I am beginning to notice that there are many parts of the Book of Isaiah that trouble my modern sensibilities. YHWH God is the master of a game of cosmic chess moving various pieces that represent the nations across the board in accordance with his will. YHWH God is depicted as in total control over world events which raises hope for the oppressed while scaring the oppressor. One part of me is troubled by this; one side rejoices.
One place where I am forced to scratch my head is Is. 38.1-39.8. In 38.1 we discover that Hezekiah is deathly ill. Isaiah informs him that it is time to get his “house in order”. He is going to die.
In 38.2-3 we find Hezekiah weeping bitterly before God. He is not ready to die. Suddenly, Isaiah hears God again in vv. 4-8 with a message for Hezekiah that he will live and God will protect Judah from Assyrian invasion.
This seems like an amazing miracle. In vv. 9-20 we have a beautiful prayer of Hezekiah as he thanks YHWH for saving him from Sheol. He decides to use his life to praise YHWH because if he would have died he would not have been able to do so.
Then it gets sad. In 39.1-2 Hezekiah receives some delegates from Babylon. He proudly shows them all of his estate. In vv. 3-4 Isaiah asks Hezekiah what he did and why. Suddenly, in vv. 5-7 we have Isaiah telling Hezekiah that this action will lead to Babylon coming to destroy Judah. Some day Hezekiah’s children will be carried away into captivity because Hezekiah has given Babylon a tour of the whole area and Babylon will know exactly how to take the city.
Hezekiah’s response? He was pleased to hear that there would be “peace and truth in my days.”
One would think God’s foresight would cause him to let Hezekiah die before he made such a grievous error that would lead to his legacy being damaged by the fact that it is partially his fault Judah would later be taken into the Babylonian exile!
Yet God answers Hezekiah’s prayer.
One cannot help but read the book of this prophet and sit in amazement at the theology that is conveyed. YHWH is the holy, wise, sovereign King of the cosmos. All his actions are good and right. At that, one can only worship. There is no capturing the mind of God.
Yet this makes me wonder aloud about our prayers. Can we pray the wrong thing? Is there any sense in which God answering our prayers is not necessarily good for us?