Depending on your politics, the events of the last few days might lead you to believe that we are about to cross a divinely parted Red Sea in our national exodus from Egyptian (or European bondage). On the other hand, you might believe that an ill-informed electorate has, in its anger, propelled us to somewhere between the eighth and ninth circle (representing fraud and treachery, respectively) of Dante’s depiction of hell.
However you interpret the upheaval, it still remains upheaval. Change, almost always, is accompanied chaos. Even when the change is good and necessary, departure from the unfamiliar inevitably brings uncertainty. Whether the change is restructuring a multi-national business or deciding to become a vegetarian, it has an impact on you and the people around you.
The prophet Isaiah faced an unwanted change at one point in his ministry. King Uzziah, who had reigned for fifty-two years died. Overall, he was a pretty good king. And however his reign would ultimately be assessed, he represented stability in a turbulent world. But Isaiah six verse one records his death: “In the year that King Uzziah died…” I can never read those words without feeling that the prophet is giving us something more than a time frame for his encounter with God. The words somehow carry something of grief, something of the end of an era.
It’s out of this that Isaiah has a fresh encounter with God. What did that look like for him? What could it look like for us?
Firstly, he sees the Lord high and exalted, seated on His throne. He has an insight into the eternal reality of God’s universal government (Isaiah 6 vv.1-4). And he connects this to the current situation in his nation – “my eyes have seen the king” (v.5). The king might have died, but Isaiah had now seen the king!
Even a glimpse of God in his exalted glory brings a totally different perspective on the world around us.
Secondly, the encounter brought a moment of self-awareness (vv.5-6). Isaiah became conscious of his sin. Of his need for God. In short, he was humbled by the vision.
Self-awareness should follow any genuine encounter with God. How could you have an encounter with God and not become aware of your own weakness and frailty? How could it not give you a desire for God to do something new and fresh in your life?
As new covenant believers, however, the self-awareness takes us into a new appreciation of the person and work of Christ and who we are in Him.
Finally, Isaiah hears the call of God (vv.8-13). The encounter was only complete when Isaiah had heard and responded to God’s voice.
In a time of change, Isaiah was to represent God’s kingdom and proclaim His purpose. There was no room for the kind of nostalgia that made the past seem better than it was. Neither was there a place for the kind of over optimism which can so easily accompany the beginning of a new era.
Seeing who God is gives us perspective. Hearing and responding to what is on His heart gives us direction and purpose.
May God grant us a fresh encounter with Himself in these days of change and upheaval.