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A Bittersweet Hymn

Isaiah 38:17a
Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness.

Immediately after receiving Isaiah’s death-message, Hezekiah begs the Lord for more time and the Lord graciously responds by adding fifteen years to his life. So in verses 9-20, Hezekiah follows the muse of his forefather David and pours out a psalm of praise to God. But verse 17 is confusing, isn’t it? How can bitterness be beneficial to believers when it’s the direct result of an unbelieving heart? The NIV translation helps to clarify the issue: “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.” Ah, now that makes more sense. Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,” and Paul wrote in Romans 5:3b, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,” and Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 53:5b, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

So friend, today, even if you’re right in the thick of your own anguish, follow the example of your Lord in His passion, see through your own cross the everlasting welfare of Heaven, and sing your own song of praise to the Father.