King Uzziah reigned for 52 years as King of Judah. He died in 740 BC and was credited with longevity in his reign due to his ‘doing right in the sight of the LORD’ (2 Chron. 26:4). God helped him in war against the Philistines and his ‘fame spread… for he became exceedingly strong’. However, he was tragically struck down with leprosy until the day of his death, because he entered God’s temple and burned incense on the altar of incense. A disappointing demise of a good king who did great exploits for the Lord.
In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah wrote, ‘In the year that King Uzziah died…’ He must have been disillusioned, discouraged and despondent after Uzziah’s tragic end. But who did Isaiah see in his vision? The LORD – sitting on a throne – exalted, glorious and majestic.
Kings at that time would wear robes with long trains as a symbol of their status. It’s awesome to think that Isaiah experienced God in all his honour and importance, and so dignified that the train of His robe filled the temple!
In verse 2 we read of seraphim, a word related to the Hebrew verb ‘saraph’ which means to burn with fire. Fire is a symbol of purity and the seraphim were associated with purification. Isaiah recognised his own unworthiness and sin. He said,
‘Woe is me, for I am undone!’ (v5)
‘one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal… and he touched my mouth with it.’ (v6).
Isaiah’s sin was purged. What a stark contrast to King Uzziah who experienced the judgment of God for burning incense: Isaiah was purified with burning coal!
I often feel like Isaiah, unworthy and acutely aware of my sinful failures. Do you? Let’s praise God that our sin is eternally dealt with through Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice. God sovereignly and graciously forgave Isaiah’s sin. How much more he has forgiven us through Jesus ‘who Himself bore our sins on His own body on the tree’ (1 Peter 2:24).