Thursday, July 16, 2009

Seeing God

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Isaiah 6.1

Life-Shaping Experience

Isaiah—justly regarded as the Old Testament’s greatest prophet—is an extraordinary man born into mediocre times. Israel is divided into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. The Judean ruler, Uzziah, is incapacitated by leprosy after disobediently usurping the priests’ responsibilities in temple rites. After years of successful rule, Uzziah oversteps his bounds. He enters the temple to burn incense. In 2 Chronicles 26.18, the priests confront him: “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests…. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.” (Note: separation of church and state is actually a Biblical principle.) Uzziah’s son takes over as prince regent. Under his less capable leadership, much of the progress Judah experienced is lost.

Uzziah’s punishment eclipses Israel’s view of God. Its fear of the divine Presence dwelling in the temple causes people to keep their distance. This is why Isaiah notes Uzziah’s death as he begins to relate his life-shaping experience. Uzziah’s removal removes a hindrance to seeing God. Isaiah is caught up in a vision in which he’s swept into the temple. There he views the Living God, lifted high on His throne, the train of His robe covering the entire expanse of the temple. Since Isaiah is a layman—therefore unworthy (as Uzziah was) to enter the temple’s holiest sector—it is widely presumed that Isaiah’s vision is a prophetic metaphor of God’s supremacy. He’s seated above all else and the whole of His glory fills the Earth.

High and Low

During my high school and college years, I’d arrive early for Sunday evening worship just to spend some time with “Mama” Henderson, an elderly woman who took special interest in me. When something I said suggested doubt that God cared about my circumstances—perhaps I thought my problems were too trivial for His concern—Mama Henderson always said the same thing: “Son, remember He sits high and looks low.” And when I’d confess feelings of doubt and confusion, she’d say, “Stop looking for answers and start seeing God.”

This is where Isaiah is. He sees a God Who sits high and looks low, One Who covers all time and space, holds all power, and retains the answer to every problem. The solutions to Israel’s troubles may not be visible, but Isaiah marvels at the God Whose visible presence contains them. He stops looking for answers. He starts seeing God.

Blind No More

We live in a mediocre world, much of it mishandled by haughty leaders who’ve overstepped their bounds. Our borders are no longer sacred—faith and politics intermingle at the pleasure of civic officials usurping priestly authority and priestly figures playing politics. We hear a lot of God talk, but the fear it generates prevents many of us from seeing God, high and lifted, filling the world with His majesty and might. This is psychosomatic blindness—an inability to see caused by traumatic events. We must resolve in our hearts and minds to be blind no more. Seeing God is as simple as believing He’s there, sitting high, looking low, caring about every detail of our lives.

We see God’s glory filling the Earth, as He sits high and looks low.

(Tomorrow: Mercy – The Early Edition)


Missy said...

I really like this. Well said.

Tim said...

Thanks, Missy. Being a watchful believer (like me and everyone else here), you understand how easily we can fall into "watcher's fatigue"--growing weary with seeing so much "not right" in the world. It's good to remind ourselves sometimes to see God in the middle of it all. He's the same as ever; His story hasn't changed. That gives me comfort on so many levels.

Thanks, as ever, Missy -- it always delights me to hear from you!