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Commitment To The King's Service

The prophecy of Isaiah covers a period in which the spiritual climate in Israel was rapidly declining. The prophet refers, at the beginning of chapter 6, to "the year that King Uzziah died". That year stood out in his memory for two reasons. It marked the in glorious end of another wise illustrious reign; and in that same year Isaiah was given a vision of a greater King-he saw the surpassing glory of Christ, the heavenly King (John 12:41). Both these events, each in its place, were woven into the fabric of the great evangelical prophet's life.

Uzziah ascended the throne of Judah when he was sixteen years of age and his reign spanned half a century (2 Chron. 26). In a period of national unsettlement and intrigue in the Royal court, the young king adopted policies which steadied and united the nation. He was a man of many parts: a wise leader, a sound administrator, a farseeing statesman and a great tactician. But his success as a leader of God's people did not stem from his gifts and industry only. There was this important element in his life apart from which there can be no true greatness "he set himself to seek God". At his side was Zechariah who had understanding in the vision of God. And so long as Uzziah was under the influence of this godly counsellor all was well. His fame spread far and wide beyond the borders of Judah.

When a leader of God's people achieves such eminence he needs the balancing qualities of humility and self-distrust. When these are lacking even great leaders can be brought low. God is no respecter of persons. The tragedy which overtook Uzziah in his closing years was all of his own making. The fatal flaw in his character is exposed in these sad words: "He was marvellously helped till he was strong. But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up so that he did corruptly, and he trespassed against the LORD his God".

When pride gains the ascendancy a fall is imminent. The greater the man, the greater the fall. In Uzziah's case it goaded him to defy the holy law of God's house. Evidently the godly Zachariah was not now at his side. But there were other faithful men. If only he had listened to them. The courageous rebuke of Amaziah the priest fell on deaf ears. Headstrong and arrogant the king entered the sanctuary and proceeded to burn incense. What presumptuous folly! Judgement was swift and severe. As he stood in the sanctuary with a censer in his hand the loathsome disease of leprosy broke out in his forehead. The disfigurement was there for all to see. The king fled from the temple, a broken man, to humiliating isolation and untimely death. So ended the reign of one of Judah's greatest kings. The lesson is obvious. It was a lesson that Isaiah never forgot. And such examples of the ways of God are on record for our admonition. In an age when humility and lowliness of mind are rare the apostle Paul's solemn warning has increasing relevance, "Wherefore, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor.10:12).

Isaiah's vision of the heavenly King preceded his call to the prophetic office. If he was to fulfil the task to be assigned to him he would need in abundant measure those very qualities his earthly king had lacked. Exposed and overpowered in the divine presence Isaiah saw himself as never before. Whatever pretensions of personal worth he cherished vanished in a moment. "Woe is me!", he cried, "for lam undone: because I am a man of unclean lips". Now that he had seen the King he felt utterly unfit to serve Him. But the vision did not end there. His uncleanness was exposed; it would now be removed. One of the seraphs flew with a live coal taken with the tongs from the altar, and touching his mouth with it said, "Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged". The searing heat which burned into his lips consumed their impurity and imparted the facility to speak words which would burn with the same holy fire that glowed from those burning seraphim. Now he is ready to serve. He stands and waits. The Voice from the throne came with compelling power, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Unhesitatingly he responds, "Here am I, send me". Before the task is disclosed he commits himself without reserve to the King's service. Notice the terms of his commitment, not, "I'll go", but "send me".

These are the terms of heaven's Court and this is the mark of the true servant of God. He does not question, he does not bargain with God or lay down conditions. The honour of service is enough.