In the prime of my life must I go through the gates of death and be robbed of the rest of my years? For the grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise. The living, the living – they praise you as I am doing today. Isaiah 38:10,18
Hezekiah voiced one of the great cries of the human heart. Is everything simply going to fade and go to waste? Is death the end? Literature is full of this deep sense of futility. From Euripides,‘…and so we are sick for life, and cling
On earth to this nameless and shining thing.
For other life is a fountain sealed,
And the deeps below us are unrevealed
And we drift on legends for ever’, to Bertrand Russell, ‘There is darkness without and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendour no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment and then nothing.’ Paul, however, 450 years after Euripides and 1900 before Russell, wrote with the certainty of one who had met the risen Christ. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people the most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). We would not be human if we were not sometimes assailed by fear of death and uncertainty of what is beyond. Then I find that I cling not so much to Paul’s powerful rhetoric, but to the picture of Jesus, waiting beside the lake for the disciples, raised from the dead but recognisably himself, cooking breakfast in the early morning. Hezekiah did not have our certainty. But, when he did reach heaven as a faithful servant of the living God, how great must have been his joy and surprise to join in the praises of his Saviour, a man like himself.