(1) At that time the king of Babylon, Merodach-Baladan, son of Baladan, sent messengers with a gift for Hezekiah, because he heard that he had been sick, and had recovered. (2) Hezekiah was delighted about their visit, and he should them his treasure-house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine oil, in fact, everything he had stored up, and everything that was in his treasuries. There was nothing that Hezekiah didn’t show them in his palace or in his kingdom.
(3) Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did these men say, and where did they come from?”
Hezekiah said, “They came to me from a distant land, from Babylon!”
(4) But he asked, “What have they seen in your house?”
“They have seen everything that is in my house. There is nothing that I have not shown them in my treasuries.”
(5) Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Here the word of YHWH of Hosts:
(6) ‘Take note! Days are coming when everything that is in your house will be carried away to Babylon, along with the things your ancestors have stored up through the present. Nothing will remain,’ says YHWH.
(7) ‘And some among your descendants that you will father will be taken and will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.'”
(8) And Hezekiah said, “YHWH’s word that you have spoken is good.” Then he said, “Because there will be peace and stability in my time.” — Isaiah 39:1-8
Isaiah 39 is a chapter that turns a corner in the book of Isaiah. Up to this time we have heard about future disasters and future deliverance. Chapter 39 gives us the final look as Hezekiah is told that some of his descendants will serve in the court of Babylon, and all his treasures will be taken. Between this chapter and the next there’s a sharp dividing line. In chapter 40, the viewpoint is from the exile in Babylon with God saying, â€œEnough! It’s time to go home!â€
But chapter 39 is of critical importance, because it told the Israelites why they were in Babylon in the first place. It’s only eight verses, and I’ve quoted them all. The story is simple. Hezekiah was healed of an illness, and on hearing of that healing, the king of Babylon sends messengers. Hezekiah is delighted that he has come to the attention of this distant king, another enemy of the Assyrians, and he goes all out to get their attention and their alliance.
When we read this story, we tend to think what a bad idea it was to show off all his treasures, that this might make the Babylonians jealous so they would want to come and take them. But the reality is that Hezekiah clearly wanted to impress these envoys with his value as an ally so that he could get them to ally themselves with him against the Assyrians.
So get the picture here. In the previous chapter, Hezekiah was healed of a disease and given a marvelous sign by God (chapter 38). He has just been rescued from the Assyrians by divine intervention (chapters 36-37). Yet the main opportunity he sees when the messengers from Babylon show up is that he might get their support against the Assyrians.
That is the context of Isaiah’s question: What have they seen in your house?
I’m going to write at least one more devotional from this chapter, but today I just want each of us to focus on that question. Your â€œhouseâ€ can be your business, your office at work, your home, your church, or anything else that you steward. When someone from far away comes to your â€œhouse,â€ what do they see? Do they see a person saved by grace and empowered by God, or do they seem someone looking anxiously for an advantage? Do they encounter God’s power in your church, or do they see people playing games?
What do they see in your house?