Monday, January 24, 2005

Who is High and Lifted Up?

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1)
This was Isaiah’s life-changing vision of the Lord. It not only transformed him forever but called forth things of God which have forever changed the world.

Now, Isaiah’s opening sentence is not a mere chronological reference. For it does not just tell us about the calendar, it tells us about the times in which Isaiah lived and the people to whom he was called to prophesy.

You can find out about King Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26, where we see God’s assessment of his life and reign. “He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5).

King Uzziah did well for fifty years (quite a long reign for those times). “His fame spread far and wide, for he was marvelously helped till he became strong” (2 Chronicles 26:15). Uzziah sought after the LORD and the LORD helped him marvelously. Divine favor was upon him and he prospered and became strong.

But something happened when Uzziah became strong. It did not have to happen. There was nothing about his strength and prosperity which made what happened next inevitable. But it happened anyway. Here is what we read about Uzziah in the very next verse:
But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD his God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. (2 Chronicles 26:16)
His heart was lifted up. It was lifted up, not because he was strong and prosperous, but because he did not keep his heart well. He let pride come in. He presumed upon God and unjustly assumed that he could go wherever he wanted to go and do whatever he wanted to do. He thought that the rules no longer applied to him, that the kingly anointing which was upon him also fitted him for priestly duty.

Azariah, the chief priest, went in with eighty priests of the LORD and called Uzziah down because of his arrogant behavior. “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the LORD God” (2 Chronicles 26:18).

Uzziah became furious, still standing with the censer in his hand, ready to burn incense. And as he foamed and fumed at the priests, right at that moment and in that very place in which he had no business being, leprosy broke out on his forehead. The uncleanness of his heart suddenly became manifest in his body. This sign of leprosy made it apparent to all, especially to Uzziah, that he had no right to minister in the Temple.

“King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land” (2 Chronicles 26:21). Uzziah not only lost his health, he also lost his reign.

Jotham reigned only sixteen years. He did what was right in the sight of the, the Scripture says, “but the people acted corruptly” (2 Chronicles 27:2). Pride, the uncleanness of Uzziah’s heart, had infected the nation.

So these were the conditions in which Isaiah had his vision: the tragic end of a prosperous and healthy reign, and the uncleanness of an entire people.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up,” Isaiah says.

Uzziah saw Uzziah high and lifted up. Isaiah saw the LORD high and lifted up. Who is high and lifted up in your life?

Its not about us, its always about God. When we lift ourselves up, we will always meet with failure and loss. But let us learn to see the LORD high and lifted up, and we will be properly oriented for a life of prosperity, strength and joy. For God will marvelously help us.