“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)
All of us have major turning-points in our lives. For some, it’s a new job. For others, it’s a graduation, the birth of a child, or the break-up of a home. For the prophet Isaiah, his turning-point came in the midst of a political crisis.
For over fifty years the nation of Israel had enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity throughout the long and glorious reign of King Uzziah. But now the king was dead and the nation was in mourning. The mood of the people was solemn as an untried youth prepared to take the throne. It was in this solemn mood that Isaiah, as a priest, headed to the temple in search of consolation.
Isaiah had been to the temple many times before, but on this particular occasion it was different. Never before had the foundations of the temple trembled, the building filled with smoke or the angels cried out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” In that moment God revealed Himself to Isaiah as the Sovereign Lord who sat enthroned above the nation. While the earthly king was now mouldering in his grave, God retained His absolute control over the nation’s affairs. It was a revelation that changed his life forever.
All the details of God’s appearance emphasize His total authority. His clothes of office – His royal robe and its train – completely filled the temple. This rich symbolism signified that God’s authority was exclusive and brooked no rivals. God occupies the entire realm of sovereignty; He does not share it with others. This means that our allegiance to God is not just one of many commitments to others; it is the supreme commitment that governs all the rest.
Confronted by this awesome sight of God’s majesty, it’s not surprising that Isaiah felt overwhelmed in His presence. He was right to feel this way because this is how God’s attendants, the angels, reacted to God’s presence. If any of us were to be granted an audience with the Queen, few of us would know how to address her or appear in her presence. We would rely upon her attendants to inform us about the appropriate customs and protocols. The angels fulfill this function for us. Though they themselves are beings of great glory, they stand in deference to the Sovereign Lord. They serve as an example to us that the true way to worship the God of the Bible, is with awe, humility and readiness to serve.