“In the year that King Uzziah died…” (Isaiah 6.1) those words on the surface seem not much more than a few words of narrative to plant Isaiah’s vision of God in historical context. In reality they describe the source of the spiritual shockwave experienced by Isaiah and his nation towards the end of the eighth century B.C..
Uzziah was one of the great kings of Judah. He did what was right in God’s eyes, having becoming king at sixteen years of age (2 Chronicles 26.3-5). His foreign policy successes were matched by a prosperous economy (2 Chronicles 26.6-9). The nation was at its most prosperous since the days of King Solomon.
But now the great king was gone and the great prophet did what great prophets and godly people do, sought God.
It is possibly stretching things too far to conclude dogmatically that Isaiah’s world was in meltdown because Uzziah had gone.There can, however, be little doubt in the way that Isaiah 6 is presented to us, that the author wants to contrast the uncertainty of human government and human affairs with the certainty of divine government and heavenly affairs. Isaiah had a Uzziah. And Isaiah had a God. When Uzziah, simply because he was a human being, could no longer deliver success and stability, Isaiah still had God.
Outstanding though he was as a king, Uzziah nevertheless had weaknesses.
First of all, he was human! And human beings have a limited shelf life. After fifty years on the throne of Judah, it must have felt as though Uzziah would go on and on. Well, he did. But just for two more years. Even great people are mortal.
Secondly, he wasn’t as good as some might have thought he was. Towards the end of his life, 2 Chronicles 26 vv.16-21 records that Uzziah became proud and tried to burn incense in the temple, a ceremony reserved for the priests. He was struck with leprosy and lived out the final years of his life in isolation.
Thirdly, it’s just possible, even probable, that some had begun to trust in Uzziah rather than Uzziah’s God. How easy that is! Of course, that was not Uzziah’s fault and no doubt he would have been the first to eschew any kind of attention that smacked of idolatry.
Most of us, perhaps all of us, have a Uzziah. What I mean is, most of us, in our humanity, are inclined to put something or someone in the place of God. The trouble is, the something or the someone does not last. Uzziahs can be preachers, leaders, politicians, experiences, relatives, friends. You get the idea. They are not necessarily bad things or bad people. Sometimes they are very good people. But somehow we come to rely on them. And somehow we allow them to take the place that rightfully belongs to God.
Times change. Uzziahs come and Uzziahs go. Change and uncertainty are times to seek a fresh perspective of God. To allow the Spirit to touch our own hearts and apply the cleasing blood of Jesus (Isaiah 6.5-7). And, like Isaiah, to listen for the voice of the Lord that sends us out into a broken world (Isaiah 6.8).