Isaiah 39:1-8 – Our actions have consequences

The reception of the Babylonian ambassadors reported here was part of Hezekiah’s programme of opposition against Assyria that precipitated Assyria’s attack on Judah in 701BC. The Babylonian ruler, Merodach-Baladan, had managed to secure Babylonian independence from Assyria but was aware that Sennacherib, the leader of Assyria, would be planning a counter-attack and, therefore, in 702BC, he sought to establish political unity with Judah as a key state in the Palestine region. The opportune time for such a visit from the Babylonian envoys presents itself in the form of a convalescing king.

No doubt with a measure of egotism and naivety Hezekiah shows the ambassadors “everything” (verse 4) in the royal palace. Such behaviour of courting the endorsement of a foreign power amounts to a betrayal of trust in God and a reliance on international diplomacy. Isaiah quickly brings a word of judgment anticipating the future exile of the citizens of Jerusalem at the hands of Babylon in the years to come when they overtake Assyria as the next superpower of the region. This prophecy concerning the Babylonian exile prepares us for the material in the second half of Isaiah concerning the promise of a return from Babylon.

It is sobering to see the consequences of Hezekiah’s actions here. Of course the exile that befalls the people of Jerusalem when they were taken to Babylon in years to come was not only due to this one man’s ungodly conduct; it was the culmination of consistent covenant unfaithfulness on the part of the wider community for year after year and decade after decade. Whether it is as individuals or as a nation, our decisions to go our own way rather than God’s way always have consequences. Let’s consider our own lives and be attentive to the Holy Spirit highlighting any areas where we are not actually making godly choices and let’s pray for our nation for God to convict leaders and citizens alike about the path of independence and pride that we seem to be on.

Prayer: Let’s take some time to reflect as suggested and allow Holy Spirit to highlight where our choices don’t line up with his. Let’s allow him to challenge us, remembering that our heavenly Father knows what is best for us. Where he has challenged let’s yield and obey. Make a note of what God asks and keep it in your bible to remind yourself.

Song: Jesus, lover of my soul