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Winter 2006 Magazine: High and Lifted Up
Publish date: Jun 29, 2009
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Isaiah is known as the Gospel prophet. In fact, some Bible expositors have called his book the "Gospel of Isaiah." Why is that? In the book of Isaiah you will find many prophecies regarding the Messiah. And every single one of these prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Perhaps one of the greatest prophecies regarding the Messiah is found in Isaiah 53. In that chapter the sufferings of Jesus were given in striking detail 700 years before the time of Jesus.
Isaiah: the mini-Bible
The book of Isaiah is also called the mini-Bible. It is comprised of 66 chapters, just as the Bible is comprised of 66 books. And it covers the broad picture of the plan of redemption. From the apostate lifestyle of God’s people, to the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth, many diverse Biblical themes can be found in this book. So, with that in mind we turn to chapter 6. And as we will see by the grace of God, Isaiah’s time is very similar to the time in which we now live.
Before we read the text, we need to understand who King Uzziah was, and what was happening in Judah at this time.
Then all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. He built Eloth, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept with his fathers. Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also was Jecoliah of Jerusalem. And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did. And 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 to prosper (2 Chronicles 26:1-5).The reign of Uzziah started off well because of his desire to seek the Lord, but something tragic happened to this young king:
And Uzziah prepared for them throughout all the host shields, and spears, and helmets, and habergeons, and bows, and slings to cast stones. And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense (2 Chronicles 26:14-16).Prophets and Kings has this to say about the reign of Uzziah:
"The long reign of Uzziah [also known as Azariah] in the land of Judah and Benjamin was characterized by a prosperity greater than that of any other ruler since the death of Solomon, nearly two centuries before. For many years the king ruled with discretion. Under the blessing of Heaven his armies regained some of the territory that had been lost in former years. Cities were rebuilt and fortified, and the position of the nation among the surrounding peoples was greatly strengthened. Commerce revived, and the riches of the nations flowed into Jerusalem. Uzziah's name "spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong." 2 Chronicles 26:15.
This outward prosperity, however, was not accompanied by a corresponding revival of spiritual power. The temple services were continued as in former years, and multitudes assembled to worship the living God; but pride and formality gradually took the place of humility and sincerity. Of Uzziah himself it is written: "When he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God." Verse 16.
The sin that resulted so disastrously to Uzziah was one of presumption. In violation of a plain command of Jehovah, that none but the descendants of Aaron should officiate as priests, the king entered the sanctuary "to burn incense upon the altar." Azariah the high priest and his associates remonstrated, and pleaded with him to turn from his purpose. "Thou hast trespassed," they urged; "neither shall it be for thine honor." Verses 16, 18.
Uzziah was filled with wrath that he, the king, should be thus rebuked. But he was not permitted to profane the sanctuary against the united protest of those in authority. While standing there, in wrathful rebellion, he was suddenly smitten with a divine judgment. Leprosy appeared on his forehead. In dismay he fled, never again to enter the temple courts. Unto the day of his death, some years later, Uzziah remained a leper--a living example of the folly of departing from a plain "Thus saith the Lord." Neither his exalted position nor his long life of service could be pleaded as an excuse for the presumptuous sin by which he marred the closing years of his reign, and brought upon himself the judgment of Heaven (Prophets and Kings, 303-304).
So Uzziah started off as a good king, but when he became strong his heart was lifted up to his destruction. He was struck with a divine judgment (leprosy) when he refused the counsel of 80 priests who tried to reason with him about his rebellious course of burning incense. He was confined to a house, until the day of his death, and his son Jotham took his place in judging the people of the land (See Prophets and Kings 303-304).Isaiah the Prophet
The reign of Uzziah was drawing to a close, and Jotham was already bearing many of the burdens of state, when Isaiah, of the royal line, was called, while yet a young man, to the prophetic mission. The times in which Isaiah was to labor were fraught with peculiar peril to the people of God. The prophet was to witness the invasion of Judah by the combined armies of northern Israel and of Syria; he was to behold the Assyrian hosts encamped before the chief cities of the kingdom. During his lifetime, Samaria was to fall, and the ten tribes of Israel were to be scattered among the nations. Judah was again and again to be invaded by the Assyrian armies, and Jerusalem was to suffer a siege that would have resulted in her downfall had not God miraculously interposed. Already grave perils were threatening the peace of the southern kingdom. The divine protection was being removed, and the Assyrian forces were about to overspread the land of Judah.
But the dangers from without, overwhelming though they seemed, were not so serious as the dangers from within. It was the perversity of his people that brought to the Lord's servant the greatest perplexity and the deepest depression. By their apostasy and rebellion those who should have been standing as light bearers among the nations were inviting the judgments of God. Many of the evils which were hastening the swift destruction of the northern kingdom, and which had recently been denounced in unmistakable terms by Hosea and Amos, were fast corrupting the kingdom of Judah.
The outlook was particularly discouraging as regards the social conditions of the people. In their desire for gain, men were adding house to house and field to field. See Isaiah 5:8. Justice was perverted, and no pity was shown the poor. Of these evils God declared, "The spoil of the poor is in your houses." Ye beat My people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor." Isaiah 3:14, 15. Even the magistrates, whose duty it was to protect the helpless, turned a deaf ear to the cries of the poor and needy, the widows and the fatherless. See Isaiah 10:1, 2.
With oppression and wealth came pride and love of display, gross drunkenness, and a spirit of revelry. See Isaiah 2:11, 12; 3:16, 18-23; 5:22, 11, 12. And in Isaiah's day idolatry itself no longer provoked surprise. See Isaiah 2:8, 9. Iniquitous practices had become so prevalent among all classes that the few who remained true to God were often tempted to lose heart and to give way to discouragement and despair. It seemed as if God's purpose for Israel were about to fail and that the rebellious nation was to suffer a fate similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the face of such conditions it is not surprising that when, during the last year of Uzziah's reign, Isaiah was called to bear to Judah God's messages of warning and reproof, he shrank from the responsibility. He well knew that he would encounter obstinate resistance. As he realized his own inability to meet the situation and thought of the stubbornness and unbelief of the people for whom he was to labor, his task seemed hopeless (Prophets and Kings, 305-306).
During Isaiah's life as a prophet, God's people faced 5 peculiar problems:
1. The invasion of Judah by the combined armies of Northern Israel and Syria.
2. The Assyrian forces encamping themselves before the chief cities of the kingdom.
3. The fall of Samaria.
4. The ten Tribes of Israel scattering among the nations.
5. The repeated invasion of Judah by Assyria.
These invasions took place because God’s divine protection was removed, and the Assyrian armies were about to overspread the land of Judah (Prophets and Kings, 305). God removed His divine protection because materialistic prosperity corrupted the people (Isaiah 5:8). Idoloatry was no longer a shock to them (Isaiah 2:8-9). They were being desensitized to the reality of their deplorable condition before God.
It was on the backdrop of these events that Isaiah was called to the prophetic office. And it is no wonder that he shrank from the responsibility of his time. What about us? Have we shrank from our responsibility as a people to share with the billions on planet Earth the solemnity of our times? Perhaps we need to take a walk with Isaiah to see how he was called, and through his calling we can see a picture of how God is also calling you and me.The Call of Isaiah
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 (Isaiah 6:1).
Even though all of these problems were taking place in the political world, and even greater problems were taking place among the people of God, the vision given to Isaiah was a direct message to him. The message still speaks to us in a similar manner today. God is still seated on the throne.
Even though the news makes you weep as you hear of the bloodshed and turmoil, God is still seated on the throne.
Even as you cry out to God because of the lack of spirituality of God’s people today, and the sins and the stubbornness, and the pride that is exhibited, and the abominations that are taking place within God’s remnant church, God is still seated on the throne.
And that throne is not an earthly throne. It is high and lifted up, because He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And if we know this King, we will not be afraid of what anyone can do to us.
Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly (Isaiah 6:2).
Here we have a picture of the worshippers surrounding the throne of God. They are sinless seraphims; angels with six wings. They are covering their faces and their feet. These are sinless beings, and still they are very reverent and very humble. How do we come into the presence of God? Did you know that every Sabbath day, in a very special sense, we are in the presence of God in a magnified way.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).
Many of us, for one reason or another, don’t believe that. We don’t believe that God is present when we gather together in His name. We as Christians are losing a sense of the holiness of God. We come into the presence of God as if we entering a social club. We talk during sermons, our cell phones are ringing during sermons, and sometimes we sleep during sermons!
We don’t believe the words of Jesus. Why is that? Why is it that we don’t recognize the presence of God? Because we are so busy, we are so caught up with the affairs of this life, that we don’t experience that presence of God on a daily basis. We are too busy too spend time talking to our Best Friend in the morning, we are too busy to spend quality time with Jesus in the Word of God. So, of course, when we come to church, we don’t have reverence. Of course our children play sports on the Sabbath. Why? Because they don’t know any better. So, if we don’t spend time in the presence of God Sunday through Friday, we will not recognize the presence of God on Sabbath morning. And the angels are weeping they see our lack of reverence before the God of the universe.
The moral taste of the worshipers in God's holy sanctuary must be elevated, refined, sanctified. This matter has been sadly neglected. Its importance has been overlooked, and as the result disorder and irreverence have become prevalent, and God has been dishonored. When the leaders in the church, ministers and people, fathers and mothers, have not had elevated views of this matter, what could be expected of the inexperienced children? They are too often found in groups, away from the parents, who should have charge of them. Notwithstanding they are in the presence of God, and His eye is looking upon them; they are light and trifling; they whisper and laugh, are careless, irreverent, and inattentive (Child Guidance, 542.1).Here is a similar statement from the same author:
I saw that God's holy name should be used with reverence and awe. The words God Almighty are coupled together and used by some in prayer in a careless, thoughtless manner, which is displeasing to Him. Such have no realizing sense of God or the truth, or they would not speak so irreverently of the great and dreadful God, who is soon to judge them in the last day. Said the angel, "Couple them not together; for fearful is His name." Those who realize the greatness and majesty of God, will take His name on their lips with holy awe. He dwelleth in light unapproachable; no man can see Him and live. I saw that these things will have to be understood and corrected before the church can prosper (Early Writings, 122.1).
What about when we approach the Word of God? We have so many Bibles, and so many translations of those Bibles, that we treat the Bible with contempt. We set other books on top of the Bible, we throw the Bible around like it is a novel of some sort. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I don’t set anything on my Bible, unless it is another Bible. Too many people have lost their lives so that I can have this book.
The spirit in which you come to the investigation of the Scriptures will determine the character of the assistant at your side. Angels from the world of light will be with those who in humility of heart seek for divine guidance. But if the Bible is opened with irreverence, with a feeling of self-sufficiency, if the heart is filled with prejudice, Satan is beside you, and he will set the plain statements of God's word in a perverted light (Testimonies to Ministers and Bible Workers, 108.1).We must experience a reformation in these issues.We need always to bear in mind that we are in the very presence of God when we are gathered together. If you would like to read more regarding this matter, I have found a wonderful and rebuking selection from the Christian devotional series The Testimonies to the Church Volume 5. The section is entitled, “Behavior in the House of God.” Here is a short selection:
From the sacredness which was attached to the earthly sanctuary, Christians may learn how they should regard the place where the Lord meets with His people. There has been a great change, not for the better, but for the worse, in the habits and customs of the people in reference to religious worship. The precious, the sacred, things which connect us with God are fast losing their hold upon our minds and hearts, and are being brought down to the level of common things. The reverence which the people had anciently for the sanctuary where they met with God in sacred service has largely passed away. Nevertheless, God Himself gave the order of His service, exalting it high above everything of a temporal nature (The Testimonies to the Church Volume 5, 491.2).What was the purpose of the earthly sanctuary?
And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them (Exodus 25:8).
In a sense nothing has changed. God still wants to dwell in this place of worship. Let’s return to Isaiah:
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:3-4).
God is holy. The angels are fully aware of this fact, because it is exhibited in their respect, their reverence, their attitude toward God. They are aware of it with such an intensity that the door posts moves upon their proclamation of this fact. What a scene is this! How encouraging this must have been for Isaiah, a prophet who was afraid of the reaction of the people when he would give the straight testimony from God. When He saw the power, the majesty, and the holiness of God, it had a tremendous effect on his identity as a messenger and a witness for the Most High
Remember that God is holy, and that God is present in the place of worship, although we cannot see Him with the physical eye. We can see Him through the eye of faith, as we recall the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 18:20:
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
May we by the grace of God co-operate with Him, so that we may each have places of worship that are fit for a King, and not any ordinary king, but the King of kings and Lord of lords, the One who still sits on the throne that is high and lifted up.
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