The Year Uzziah Died
Uzziah died in approximately 742 B.C.
Uzziah was king in Jerusalem, ruling over the country of Judah. He was a descendant of David. However, in case one should think this made him perfect, he was also the great, great, great grandson of none other than Jezebel. But, that is a different story for a different time. Uzziah was the 10th king of Judah after the nation of Israel divided.
Uzziah became king at the age of 16, and he reigned 52 years. The Bible says he did right in the eyes of the Lord, except he did not remove the high places and altars where people made sacrifices.
The Law of Moses was clear that there was to be one central place of worship for the whole nation. (Deuteronomy 12) This is one law that Uzziah did not adhere to nor did he enforce it as the ruler of his people.
The story of his reign is an amazing success story. He conquered the enemies surrounding his nation. He expanded the nation’s territory, and elevated the country to a position or regional power. When the Assyrians invaded the region, they conquered every nation in their path. However, Uzziah led a coalition of the surrounding nations and stopped the advance of the Assyrians. This historical campaign was one of the last things he did. He died before the Assyrians could retaliate.[ii]
There is a blot on his record. Uzziah was rich, powerful and successful, and the Scriptures tell us that he became proud. In his pride, he entered into the temple to burn incense, which was something that only the priests were to do. The high priest and 80 accompanying priests tried to stop the king, but he became furious with them. God intervened and leprosy instantly appeared on the forehead of Uzziah. Uzziah died a leper in isolation. In his last years, his son, Jotham, took charge of the palace and government, sharing the throne with his father.
Isaiah 6 records one of the great visions of the Bible. Isaiah 6:1 says, “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.”
Isaiah dates this from the year King Uzziah died. Therefore, we know some of what was going on in Judah at that time. We know that the nation was prosperous. We know that they had a strong military. However, they were facing a dangerous enemy. Assyria was conquering the surrounding nations, and laying the foundations for what would become the Babylonian Empire and then later the Persian Empire. The Assyrians were a concern for everyone, even Egypt.
The Lord chose this time to show Himself to Isaiah.
The People of Judah were religious. They had the Temple of God and continued to offer daily sacrifices. However, God was not impressed with their sacrifices. In Isaiah 1 God gave this message concerning the people of Judah:
2Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the LORD says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. 3Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” 4Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. (Isaiah 1:2-4)
God was not happy with them, and yet they continued to be prosperous and successful. Because of their success, they thought everything was okay, including their relationship with God.
In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord.” He saw a sight that was so magnificent that his first response was, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man.” (Isaiah 6:5) When Moses saw the glory of God, his face shown for years afterward. For Isaiah, the sight was so glorious that even the angels present were covering their faces. Very few men in history have seen such a vision of God’s glory. In Moses’s case, it strengthened him and sustained him through many years of leading the people of Israel through the wilderness. In Isaiah’s case, it was to strengthen and sustain him through many years of preaching to a stubborn, obstinate people.
God told Isaiah to deliver this message to the people of Judah. He said:
“Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ 10Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
In John 12, Jesus quotes this text to explain the unbelief of the Jews. Even though they saw many miraculous signs, the Jews would not believe in Jesus.
Isaiah saw the glory of God, while a nation remained blind to that same glory. A mere handful out of thousands were able to see the glory of God in Jesus Christ when he walked this earth. John 1:10 says of Him, “He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.” In much the same way, although there were many prophets in Judah, Isaiah was the only one who saw this glorious vision of God.
Isaiah describes what he saw. He says, “He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple.” The English Standard Version translates this “high and lifted up.” Isaiah does not describe God, but rather His throne. This is significant because God told Moses, “But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live." (Exodus 33:20) Isaiah was impressed with the lofty, majestic power of God. The first thing he describes is the exalted position of God.
In Isaiah 1, God had accused Judah of despising the Holy One of Israel. They had too low a view of God. Isaiah saw a lofty, exalted throne with God seated on it. The biggest mistake humanity makes is despising God. We tend to think too little of Him and too much of ourselves. It is crucial for us as individuals and as nations to remember who God is. In Deuteronomy 8, God warned Israel:
11“But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. 12For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.
18Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful. (Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 18)
Uzziah demonstrated what pride does. He grew proud because of his success and then tried to enter into God’s presence on his terms rather than on God’s terms. He never entered the temple again, and died a leper.
We can know God, but the first and greatest hindrance to our entering into the knowledge of God is pride. How can we hold onto our pride when we see God on a lofty throne, high and lifted up?
Along with the throne, Isaiah saw mighty seraphim attending God. Each had six wings. With two wings, they covered their feet, with two, they covered their faces and with two, they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6:2-3)
The angels covering their faces is an indication of God’s glory, and covering their feet is an indication of God’s holiness. These mighty, heavenly beings continually proclaim God’s holiness. Throughout Scripture, we confront the holiness of God. God is holy beyond our ability to comprehend.
The dictionary definition of “Holy” according to Google is “dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word translated holy means “set apart” or “separate.” In the New Testament, the Greek word translated holy means “set apart.” These meanings are consistent with the idea of dedication. However, when applied to God, dedication does not capture the meaning of “holy.” When we say God is holy, we mean that he is separate from His creation. He is entirely “other” than His creation. While God has created all things and sustains all things, He is not “all things.” He is separate, “other.” Another idea is captured in this separateness. His “separateness” also extends to His absolute purity. The Bible says, “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” (1 John 1:5) Light is another expression of God’s purity, His holiness. The brilliance of God’s holiness is why faces are always covered in His presence. Even the eyes of angels cannot bear to look upon the brilliant radiance of His glory, His holiness.
Overwhelmed by what he saw, Isaiah said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” (Isaiah 6:5) Upon seeing God, Isaiah was painfully aware of his sinfulness. This is the effect of confronting God’s perfect holiness. The burning coal taken from the altar and touched to Isaiah’s lips burnt away the impurities. Without the intervention of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice to pay the price for our sins and purify us, we would all be consumed by the presence of God’s holiness just as fire consumes a moth.
However, pride keeps us from acknowledging sin. Isaiah was called to confront this problem in Judah. They did not acknowledge that they were sinful. Jesus confronted this problem on the streets of Jerusalem. They did not acknowledge they were sinful. We confront this problem in our own lives.
Even Christians, who are saved by faith and cleansed of their sins by the blood of Christ, often will not admit their sins. 1 John 1:8 warns us, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.”
God showed Isaiah a vison of His own majesty and holiness in order to make Isaiah aware of his people’s sin of pride.
Through Isaiah’s record, God confronts our pride. God still speaks. Isaiah’s vision still lives. How do we respond? Do we, like Isaiah, say, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man.” Or, do we, like Judah, harden our hearts?
Why not be reconciled to God today?
Why not call on His name and receive His cleansing?
1 John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, 1966.