How big is your God? How well do you know him? How much are you like him? How ready are you to serve him?
Isaiah was a young preacher who lived in the southern kingdom of Judah in the 8th century BC. His remarkable statement in Isaiah 6:1,
“In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord,”
is more than a chronological date on the ancient calendar; it is a designation of political and spiritual circumstances in Isaiah’s homeland at the time.
Uzziah was one of the great kings of Judah. He reigned 52 years; longer than any other king of the southern kingdom. He died in 740 BC. His 52 year reign would be the equivalent of the United States having the same man at the helm as President from John F. Kennedy to Barak Obama.
It was a time of prosperity. A sagacious administrator, Uzziah conquered the Philistines toward the Mediterranean, the Ammorites to the South, and the Edomites in the Arabian desert. He improved the walls of Jerusalem. He built a port city on the gulf of Akabah and a number of storage cities in the southern deserts. He championed agriculture and increased the nation’s water supply by digging wells and developing aqueducts. He built the Israeli army to an elite force of 307,000 fighting men.
It was a time of uncertainty. To the north, Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria had begun to rattle his saber and threatened the northern kingdom Israel. In fact, it would be just a short 18 years before the Assyrians would swoop down and sack Samaria and Israel’s southern kingdom would be no more.
It was a time of superficiality. Uzziah did not destroy the “high places.” Some people would pay lip service in their temple worship then frequent these pagan altars with their idol worship.
All of this converged in the perfect storm “in the year that King Uzziah died.” In our context, it would be like saying: “In the year the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor; . . . . in the year President Kennedy was assassinated; . . . . in the year terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center . . . .”
The news spread from town to town and house to house: the king was dead. “What will become of us now?” the people wondered. A tsunami of grief surged through the southern kingdom. The flag flew at half-mast. The nation was on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
“In the year that King Uzziah died . . . . I saw the Lord.” Isaiah’s gaze was diverted from an empty throne to an occupied throne. His focus had been on an earthly king; he failed to see the King.
Earthly power passes from hand to hand, from King Henry I to Henry II; from King Charles I to Charles II; from King Louis I to Louis II . . . to Louis XIV. But there is no God I who ages, becomes decrepit, and then passes the throne by death to God II. No! He is God from everlasting to everlasting, God the first, God the last, God the only eternal King!
He has one telescope with which he sees everything: his omniscience. He has one bridge with which he crosses everything: His omnipresence. He has one hammer with which he breaks everything: His omnipotence. He is the Alpha and Omega, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Like Isaiah, we Christians need to learn that large armies, walled cities, and political diplomacy are not the fundamental forces on which the welfare of our nation rests. In this time of prosperity, uncertainty, and superficiality, we need a fresh vision of our King, high and lifted up, seated upon His throne.
Our nation has no deep sense of sin because we have no clear vision of God. Our greatest need is to see the enthroned Lord, the eternal King, and hear the Trisagion:
“Kadōsh, Kadōsh, Kadōsh — “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts.”
Then we need to fall on our faces and repent as Isaiah did: “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” Just as God dispatched his grace, forgiveness, and restoration to Isaiah, so will he dispatch it today to any and all who will repent.
“In the year that king Uzziah died, . . . I saw the Lord.”