In the year that America 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 ESV, modernized a bit)
I confess this is a bit of an misstatement. I say that because the truth is the American experiment died a long time ago. Her death happened when “We the people” slowly morphed into “We the nation”. I’m referring mostly to the jingoism which rose out of the ashes of the Civil War and became entrenched in the American way of life somewhere around the McKinley administration. So, I’d argue that America died awhile back, we’ve just been slowly processing her death whilst devouring her lush inheritance for the past century.
Nonetheless, with Trump v. Clinton as the inevitable ticket this November, many believe this is the year that America has died. All is lost. Our time of prosperity gone. Times of stability and comfort will soon be over.
Our King Uzziah has died.
He had reigned for fifty-two years as a godly king (at least until the last few years). And the Lord blessed him. The fortunes of Judah were restored under his reign. The city walls were strengthened. Great national projects were started. The people loved their king.
Though considered a good king, Uzziah was not without his faults. His success had brought with him a great amount of arrogance and pride. The more success the more pride swelled up in his heart. Finally, it culminated with his entering the temple and doing things which ought not be done by a man in his position. When he had gone too far leprosy broke out on his forehead. The good king died a leper.
One doesn’t have to stretch the imagination too far to see a bit of American history in the rise and fall of Uzziah. Thankfully America has not yet been technically laid into the grave alongside other formerly-great civilizations. But we too had periods of faithfulness followed by prosperity and then consumed by arrogance and pride. Trump v. Clinton is perhaps the ultimate symbol of our national arrogance.
In the midst of the death of his king, God was gracious to Isaiah the prophet. He, as R.C. Sproul beautifully remarks, “saw another king, the Ultimate King, the One who sat forever on the throne of Judah. He saw the Lord”. (Sproul, 19)
Isaiah had to see that the death of Uzziah was not definitive. Yes, he lived in a land with great unrest. Perhaps prosperity and comforts would be harder to come by. But Uzziah was never truly sovereign. Just like America is not sovereign. And we the people are not sovereign. God is. And he does not move from His holy throne. Ever.
This great news to the trembling Isaiah’s among us. Those of us who are undone not only by the shattering of our nation, but more than anything by a realization that we are what is wrong with the world. When Isaiah saw this majestic and holy God he was undone—not by the political turmoil surrounding him. Those were insignificant compared to the Great Sovereign. No, Isaiah could now clearly see his own finitude and sinfulness before the Holy One of Israel. And he was undone.
Perhaps, as the fabric of the American dream begins to unravel and we are naked before Him, we’ll discover who we really are. We’ll discover that our passion to “make America great again” often had less to do with the Eternal Kingdom and more to do with preserving a dream we once had. And here we’ll be undone before Him.
Such a vision of the holiness of God, and it’s being matched with an equal vision of your own sinfulness, will always change a man. When you’ve got a rope about your neck and a Savior swoops in to give you new life, you cannot go back to business as usual. You can no longer play church or read your Bible as a hobby.
The tongs from the altar led to feet on the ground.
His mission wasn’t to restore Judah to the glory days of Uzziah. His new mission was to be faithful to the Holy King who would never be dethroned. Judah’s king was dead but the true King would live on. Here Isaiah would receive his marching orders—no matter what earthly king sat upon the borrowed throne.
In the year King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the True King. “Here am I, send me” was the result.
In the year America died…