Isaiah 38 – Life Here or Beyond?

A friend of mine questioned why¬†Hezekiah would have prayed to have years added to his life when the end of this life means going on to life with Christ in Heaven. I agree: Why wait? The sooner the better, right?¬†The Apostle in Phil. 1:20-24 seems to agree. Unfortunately Hezekiah didn’t have the NT to help him see the glory of life with Christ though – he saw things as he prays in Is. 38:17b-19a:

You saved my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast behind Your back all my offenses. For it is not Sheol that praises You, not the Land of Death that extols You; nor do they who descend into the Pit hope for Your grace. The living, only the living can give thanks to You as I do this day…
Hezekiah seems to break with Isaiah’s belief in an afterlife here, or at least to believe that only torment awaited him there.

Hezekiah speaks of salvation in military terms, as when the city is saved from an advancing army. In that view, salvation equals not dying.

Also, the JSB notes that the story of Hezekiah’s illness predates the story of the Rabshakeh’s siege of Jerusalem by at least a decade. The 15 years added to Hezekiah’s life allowed him to be king during this extremely stressful event. Perhaps by the end of it he was wondering if he made the right choice asking for more years! Then again, he did get to see the miraculous salvation of Jerusalem in the end…

The commentators in the JSB repeatedly point out Isaiah’s belief that Zion shall never fall and David shall always have an heir on the throne. Each of the passages they’ve mentioned, though, seemed to leave room for alternate interpretations. 32:17, though, has me thinking that at the very least Isaiah’s prophecies are meant to reach only through the short-term, the Assyrian invasion. When Babylon ultimately came and decimated Jerusalem, the remnant did not come forth from the Holy City, they returned to Zion from Babylon.