“Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.” Isaiah 38:5
When Hezekiah was terminally ill, he prayed, and God responded by adding 15 years to his life. This prayer is natural and normal. We all would pray in this way and be grateful to God for any healing that He provides. However, we have a great advantage over Hezekiah. He feared “going down to the pit,” (Isa. 38:18), or Sheol, the hopeless place where all the dead were consigned to a kind of shadowy half-life. He wanted to live because of the dread afterlife he faced.
Hezekiah knew in part, and so do we, but our part is far clearer. In the full revelation of Scripture, we understand that heaven awaits those who live by faith. The difference this makes in our lives is tremendous. If we are sick we still pray for healing. If our disease is terminal we still pray for life to be extended. We should pray like this.
However, we have a different and more complete hope. When Paul faced the possibility of death, he expressed an extraordinary hopefulness. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Phil. 1:21). Paul went on to confess that he was hard pressed to choose between the two. Life here offered him rich blessings. Life in heaven offered even richer blessings. Hezekiah would never have seen death as a gain. Paul did, and so can you.
This hope of heaven enriches every aspect of life by glorifying and dignifying every human being and equally glorifying and dignifying every task. You were created to serve God. Now I say this reverently and with great appreciation for my life here, but whether I serve God here on earth or in heaven is as incidental as whether I serve God in Mobile or Houma or Murray or Baton Rouge, etc. The point is, we continue to serve God eternally.
Surely part of the latent dread we all have of death is a basic misapprehension of what eternity will be like. Serving God sounds to some Christians dreadfully menial and, frankly, somewhat boring. We are like “The Littlest Angel,” arriving in heaven and thinking there is no fun. I certainly do not have all the answers to this mystery, but I do know more than Hezekiah, and I do know that heaven is anything but boring.
How different heaven truly will be! The Westminster Shorter Catechism states that our chief aim is to glorify (or serve) God and to enjoy Him forever. God bless our English ancestors for this wonderful insight! You are created to enjoy God, literally to enter into His joy. Service, whether here or in heaven, is not drudgery but the fullest expression of your joyful purpose. Grace transforms your obedience into longing. So you serve not because you must, but because you long to. Heaven is the fullest answer to your deepest longing.
Hezekiah simply did not understand any of this, and could not with the revelation available to him. You have the revelation of a place prepared for you by the Savior! “What no eye has seen nor ear heard, nor the heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Even in the brighter and clearer revelation of Christ you still know in part, but you do know what Hezekiah did not: you do not have to be a king in order to wear a crown.
Serving God is a joyful opportunity whatever your daily tasks might be, and wherever you might be doing them. When you face the dark valley, or when you watch a loved one depart, let any tears be tempered by the sure and certain knowledge that living and serving God will not be interrupted. Only the place of service will be changed.
So if God grants you another 15 or 50 years enjoy the service here, and look forward to an even brighter dawn. You can rest assured now and every day that you were created to serve God eternally.
Dr. Terry Ellis
July 31, 2011