"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and His train filled the temple.” Isaiah 6:1
This opening verse of Isaiah’s call to be a prophet tells us a great deal about his faith during a calamity.
It was in the year that King Uzziah died. The death of a king was a tremendous crisis. We benefit from living in the USA and having an orderly transfer of power, even when tragedy strikes. Not so in the ancient age. Intrigue, assassinations, foreign incursions were all the norm during this tumultuous time.
In addition to the national unrest, King Uzziah’s death may have been a personal loss for Isaiah as well. Throughout his prophecy we find hints that Isaiah was a religious leader, respected in the priestly hierarchy, and thus well-known to the royal family. Isaiah was not only worried about the uncertainty of his country, he also mourned the loss of a friend.
Now notice two more things about this single verse. First, Isaiah was in the temple. He was in the right place, worshiping God and seeking direction and solace from Him. In worship you encounter God in a special way. Isaiah was in the temple because in the temple, life became clearer for him. Place is important to us. A place to meet God is vital.
That’s why a church, a physical location, is so important. I often hear that people love God, or Jesus, or spirituality, but not the church. That sounds to me a lot like wanting to be in love but not married. A church is admittedly often messy and even unChrist-like, but so are individual detached lives. A church is a place to meet God.
I wonder how much of the contemporary indictment of the church is the result of a judgmental attitude on the part of those who neglect it. If you want to critique anything you will always find something to mark wrong. Christ died for the church, and the individual, local church will always be a vital place to meet God.
Second, Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. This marvelous vision of God’s greatness came at a time of personal weakness. The Bible is full of stories of the ways our faltering becomes the occasion for God to step in. Our meager achievements, or even a string of blessings, never reveal God as clearly as the thorn in the flesh.
Isaiah’s prophecy is marked by a theme of seeing versus blindness. Calamity and loss for Isaiah was not an indictment of God’s neglect or an unveiling of the temple’s inadequacy. Isaiah’s weakness created a spiritual space in his soul for a new vision of God’s greatness. And God stepped into those shadows with His brilliant, holy light.
We are inclined to endlessly evaluate God. Let it rest. Quiet the objections and questions long enough to listen and see. Resist using circumstances as a gauge of God’s power and providence. In time God will always use challenges to refocus you on Him, if you allow Him. In that process you will discover in a new and deeper way that God is Lord of all, just as He is Lord of your life.
Whatever change or challenge you face right now, rest assured that God is great and will reveal that to you in a special way. So stay faithful and watchful. Trust God to order and provide.
Dr. Terry Ellis
October 7, 2012