Time Spent in Death’s Waiting Room
1At that time, Hezekiah got sick. He was about to die. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz visited him and said, “God says, ‘Prepare your affairs and your family. This is it: You’re going to die. You’re not going to get well.’”
2-3Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah and, facing the wall, prayed to God: “God, please, I beg you: Remember how I’ve lived my life. I’ve lived faithfully in your presence, lived out of a heart that was totally yours. You’ve seen how I’ve lived, the good that I have done.” And Hezekiah wept as he prayed—painful tears.
4-6Then God told Isaiah, “Go and speak with Hezekiah. Give him this Message from me, God, the God of your ancestor David: ‘I’ve heard your prayer. I have seen your tears. Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll add fifteen years to your life. And I’ll save both you and this city from the king of Assyria. I have my hand on this city.
7-8“‘And this is your confirming sign, confirming that I, God, will do exactly what I have promised. Watch for this: As the sun goes down and the shadow lengthens on the sundial of Ahaz, I’m going to reverse the shadow ten notches on the dial.’” And that’s what happened: The declining sun’s shadow reversed ten notches on the dial.
* * *
9-15This is what Hezekiah king of Judah wrote after he’d been sick and then recovered from his sickness:
In the very prime of life
I have to leave.
Whatever time I have left
is spent in death’s waiting room.
No more glimpses of God
in the land of the living,
No more meetings with my neighbors,
no more rubbing shoulders with friends.
This body I inhabit is taken down
and packed away like a camper’s tent.
Like a weaver, I’ve rolled up the carpet of my life
as God cuts me free of the loom
And at day’s end sweeps up the scraps and pieces.
I cry for help until morning.
Like a lion, God pummels and pounds me,
relentlessly finishing me off.
I squawk like a doomed hen,
moan like a dove.
My eyes ache from looking up for help:
“Master, I’m in trouble! Get me out of this!”
But what’s the use? God himself gave me the word.
He’s done it to me.
I can’t sleep—
I’m that upset, that troubled.
16-19O Master, these are the conditions in which people live,
and yes, in these very conditions my spirit is still alive—
fully recovered with a fresh infusion of life!
It seems it was good for me
to go through all those troubles.
Throughout them all you held tight to my lifeline.
You never let me tumble over the edge into nothing.
But my sins you let go of,
threw them over your shoulder—good riddance!
The dead don’t thank you,
and choirs don’t sing praises from the morgue.
Those buried six feet under
don’t witness to your faithful ways.
It’s the living—live men, live women—who thank you,
just as I’m doing right now.
Parents give their children
full reports on your faithful ways.
* * *
20 God saves and will save me.
As fiddles and mandolins strike up the tunes,
We’ll sing, oh we’ll sing, sing,
for the rest of our lives in the Sanctuary of God.
21-22Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and put it on the boil so he may recover.”
Hezekiah had said, “What is my cue that it’s all right to enter again the Sanctuary of God?”