Life beyond this? Many of the ancient creation myths are built around the search for immortality. Is there a tree of life or a god who can bring unending life? It’s a yearning we have too.
In our reading for today from Isaiah, Hezekiah, king of Judea, has no high hope when he’s suddenly told he’s going to die, even as he’s engaged in crucial negotiations for his people.
“In the noontime of life I must depart! To the gates of the nether world I shall be consigned for the rest of my years. I shall see the LORD no more in the land of the living. No longer shall I behold my fellow men among those who dwell in the world.” (Isaiah 38)
All he manages to see are dark days ahead, somewhere below, “no more in the land of the living.” Though he wins a temporary reprieve from the God of life, it’s only for 15 years.
In our reading for Thursday from Isaiah, the prophet promises more than a dark pit after death. Humanity cries out in God’s presence like “a woman about to give birth, writhing and crying out in her pains… We conceived and writhed in pain, giving birth to the wind; salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.” Our life dreams are thwarted.
Isaiah follows that stark description of human efforts– a woman in labor, giving birth to the wind– with these words:
“But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise;
awake and sing, you who lie in the dust.
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the land of shades gives birth.” (Isaiah 26, 16-19)
The prophet Isaiah does more than call for social justice and a just society. His vision of God prompts him to promise the people life beyond this.