Unfortunately, towards the end of his life, Uzziah became prideful. He went into the Temple of God and made an offering. This might not sound like a big deal until you realize that under God’s Law only priests were allowed to minister in the Temple. Uzziah essentially was saying to God and his kingdom that God’s rules did not apply to him. He was king so he would do what he wanted. Pride is a really ugly thing in people.
As a result of this rebellion, God struck Uzziah with leprosy which stayed with him until he died. God made Uzziah’s appearance match the condition of his heart. The King of Judah had departed from God, flouted God’s Law and suffered and died under punishment from God…and everyone knew it. Since Uzziah was leprous and had to be kept away from people, his sin and punishment were openly known. They just could not hide that the head of their nation defied God and died in his sin and shame. It must have been a terrible time to be a righteous Israelite.
The king was the head of their nation before God. As the king went so often did the nation. If the king was bad the people generally followed. What was to become of the Kingdom of Judah?
It must have been an anxious time as well. What would become of Judah after their king died under the weight of his sin? Can we imagine waiting to see what Uzziah’s son was like? Can we picture being a faithful Israelites and waiting to see if the entire nation would be lead further astray?
It was a dark and scary time if you were seeking to follow the Lord in Judah.
Yet, it is in this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty that God shows Himself most clearly.
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. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”
4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. Isaiah 6:1-4
God could have shown Himself to Isaiah or the prophets during the 52 years of Uzziah’s’ reign. He could have given this vision during the times of faithfulness and certainty in Israel. Yet, God waits until Uzziah is fallen in shame and sin. He comes when things are bleak and scary and makes Himself so crystal clear.
Psalm 23 talks about how we will know that God is with us when we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. God sets out how we will know He is near and protecting us when we are eating at a table prepared in the presence of our enemies. Can we imagine eating nachos surrounded by those who want to kill us, perhaps a band of ISIS thugs? The idea makes me lose my apetite. But God promises we will be so secure in His presence it doesn’t matter whether others have murderous intent. The shepherd used a rod and staff to defend his flock against wolves and other predators.
Have we ever realized that we don’t know that this is really true until we are in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. We don’t fully grasp the truth of it experientially until we are surrounded by our enemies. Before that point, it remains somewhat hypothetical. It is a trade off. We have to experience darkness in order to understand just how great God is to us. We don’t understand God’s great holiness and love until we understand the evil in this world.
Are we willing to experience that which cannot destroy us to get to know the One who made us?
Notice also what God shows to Isaiah, Himself seated on the throne of Heaven. In light of the failure of an earthly king and in the midst of great uncertainty, God shows Himself seated on the real throne. He is not scared, surprised or worried. He is not pacing around trying to figure out how to fix the situation. He is seated on the only throne that really matters.
He remains in total control, sovereign Lord of the whole universe. He will never fail. He will never come up short. He will never lose His throne. He will never leave us or forsake us.
But we only really understand the enormity of these truths when all is in darkness around us.