “Hezekiah, I thought you were about to die three days ago.” He didn't say, “Well, I was, but I found a good hospital and a good doctor.” Thank God for good hospitals and good doctors, but what did he say? He said, “The LORD healed me.” They said, “How did He heal you?” He said, “I don't really know, but Isaiah came and told me what to do and it worked.” You see, he gave God the glory.

Beloved, I want to remind you today, in the midst of this hour of confusion, that God's children will get sick and that God can heal them without aid of human effort, if it pleases Him to do it, or he can use human effort as it pleases Him, and you had better not get too uppity with God telling Him how to do it. You had better seek His wisdom and His will and follow accordingly.

The Length of Man's Days

I would like for you to look at another lesson that comes to mind as we turn back to Isaiah, chapter 38. I want you to listen closely as I state this lesson, because it may sound a little bit strange to you. Another lesson is that the days of a man's life—the length of his days, how long he lives—is related to God's plan for him. What am I saying? I am saying that God has a plan for every individual life, and God knows ahead of time how many days he has allotted for each individual person. God knows that, and Hezekiah realized that truth. Look with me at Isaiah, chapter 38, verse 12, where we read:

Isaiah 38

12Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent…

This is a written testimony that he made after he had been healed. He was talking about how he felt while he lay on his deathbed. He said, “You know, I feel like I am having to fold up my tent before my camping trip is over.” Then he said:

Isaiah 38

12…I have cut off like a weaver my life…

“Lord, I feel like a man who is weaving a piece of cloth, and before the cloth is completed I have to take it off the loom in an unfinished condition. I don't feel like I am living out my days.”

Of course, the normal reaction to such a suggestion as this is, “Well, nobody feels like they have lived out all their life. Hezekiah was forty-eight years of age when this happened, and of course he felt like he was living, normally speaking, about half the life span, but I want you to notice with me a passage of Scripture that should help us to realize that God has appointed the number of days that He has in mind for an individual to live. Turn to Psalm 90. This Psalm makes a statement about life in verse 10. Moses wrote it, and he says:

Psalm 90

10The 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.

Moses is not saying that everybody would live until they were eighty years old, nor was he saying that nobody would live past the age of eighty. Keep in mind the man who said this. Remember how old he was when he died. Remember how many people live less than this; remember how many people live longer than this. Notice verse 11:

Psalm 90

11Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
12[This is the verse I want you to have] So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Literally, it is, “Teach us to number the days allotted to us, that we may use each one of them wisely.” We don't know how many days are allotted to us, for that is the mercy of God. If you knew you were going to die ten days from now, you would be applying your heart to wisdom. You would be counting each day, and you would be living under a great deal of stress. “Lord, teach us to use wisely the days which are allotted to us.”

God Numbers Our Days

Turn now to Psalm 139. There are other Scriptures we could give you, but we are not going to. We are not going to dwell too long on any one of these, and that is a hard thing for me to do. Notice, verse 15:

Psalm 139

15My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

This particular portion of this Psalm is talking about the formation of the baby in the womb of its mother by the hand of God. You will notice in verse 16 that the words my members , and the word which are in italics, which means they are not in the original text. They were placed there by the translators because the translators felt that that might help you understand the verse. In some instances it does, and in some instances it doesn't, and I think that this is one instance in which it does not.

Let me suggest, as you look at the latter part of verse 16, which begins with, “and in thy book all my members were written,” a translation from the Amplified version of the Old Testament, that translates it exactly as it should be translated. It says, “And in your book all the days of my life were written before they ever took shape, when as yet there was none of them.” Putting that very simply, it says that God has written down the number of days in which every individual man will live, and those days vary.

Here is a baby who dies while it is still an infant in arms. I'm not talking about the cause, at the moment; I'm talking about the allotted number of days. Somebody says, “What a tragedy! How sad it is that baby didn't live his full life.” How do you know he didn't live his full life? How do you know that it wasn't in the plan of God for that little one to live no longer than three weeks, six months, or whatever? Who are you to know how many days God had allotted for that individual?

Here is a young man or a young woman in the full bloom of youth, and they are taken out of this life, and everybody says, “Oh, what a tragedy! How sad it is that they weren't able to live all their life!” How do you know they didn't? How do you know but what God planned it that way? You say, “God wouldn't plan a horrible thing like death.” Where did you get the idea that death was horrible? That is our selfish human flesh that feels that way about it. If the individual knows the Lord and is in the center of God's will, you can be sure unless for the reasons that I am going to give later, God is pleased to interrupt the course of nature, they are going to live out their days. To be with Christ, if the Bible is true, is far better.

Why do we think death is so horrible? Well, of course, we love one another, don't we? We don't want to live without one another. But if someone goes into the presence of the Lord, could any of us be so selfish as to wish that they were here to undergo what some of us may have to undergo before life is over? I say to you, on the authority of the Word of God, and I believe it, that God has allotted a certain number of days to each individual, though they are not all the same.

When the Numbered Days Are Shortened

Listen carefully to what I am going to say. These days can be interrupted or extended as God sees fit. May I suggest to you that these days may be interrupted because of sin. Sometimes God gets tired of reasoning with people. Sometimes God gets tired of seeing His name brought into disrepute. Sometimes God gets weary of having to explain the disobedience of His children, and because He gets weary, He sometimes takes His child home. He says, “I have had enough now. I've reasoned with you. I've talked with you, and I've begged you. I have done everything that I know how to do, and I'm not going to leave you on the earth one moment longer to bring any more reproach upon My name.” Look at I John, chapter 5, verse 14:

I John 5

14And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us [this is a precious prayer promise] :
15And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

If we ask anything according to His will, he hears us. If He hears us, then we know that He is going to do what we ask Him to do. This is a wonderful promise, but God said, “There are a few things that you need to keep in mind.” Look at verse 16:

I John 5

16If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death…

Here is a brother who is ill. He is going to die. Pray for him. God will restore him to life, if he hasn't reached that place where God says, “I have had all that I am going to take.” Now, in the latter part of verse 16:

I John 5

16…There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

He is saying, “There is a man who is sick. Pray for him. I will heal him if it is according to my will, but if this individual has sinned the sin unto death, don't bother to pray for him, because I am going to take him home.”

Listen carefully. Don't misquote me. I didn't say that everybody who dies, dies because they have sinned and God wants to take them home to Heaven. I didn't say that. I simply said that one of the reasons that God interrupts the allotted number of days for an individual is because the individual has sinned and sinned, and God says, “I am not going to stand for a continual disobedience any longer. I am going to take this child home.”

May I suggest another reason that God interrupts the number of days allotted to men. It is because He can look off into the future and He can see something that is going to happen that He wishes to spare them. God is omniscient. He knows the end from the beginning. Way off in the future He sees something that is going to occur, and He wants to spare us that particular thing, or He doesn't want it to happen, so He interrupts the course of days and takes the individual home to Heaven.

I would like to suggest to you that this is what happened to Hezekiah. I would like to suggest to you, on the basis of what is found in the Scripture, that God, in His omniscience, knew that it was better to take Hezekiah at the age of 48 than to let him live fifteen years longer, which would have been the span of his allotted days.

Hezekiah's Testimony

There are several reasons I say that. Why did Hezekiah want to live? You say, “Nobody wants to die.” In a sense that is true, but if you will look down at Isaiah, chapter 38, verse 18, you will notice Hezekiah's testimony after his experience:

Isaiah 38

18For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
19The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: [notice this statement very carefully] the father to the children shall make known thy truth.

What was he saying? “LORD, let me live. Let me live that I may teach my children Thy truth, and they may live to praise Thee.” Are you familiar with the history of Hezekiah? If you are, you will know that at the time God said, “Set thy house in order. Thou shalt die and not live,” he did not have one son. That was why he wanted to live. He wanted his life to continue through the lives of his children. Most parents do. I don't mean by that that they want to run the lives of their children, but they like to know that their life and their testimony is going to continue through children that have been trained in the things of the LORD. Hezekiah said, “God, let me live. Let me live until I have a son and until I can train him in the things of the LORD.”

Prayer At the Direction of the Holy Spirit

Another reason I know that God extended Hezekiah's days against His better judgment, another reason that I know that God wanted Hezekiah to die at that particular moment because of what the future held, is what He says in Isaiah, chapter 38, in II Kings, chapter 19, in II Chronicles, chapter 32. In every instance he said, “I have seen thy tears.”

Now Hezekiah presented a plausible argument to God, and God said, “I'm not interested in what you have to say, but by your crying, your begging, your pleading, against my better judgment, I am going to let you live.” You say, “Does God do that?” Yes, that is the reason, Beloved—perhaps this might be another lesson for you to learn—you and I need to be careful how we pray. We need to be careful that we don't try to make our will God's will for our lives, as a great many people do. They get so centered on what they want—I say this reverently—that they wart God to such an extent that God lets them have their way.

Psalm 106, verse 15, says, concerning the nation of Israel:

Psalm 106

15And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

They warted Him and warted Him, and He said, “All right,” but they were sorry they made the request.

I say, for the comfort of some of you who may be disturbed, that you don't need to be unduly alarmed. You may be saying, “How will I know whether I am praying for God's will or forcing my will upon Him?” The answer is found in your relation to the Holy Spirit. You are told to walk in the Spirit, and if you walk in the Spirit, you won't fulfill the lust of the flesh. You are told that if you walk in the Spirit, you can pray in the Spirit, and the Spirit of God will direct your request, and you won't need to worry about praying for something that is out of the will of God, if you pray at the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Hezekiah's Bitter Harvest

Look at II Chronicles, chapter 32, verse 24, as I suggest to you another reason I believe that God knew what was best, another reason I believe that God interrupted the life of Hezekiah—because He knew what the next fifteen years would be like. In verse 24, we read:

II Chronicles 32

24In those days Hezekiah was sick to the death, and prayed unto the LORD: and he spake unto him, and he gave him a sign.
25[Notice verse 25] But Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him; for his heart was lifted up: therefore there was wrath upon him, [notice the sad words] and upon Judah and Jerusalem.

In those first forty-eight years of the life of Hezekiah he was a humble man, but in those last fifteen years he was filled with pride, and he forgot God. He did what he wanted to do, and he brought the wrath of God not only down upon himself, but upon everybody whom he loved.

Tell me, wouldn't it have been better for him to go home to Heaven at the age of forty-eight, than to live fifteen years longer and bring reproach upon the name of God? Look at verse 31:

II Chronicles 32

31Howbeit in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.

The implication of this verse is that God said, “Hezekiah, I know what is in your heart. The emissaries from Babylon are going to come to see you, and I know what you are going to do. You are not going to tell them about Me, and you are not going to try to lead them into a relationship with Me. You are going to take them down into the treasure houses of your palace.” (Read Isaiah, chapter 39, when you have time) “You are going to show them all of your wealth, and you are going to let them in on all the secrets of your defenses, and when they have gleaned all of this from you, then they are going to make an attack upon Israel, and they are going to carry your people away captive into Babylon. I know that Hezekiah, but you won't believe it, so I am going to leave you, to try you, that you might know what is in your heart. I know what is there, but I am going to have to prove it to you.”

Did you notice how verse 25 began? “Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefits that were done to him.” He didn't use those fifteen years for God. He used them for himself. That is why God knew that it would have been better to take him instead of extending his days.

The constant prayer in my heart since I have been restored to health, because I believe that I have, is, “Oh God, help me to render to you according to the benefits that You have done to me.” That is the constant prayer of my heart. That is the reason that I feel a compulsion that almost eats me up to spend every available minute getting out the Word of God. I believe that God restored me for that purpose. I say this humbly before the Lord, but I feel that is the reason I feel guilty if I sit down for a minute. I want to render unto God according to the benefit that He rendered unto me.

During those fifteen years Manasseh was born. During those fifteen years Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh. Do you know anything about him? He wasn't saved until he was sixty-five years of age, and do you know that he was the most wicked king that Israel ever knew, Ahaz notwithstanding? Do you know what Manasseh did? He took Isaiah, the close friend of Hezekiah, and he took a wooden saw and he put Isaiah's body on the block and sawed him in two with a wooden saw.

Conclusion

Now, tell me, do you think that God knows best? Do you think it would have been better for God to have taken Hezekiah home at the age of forty-eight than to let him live those fifteen years and have those bad things occur? I believe, Beloved, we would be better off, no matter how disappointing it might seem to us at the moment, whether it is related to things of life or things of death, to say, “Have Thy way, Lord.” Thus, with all my heart I say, “Have Thy way.”


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