“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” (Isaiah 6:1-3)
The biblical accounts of the twin kingdoms of Israel and Judah give us a snapshot of successive rulers. Some are painted in more detail than others. Some had long reigns, others had short reigns. Some prospered and experienced peace. Others faced famine, plague, battles, and invasion. The chroniclers and archivists and story-tellers paint a picture of a recurring cycle of ‘good’ kings and ‘bad’ kings. Uzziah appears to count as one of the good kings. His was an exceptionally long reign of 52 years – exceeded only by Manasseh’s 55 years. The summary of Uzziah’s rule states that he “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” (2 Chronicles 26:14-5). He was not perfect (who is?) and in his pride he made a significant error that was punished with life-long leprosy. But overall he brought stability, economic prosperity, and military success to the nation. Generations in Judah had known no other sovereign. Sound familiar?
There was therefore a moment at his death when the whole nation collectively held its breath. A moment of national mourning. A moment of overwhelming loss. A moment when all the people felt bereft. A moment of anxiety about the future. A moment for quietly murmured questions: “who comes next?” “what will they be like?” “what happens now?” Into that moment comes Isaiah’s glorious vision in the Temple. A vision of the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted. A powerful, visual reminder that though the earthly throne was temporarily vacant and the sovereign was dead, the true throne is still occupied and the King of Kings is very much alive and active. There is no loss of control and no concern for the future because the King of Kings is still in full control and command. Nothing has changed in the heavens. There is no descent into chaos. God still reigns. Whatever happens next, the Lord Almighty is undiminished in purpose and power. Like Uzziah’s subjects, though we cannot visualise what the future holds, we know our Sovereign has it all in hand:
“I do not know what lies ahead, the way I cannot see;
Yet One stands near to be my guide, He’ll show the way to me.
I know who holds the future and He’ll guide me with his hand.
With God things don’t just happen, everything by Him is planned.
So as I face tomorrow with its problems large and small
I’ll trust the God of miracles, give to Him my all.”
(Alfred B. Smith & Eugene Clarke © 1947, 1958 Singspiration Music/ Brentwood Benson Music Publishing/Universal Music Publishing Ltd.)