When we first realize that death comes to us all, to those we love and to our own selves, it can be a very emotional moment. We often don’t have warning or time to prepare, either for their death or our own. We respond with surprise, shock, anger, hurt, confusion and perhaps the bitterness that Hezekiah expresses. We might feel the deep lament that is present in the psalm – “In the noontime of life I must depart!” Almost always people feel that life has been too short, that there is more to be lived, that our dwelling has been struck down and borne away from us before we are ready. Even the elderly and feeble, and the terminally ill, find it hard to let go of the beauty of the known for the mystery of the unknown.
And yet the verse from Isaiah reminds us – “You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die.” This wondrous gift of the life we know transforms into something else, something unknown, something so different from what we now experience. Isaiah sees the Lord in the land of the living – he appreciates the presence of God in this world and all it entails. He beholds God in those who dwell in this world with him. He realizes that those the Lord protects will continue to live. And Isaiah knows that the life the Lord saves is the life of his spirit, the eternalness of his very being, the oneness with the Lord that only comes after transition from our physical lives to our spiritual ones.
Jesus teaches His disciples and the priests this lesson as well. He admonishes the priests that “something greater than the temple is here” – that is, that the gift He brings is God’s mercy, and the result of this forgiveness is eternal life with God.
And so my prayer today is for the grace to savor the life I live, the taste of fresh summer berries and warm sunshine, the smiles and joy of my wife and children and life companions, and also for the grace to hold these gifts lightly on my heart and not to cling to them with greed and bitterness, but with the gratitude that they come from the God who gives my spirit life and health and who will call me one day to a greater fullness than these present bounties can ever bring.
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