In the Year King Uzziah Died

6: 1-4

    DIG: If King Uzziah represented stability to Judah, what did his death mean? Why does YHVH choose this time to reveal Himself to Isaiah? Imagine you are Isaiah. What do you tell a friend about what you saw, heard, felt, and smelled in these verses? What questions about the LORD's nature and purpose does this encounter raise?

    REFLECT: The LORD’s holiness and universal reign awed Isaiah. Which of ADONAI’s attributes most impresses you? Why? Personally, what do you have to do to have God become real to you?

    Isaiah apparently wished to locate his vision in time. The reason is a theological one. Judah had known no king like Uzziah since the time of Solomon. He had been an efficient administrator and an able military leader. Under his leadership, Y'hudah had grown in every way (Second Chronicles 26:1-15). He had been a true king. How easy it must have been to focus one’s hopes and trust upon a king like that. What will happen, then, when such a king dies, and coupled with that death there comes the recognition that a resurgent Assyria is pushing nearer and nearer? In moments like that, it would be easy to see the futility of any hope. No earthly king could help Judah in that hour! In the context of such a crisis, ADONAI can make Himself more easily known to us than when times are good, and we are self-confident and complacent. So the inspired prophet starts with the words: In the year that King Uzziah died.

    The symbolism of a dying king leads to the vision of the living God. What is in view here is a vision of the splendor, awe, and majestic holiness that surrounds the throne of ADONAI in the heavenly Temple. Although the Jews normally believed that you would die if you saw YHVH (Gen 32:30; Exodus 19:21, 20:19, 33:20; Deut 18:16, Judges 13:22). Yet, in our weakness, He sometimes clothes Himself with visibility. Showing us a mere glimpse of His glory was usually done for encouragement or confirmation (Genesis 16:9-13, 28:13-15; Exodus 24:9-11, 34:5-10; Judges 6:11-24).

    For Isaiah, ADONAI became visibly seated on a throne, high and exalted (6:1a). Evidently the inner veil had been removed and where the ark should have been, was a great throne. Later, Isaiah will use those same words to refer to the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ (52:13 and 57:15). The vision that Isaiah saw, high and exalted symbolized Messiah’s position, supreme before the nations. While Judah’s king may sin, this King could not sin. The hem of His robe filled the Temple in heaven (6:1b CJB), pointing us to His royalty and majesty. The absolute sovereignty of God is being stressed. The Temple and its sacrifices pictured the righteous dealings of ADONAI, dwelling in the midst of His covenant people, Isra'el.

    As in Exodus 24:10, where the pavement under God’s feet is described, so here the description of ADONAI’s presence can only rise to the hem of His robe. It is as though words fall apart when we try to describe God Himself. The elders of Isra'el can only tell us of something like blue pavement under His feet; Isaiah can only tell us abut how huge His robe was. Did the robe fill the Temple? No, ADONAI did! The point is well made. There is a point beyond which it is too personal, too awesome for man to explain. The human authors of the Scriptures do the best they can.

    Above Him were seraphs, each had six wings that were ready for praise and service, which give us a picture of the appropriate response to God’s holiness. With two wings they covered their faces. The verb covered is in the imperfect, indicating continuous action. For even the seraphs dared not brazenly look into the face of the Creator. The sight would be too much for them. With another pair of wings they covered their feet. The exact meaning of this action is not clear. The Targum, an Aramaic translation of the TaNaKh written or compiled from the Second Temple period until the early Middle Ages, uses the word body or feet and says the body was covered so that it might not be seen. As the created should not look upon the Creator, so the created should not be displayed in the sight of Him either. And with two wings they were flying (6:2). This is their only reference in Scripture. Seraphs mean, to burn, possibly suggesting that they were passionate in their zeal for the LORD. It is also noteworthy that one of these seraphs took a burning coal to Isaiah in 6:6. There are three different orders of beings in heaven: angels, cherubs, and seraphs. Seraphs are noted for having six wings; cherubs have four wings and angels have no wings (Ezekiel 1:5-6).

    The ministry of the seraphim is seen here. They are calling to one another: Holy, holy, holy is ADONAI-Tzva'ot (6:3a CJB). Whatever else this experience did for Isaiah, it convinced him that God alone is holy; distinct and separate from everyone and everything else. His holiness is a reflection of His character, and for mankind it pointed toward ethical behavior. Other nations had laws, like the Code of Hammurabi, that they believed came from gods. But what was different about Isra'el was that the entire nation was to reflect His holiness. ADONAI had communicated this through His prophet Moses: Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy (Leviticus 19:1). As a result, the righteous of the TaNaKh before the cross, and believers after the cross are held to a higher standard of ethical holiness. To oppress the helpless was to curse ADONAI’s name (Jeremiah 34:16). To use a prostitute dedicated to Ba'al (Hosea 4:14; Genesis 38:21) was to defile the holy name of the LORD (Amos 2:7). Or to practice homosexuality is, and is, to pollute His name (Genesis 19:1-11; Leviticus 18:22 and 29-30, 20:13; Judges 19:16-24; First Kings 14:24, 15:12; Second Kings 23:7; Romans 1:18-32; First Corinthians 6:9-11; First Timothy 1:8-10; Jude 7).

    Who was this that sat on the throne? Not just any god, but the holy One. He is holy, holy, holy, the holiest One of them all. He is the holy One. There is none other who is called by that name. It is the strongest form of being beyond compare in the Hebrew. The way it is used here points to the fact that ADONAI, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was superior to all of the so-called gods.

    Isaiah then declared that the whole earth is full of His glory (6:3b). From this statement we know that the Shechinah glory, the very presence of God Himself, was not restricted to the Tabernacle in the wilderness or the Temple in Jerusalem (see Ju - The Glory of the LORD Rises Upon You). But it is also a way of saying that what we see all around us is merely His reflection (see my commentary on Revelation Fu – A Great High Wall with Twelve Gates). As mentioned above, the LORD is the embodiment of purity and ethics. Consequently, wherever God is present, judgment of sin is present. For the two cannot coexist one without the other (Psalm 29:1-9, 89:5-18; Jeremiah 13:15-17; Amos 4:13, 5:8-9, 9:5-6).

    Lastly was the result of this declaration of His holiness. At the sound of their voices, the doorposts and thresholds shook and the Temple was filled with smoke (6:4). The thresholds (Amos 9:1) were large foundation stones on which the doorposts stood. The shaking suggests the awesome presence and power of ADONAI (Exodus 19:18). When the Temple fills with smoke, it is always a sign of the Shechinah glory (Exodus 20:18; First Kings 8:10-13; and Ezekiel 10:4).

    Isaiah’s whole life changed when he saw the majestic LORD seated on His heavenly throne. His awesome vision of God pierced him to cry out: I am a man of unclean lips...because I have seen with my own eyes the King, the LORD of heaven's angelic armies (Isaiah 6:5 CJB). You will never deal effectively with your sin without first realizing who God is. When you study His Word and begin to grasp His holiness, a deep reverence for Him grows in your heart. You, like Isaiah, are humbled before Him and realize that you fall far short of His holiness. Yet before discouragement can creep in, you also realize that God loves you deeply. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, ADONAI takes away your sins and shows you His amazing grace. The crucifixion and resurrection are the beautiful visions YHVH gives you of His awesome holiness and majesty (from the Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible).


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