It was August 28, 1963, when, standing at the Lincoln Memorial with 250,000 marchers at his feet, Martin Luther King gave his famous, “I have a dream” speech. With his unsurpassed eloquence and unique passion, ignoring the advice of his staff and a prewritten speech, he electrified his followers with his “I have a dream speech.” Most would admit, that although progress has been made, his dream lies unfulfilled. Yet his dream shaped and guided his life and that of countless others since that day. Visions are not merely the stuff of visionaries and mantic dreamers but controlling principles for living.
As noble and as praiseworthy as the vision of Dr. King might be, there has likely not been as awe-inspiring a vision as that which Isaiah experienced in his youth. It was dated by “the year that King Uzziah died” (Isa 6:1). The date is given not only to establish a time frame, but to paint the landscape which served to enhance and define this “career-changing” sight.
Uzziah reigned for 52 years, among the longest in Judah’s long history of kings. Very few people living in Judah could remember another king. His had been marked by a reign of prosperity. The borders of the nation had expanded. Reforms had been instituted. His army was renowned for its victories (2 Chron 26:6-15). Judah was prospering in every sense under this wise and godly king.
Sadly, when he was “strong,” he trespassed by going into the temple of God and trying to offer incense upon the golden altar. As a result, he was struck with leprosy in his forehead, necessitating his dwelling in a separate house and being cut off from the House of the Lord.
Uzziah had died. The throne was now empty. Men looked to this king, they had depended upon him, but he was gone. The world of the average Judean had suddenly been turned upside down. With the removal of the good king, what would follow? What would his successor be like? Insecurity, uncertainty, and worry would be the normal reaction to what men “saw.” Isaiah, however, saw higher and farther than anyone else. “I saw the Lord, high and lifted up.”
He saw another throne, another temple, another altar, another sovereign, and another army. Isaiah saw a throne that was far above Uzziah’s throne. Here was the throne of the universe and a Throne Sitter Who bore no mark of leprosy; in contrast, He was marked by absolute holiness. Here was another Temple in which the Throne Sitter dwelt and into which Isaiah was brought. There was another incense altar upon which he could look. In contrast to Uzziah’s mighty army, the One upon Whom Isaiah looked was the Lord of the Hosts of heaven.
Events on earth may change in dramatic fashion, kings rise and fall, armies march to victory and defeat, but the Throne in heaven remains. We need to constantly remind ourselves that above the events of earth, above the major players in the drama of life, there is a throne, a temple, and an army which do not take their cue from Washington, Wuhan, or Westminster.
Isaiah also saw farther than anyone else. To his “How long” (v 11), God said, “until.” God’s “untils” remind us that God has a program, it is finely calibrated, exact in its timing and execution. He can cause a monarch to lose sleep to elevate Mordecai; He can interject dreams to fulfill His promise to Joseph; He can bring along Paul’s nephew at the right moment to overhear a conspiracy, enabling Paul to avoid assassination.
Can I jog our forgetful porous minds to remind us that God has an “until” so relevant to our day? “I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it Him” (Ezekiel 21:27). We need not make ourselves anxious over conspiracy theories or bury ourselves under a cloud of despondency because of politicians using the crisis to promote their agendas. We have the privilege of standing on Isaiah’s shoulders and seeing higher and farther than even he saw. No, we are not invited physically into the throne room as he was, but with the telescope of Scripture to our eye, we can see a Throne Sitter Who is not only awesome in His greatness, but as our Father, abundant in His love. We can see not only the “until” of His future program for the earth, but the future He has assured for us.
Isaiah could say, “I saw.” Each of us can testify like one of old, “We have seen the Lord” (John 20:25). That sight should suffice and secure us amidst all the unnerving events swirling like a maelstrom around us. In a totally different context, Jeremiah could say “mine eye affecteth mine heart,” (Lam 3:51). What he saw on that occasion touched his heart, causing grief. But we can see a throne which should stabilize our hearts. Like Elisha, we can see what others cannot see; not the hills filled with the chariots of the Lord (2 Kings 6:17), but a God and Father Who sits unperturbed and undismayed, awaiting His “until.”