1 In those days Hezekiah was stricken with a terminal illness. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz visited him and told him, “This is what Yahveh says, ‘Give instructions to your household, for you are going to die; you will not get better.'” 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to Yahveh, 3 “Please, Yahveh. Remember how I have served you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion, and how I have carried out your desire.” Then Hezekiah wept bitterly. 4 Yahveh told Isaiah, 5 “Go and tell Hezekiah: ‘This is what Yahveh, God of your ancestor David says: “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Watch, I will add fifteen years to your life, 6 and rescue you and this city from the king of Assyria. I will shield this city.”‘” 7 Isaiah replied, “This is your sign from Yahveh confirming that Yahveh will do what he has said: 8 Watch, I will make the shadow go back ten steps on the stairs of Ahaz.” And then the shadow went back ten steps. 9 This is the prayer of King Hezekiah of Judah when he had gotten sick and then recovered from his illness: 10 “I thought, ‘In the middle of my life I must walk through the gates of Sheol, I am deprived of the rest of my years.’ 11 “I thought, ‘I will no longer see Yahveh in the land of the living, nor will I any longer see mankind along with the inhabitants of the world. 12 My dwelling place is removed and taken away from me like a shepherd’s tent. I rolled up my life like a weaver rolls cloth; from the loom he cuts me off. You turn day into night and end my life. 13 I cry out until morning; like a lion he shatters all my bones; you turn day into night and end my life. 14 Like a swallow or a thrush I chirp, I coo like a dove; my eyes grow tired from looking up to the sky. O sovereign master, I am oppressed; help me! 15 What can I say? He has decreed and acted. I will walk slowly all my years because I am overcome with grief. 16 O sovereign master, your decrees can give men life; may years of life be restored to me. Restore my health and preserve my life.’ 17 “Watch, the grief I experienced was for my benefit. You delivered me from the pit of oblivion. For you removed all my sins from your sight. 18 Indeed Sheol does not give you thanks; death does not praise you. Those who descend into the pit do not anticipate your faithfulness. 19 The living one, the living one, he gives you thanks, as I am doing today. A father tells his sons about your faithfulness. 20 Yahveh is about to deliver me, and we will celebrate with music for the rest of our lives in the Yahveh’s temple.” 21 Isaiah ordered, “Let them take a fig cake and apply it to the skin blister and he will get better.” 22 Hezekiah asked, “What is the confirming sign that I will go up to the Yahveh’s temple?”
walking through death’s gates
Hezekiah was not known for his consistency. But his illness had taken him close to death. He called it walking through the gates of Sheol (10). He was probably 39 when he was taken ill, and expected to die at middle age. He reflected on the fact that his tent was going to be taken from him, and he would not see the LORD in the land of the living (11-12). He pleaded with God to restore his life, and the LORD did just that. He thanks the LORD for teaching him what is really important through the experience. He resolved that he and his children would worship the LORD all the days of their lives (19-20).
LORD, give us the wisdom to make our relationship with you a priority. May we not have to be at death’s door before we think about you.