“O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit: so wilt thou recover me, and make me to live.” – Isaiah 38:16
In order to understand what the things are by which men live we must know the conditions under which these words were spoken. Hezekiah was one of the good and faithful kings of Judah, Israel’s southern kingdom. The northern kingdom had fallen hopelessly into idolatry, and had been carried captive to Assyria, never to return; and the southern kingdom, the kingdom of Judah, had been almost as unfaithful. Under Ahaz, Hezekiah’s father, the worship of the Lord had largely given place to the worship of idols, and the holy temple had become defiled. Hezekiah destroyed the idols. He even destroyed the brazen serpent, which had been preserved for seven hundred years or from the time of Israeli’s sojourn in the wilderness, because the people were now making an idol of that. He restored and rededicated the polluted temple, and reestablished worship of the one God. He smote the Philistines, Israel’s ancient foe. He did other great works and brought back to the nation something of its ancient glory and power. But in the midst of this achievement and at the height of his power he was smitten with disease, and the prophet Isaiah, his counsellor and friend, was sent to him by the Lord to tell him that he would not recover, but would die.