THE KING IS DEAD
Devotional for the Sunday of the Holy Trinity 2018
based upon Isaiah 6: 1-8
For those who are old enough, where were you on November 22, 1963, when you heard that President John F. Kennedy had been shot? Most people can tell you exactly where they were. The news sped around the world: “The President is dead.” It was shocking – unbelievable. John F. Kennedy – young, vibrant, dynamic – cut down by an assassin’s bullet. Our entire nation was plunged into grief. The following Sunday people flocked to church – and in the greatest numbers since the announcement of the end of World War II.
Twenty-seven hundred years ago another sad announcement was heard: “The King is dead.” Uzziah, king of Judah, had died. He had been crowned king at the age of sixteen and had reigned for fifty-two years. Despite his weaknesses, he was the greatest king since David. The prophet Isaiah was heartbroken. Uzziah was not only his king. He was also his friend. In grief and sorrow he wondered what to do. He made his way to the Temple – like the people after the death of President Kennedy – to find comfort and renewed faith. When in your life have you really needed to go to church to worship, to find comfort, and to have your faith strengthened and renewed?
Now no one else is mentioned as being in the Temple that day. But I have a feeling that the Temple area was full that day as thousands of people came in response to the news that the King was dead. After all, Uzziah had been king for fifty-two years. For many people, he had been king their entire lives. Many people knew no other king. And now the king is dead. When sorrow comes, when life crashes in, when our earthly source of security is gone, the best place to be is in the house of the Lord.
Isaiah went to the house of the Lord. And there he learned that even though King Uzziah had died, God had not died. God was still on His throne. Isaiah might have lost his good friend and earthly king. But that day he caught a fresh glimpse of the King of kings. That day he had an encounter with God that totally changed his life. Today you can have an encounter with God that can totally change your life.
In his encounter with God Isaiah saw four things. First, ISAIAH SAW THE LORD. And that is the greatest vision that anyone can have. To see the Lord. Isaiah writes, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty.” Another translation says, “High and lifted up.” Isaiah saw God as the central object of all praise – surrounded by angels. It was the vision Isaiah needed because Uzziah had died.
How often in worship do you have a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne, high and lifted up? And if not very often, why not? Isaiah had a vision of the greatness and glory of God, and it changed his life. The same living Lord wants to change your life. Earthly kings will come and go. But the King of kings is King forever. He is just as powerful as He has ever been, and just as willing to reveal Himself to you. First, Isaiah saw the Lord.
Second, ISAIAH SAW HIMSELF. And he saw himself as he had never seen himself before. As he saw himself, he did not admire his image in the mirror. He did not think, “Wow! I must be the best person here, because God has revealed Himself to me.” Instead he cried out, “Woe is me! I am lost. I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”
And it’s true. The closer you get to God, the more clearly you see your own sin. The more you see the glory of God, the more you realize just how far you fall short of the glory of God. A weak sense of God leads to a weak sense of our own sin. While a renewed sense of God leads to a renewed sense of our own sin. Seeing the Lord high and lifted up, Isaiah saw himself in a whole new light.
Third, ISAIAH SAW GOD’S CLEANSING POWER. A live coal was brought by an angel from the altar of sacrifice and was touched to Isaiah’s lips. The altar was the place where the priests would kill the animals and then cover over the sins of the people with the blood of animals. For as God said, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.
The coal had been touched by two things – blood and fire. Blood speaks of the cleansing from sin – as blood can cleanse a wound. And fire speaks of purifying power. Blood removes the sin, while fire brings power for renewed living. The angel took a blood-soaked and fire-purifying coal from the altar of sacrifice and touched it to Isaiah’s lips. Isaiah experienced the sweet, clean feeling of forgiveness, peace, and power. There is nothing like it in the world.
And then fourth, ISAIAH SAW THE WORLD. Isaiah heard God ask, “Whom shall I send? Who will go? Who will be a messenger of hope to other people who are grieving over the death of the king? Who will bring the blood and the fire to other people who need forgiveness of sins and power for living?” Isaiah heard God ask, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah replied, “Here am I, Lord; send me.”
Isaiah did not say, “Here am I, but please send someone else.” Nor did he say, “Before I sign up I need to find out what all is involved, how long it will be for, and what is in it for me.” Rather he signed a blank cheque. He did not try to strike up a bargain with God. He did not attempt to negotiate a compromise. Rather when God called, Isaiah answered. When God commanded, Isaiah obeyed.
And who would respond like that? Only someone who has seen the vision. Only someone who has seen the Lord high and lifted up. And the same thing can happen for you today. King Jesus was dead, but now He is alive. He died for our sins, but He rose from the dead and is alive forevermore. And He calls us to see Him as He truly is – the holy God. He calls us to see ourselves as we truly are – sinful and in desperate need of Him. He calls us to see that He can cleanse us of all sin and give us power for renewed living. And He calls us to see that other people also need to know what He can do for them.
Today have you seen the Lord high and lifted up? Today have you been cleansed by His blood and have you received the fire of His power for living? Today are you hearing and heeding His call to go and tell others?
Dennis D. Nelson
President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE