“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.”
Uncertainty is not a new phenomenon or exclusive to a particular generation. It did not begin with the housing bubble, the horror of 9-11, or the global financial meltdown. Uncertainty has always been an ever-present visitor to mankind. In fact, the highly revered Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, experienced his share of it as well.
A “Who’s Who” on the short list of Major Prophets, Isaiah wrote one of the most beloved books in the Bible. He prophesied the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with incredible accuracy, and was mightily used by God to influence and chastise the movers and shakers of his time. Nevertheless, he battled with moments of panic and uncertainty just like we do.
One such moment occurred when his beloved King Uzziah died. You might be wondering why the death of one king would shake someone of Isaiah’s stature. To gain some perspective, it might be a good idea to review the circumstances he was dealing with.
Uzziah became the King of Judah in 791 B.C. He was only 16, but his reign endured for 52 years. Some historical accounts claim that Isaiah was a cousin to the king. For many in that region, King Uzziah was the only king they had ever known. So losing a family member and a great ruler must have hit Isaiah especially hard.
Uzziah was a powerful and capable king. He had his flaws, and didn’t exactly finish his race with the greatest dignity. But under most of his rule the people enjoyed prominence and prosperity. While other nations in the region had a much different experience, Judah flourished and remained strong under Uzziah’s leadership.
But with his death, all bets were off. Those who had previously threatened Judah’s demise were circling like vultures, triangulating a take-over they believed was overdue. The geopolitical landscape had drastically changed. Judah now sat perfectly positioned in the collective cross hairs.
With familiarity and predictability out the window, with eminent destruction on the doorstep, uncertainty ruled the day. So it makes sense that even the strong and faithful might find themselves face down in the Temple, crying out to God in fear and panic, gazing weak-kneed in to the clouded abyss of nothing and everything!
Fast forward to 2010 A.D. Atlanta, Georgia, USA….
If you’ve never spent an evening driving aimlessly through the darkness, sobbing with such intensity you could barely see the road, only to end up in a random parking lot slumped over the steering wheel in gut-wrenching despair, then I wonder if you have ever really lived.
Now I know this doesn’t conjure up a Biblical scene of epic importance like Isaiah’s encounter in the holy Temple. But I take solace in the knowledge that the Creator of the universe is no respecter of persons. His loving kindness is offered to all generations. The God who revealed himself to Isaiah wants to reveal Himself to us, and will use whatever venue is available, even a random parking lot.
My despairing moment of unbearable uncertainty came when I could no longer envision a future that made an ounce of sense or gave me a grain of security. Whatever I thought I could put my hope in either no longer existed or seemed no longer possible. And compared to what I thought I needed to weather the storm, my personal deficit made me feel like an ant facing a tsunami.
In my pain and terror I cried out to God, “Lord, all I have is this tiny rubber raft. But I’m facing a fierce storm that will surely capsize me. I know I need a larger vessel, but I have no ability to take hold of one. I feel helpless against it all.”
At that very moment, in my darkest despair, I heard the Lord speak to me. “All you can see is the wind and waves. But can you also see that I am The Commander of the Wind and the Waves on your behalf? You don’t need a larger vessel. You need to see me bigger than the storm, holding back the waves and holding your tiny rubber raft in my hands.”
Almost immediately God brought the passage from Isaiah 6:1 to mind: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord…” Just like Isaiah, God wanted me to see Him, high and lifted up, seated on His throne, still in command, still in control over my life. Nothing being greater than His power, nothing taking Him by surprise, nothing being able to separate me from His love.
I believe God wants all of us to see Him greater than the death of all we put our trust in, greater than the uncertainty, greater than our difficulty, greater than our personal deficit.
What if we could rewrite this passage in Isaiah and customize it for our exact situation? I don’t think God would mind if we applied some “here and now” issues to this timeless passage. He loves you just as He did Isaiah and he wants you to experience Him being “high and lifted up” in the dilemma you are facing. So let’s give it a try.
- In the year I lost my job, I saw also the Lord, sitting on His throne, high and lifted up, being my all-sufficient source of provision, meeting my need in ways I had never imagined, giving me peace that passes understanding, opening doors no man can open and conquering all my fear.
- In the year my marriage ended, I saw also the Lord, high and lifted up, seated on His throne, giving me a calm assurance that in all things He was at work for my good, giving His tender mercies to carry me through each lonely hour and letting me know that He would never forsake me.
- In the year I went through bankruptcy, I saw also the Lord, sitting on His throne, high and lifted up, being greater than all my failure, greater than my credit score and more powerful to restore me than all my striving and fear, guiding me through the darkness and being the only future I truly need.
- In the year I lost my home, I saw also the Lord, sitting on His throne, high and lifted up, being my everlasting source of comfort, rescuing me from the crashing waves of self condemnation and teaching me that my worth comes from knowing Him and His unconditional love for me, and not the standards of this sinful world.
- In the year my life turned upside down, I saw also the Lord, sitting on His throne, high and lifted up, being my light at the end of the tunnel, giving me the faith I need just to make it through the day, carrying my burdens in my time of weakness and being my source of encouragement and hope.
There’s a reason why God describes himself as someone who “changes not,” someone who is the same yesterday, today and forever. As our creator, God understands our need for stability and certainty, and He wants to provide that to us as a free gift. But since He is the only true and lasting certainty, we can only have rest and confidence to the degree we have placed our lives in His hands.
Our problem is that we keep trying to find certainty from something or someone on this earth. Basically, we look for solid ground in shifting sand. Not a good idea. When God gave Isaiah such an amazing vision of Himself, it served as a reminder, that although the kingdoms of this earth may be on shaky ground, God’s kingdom is never shaken nor His power to save and rescue those who love Him. And when Isaiah saw God “seated on His throne” it was a message that He was still in control.
If you’re dealing with a difficult life challenge, then take courage. There is a way of escape. You can chill out when life heats up with uncertainty or despair. When you feel like an ant facing a tsunami of challenges, that’s the time to “See also the Lord, high and lifted up…” That’s the time to allow his robe of love and grace to fill the temple of your heart. That’s the time to fix your eyes on how big God is rather than the bigness of the issue. You can start right now by praying this simple little prayer…
All I can see is the wind and waves of my circumstance. I look at what is around me, then I look at my capacity to deal with it, and I feel like an ant facing a tsunami. The truth is Lord, apart from you, we are all just ants facing a tsunami of life greater than our ability to bear it. It is for this very reason that you sent me a Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Help me to see You, high and lifted up, reigning over my circumstances, seated on the throne of my heart, ruling over the issues that concern me with grace and compassion. Lord, give me the ability to receive your love without condemnation or fear, and give me a new vision of your all-surpassing greatness at work in my life. Amen.
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10