Uzziah lived for some time shut up as a leper. The year in which he died was the occasion of one of Isaiah’s visions: that eminent prophet exercised his ministry in this and the next three reigns.
Isaiah saw the Messiah, as we learn from Joh_12:41. His glorious apparel and magnificent state filled the Holy of Holies with splendour.
Above it stood the seraphims:
Those holy ministers stood around the throne of glory, adoring, and waiting as servants to obey their King’s behests:
Milton thus poetically describes a seraph:—
Six wings he wore to shade
His lineaments divine; the pair that clad
Each shoulder broad, came mantling o’er his breast
With regal ornament; the middle pair
Girt like a starry zone his waist, and round
Skirted his loins and thighs with downy gold
And colours dipt in heaven; the third his feet
Shadowed from either heel with feathered mail
Sky tinctured grain.”
A sense of the Lord’s presence humbles even the best of men: we cannot see the glory of God and continue to glory in ourselves. Humility is an indispensable preparation for the Lord’s work. Isaiah must first feel his sinfulness before the live coal can touch his lips.
When a man’s lips have felt the sacrificial flame, he is bold to go upon the Lord’s errands, though it were to the world’s end.
On account of their sin the people could find no blessing in the ministry, but even the voice of God was a savour of death unto death unto them.
As a tree has life in it when the leaves are gone, so would the nation still live on, to be in due season restored to its former glory.
The evangelist John applied these words of Isaiah to the times of our Lord, and in that connection they were solemnly fulfilled.
Sovereign Ruler, Lord of all,
Prostrate at thy feet I fall;
Hear, oh, hear my earnest cry;
Frown not, lest I faint and die.
Vilest of the sons of men,
Chief of sinners I have been:
Oft have sinn’d before thy face,
Trampled on thy richest grace.
Justly might thy fatal dart
Pierce this bleeding, broken heart;
Justly might thy angry breath
Blast me in eternal death.
Jesus, save my dying soul;
Make my broken spirit whole;
Humbled in the dust I lie;
Saviour, leave me not to die.
Sinful, sighing to be blest,
Bound, and longing to be free,
Weary, waiting for my rest;
“God be merciful to me!”
Holiness! I’ve none to plead,
Sinfulness in all I see;
I can only bring my need;
“God be merciful to me!”
Broken heart, and downcast eyes,
Dare not lift themselves to thee,
Yet thou canst interpret sighs;
“God be merciful to me!”
There is One beside the throne,
And my only hope and plea
Are in him, and him alone;
“God be merciful to me!”
Thou art my refuge, Lord, I flee
From other safeguard unto thee;
Now by thy hand of power divine,
Sustain this feeble soul of mine.
Uphold my feet, so quick to fail,
And in thy strength I shall prevail;
Go thou before me, lead me on,
Until the heavenly home be won.
Thy wisdom every day I prove,
And learn thy endless, quenchless love!
By grace upheld, by grace restored,
Thou knowest that I love thee, Lord.
A good High Priest is come,
Supplying Aaron’s place,
And, taking up his room,
Dispensing life and grace.
Woe to the man who dares pretend
His sacrifice with Christ’s to blend.
He died; but lives again,
And by the altar stands;
There shows how he was slain,
Opening his piercèd hands.
Our Priest abides; ‘tis he alone
Who can for guilty man atone.
I other priests disclaim,
And laws, and offerings too,
None but the bleeding Lamb,
The mighty work can do.
Away, ye base pretenders all,
Ere yet the vengeance on you fall!
O thou who didst the temple fill
With thy resplendent, awful train,
The glory of thine Israel still,
Appear in those bright robes again.
Thrice holy, holy, holy Lord,
Thou art by seraphim adored;
And, while they stand around thy seat,
They veil their faces and their feet.
Lord, how can sinful lips proclaim
The honours of so great a name!
O for thine altar’s glowing coal
To touch my lips, to fire my soul!
Then, if a messenger thou ask,
A labourer for the hardest task,
Through all my weakness and my fear,
Love shall reply, “Thy servant’s here.”
I will praise thee every day!
Now thine anger’s turn’d away,
Comfortable thoughts arise
From the bleeding sacrifice.
Jesus is become at length,
My salvation and my strength;
And his praises shall prolong,
While I live, my pleasant song.
Raise again the joyful sound,
Let the nations roll it round!
Zion shout, for this is he,
God the Saviour dwells in thee.
He prepared his ways before the Lord his God.”
2 Chronicles 27
Uzziah, king of Judah, who became a leper, was succeeded by his son Jotham.
We should imitate our parents’ excellencies, but not their failings. It is well that Jotham took warning from his father’s sin.
They would have followed the king had he been a worshipper of idols, but they would not go with him in adoring the Lord. There was even a conspiracy hatched against him to set up the son of Tabeal, but it came to nothing.
He did what he could for the material benefit of the people, greatly mourning that they were so indifferent to their own spiritual good.
For one good man’s sake God blessed the whole nation. It is sad to think that this did not lead them to follow the example of their pious king; yet how many children there are with godly parents who nevertheless continue to sin against the Lord, and grieve their father’s heart. May there never be any such in this house; and if there be, may the Lord Jesus look upon them and grant them repentance unto life.
He was careful and thoughtful in his conduct, and fearful lest he should sin by inadvertence, and therefore he became strong. There is a great deal of meaning in the expression “he prepared his ways before the Lord his God;” it implies that he did not follow men, or seek their approbation, but lived as in the immediate presence of the Lord, and desired above all things to please him.
Thus passed away one of the six best kings of Judah; happy nation to have known such a ruler.
It may be for our instruction to notice that, during the long reign of Uzziah over Judah, the unhappy kingdom of Israel had been a scene of strife. For many years no king sat upon the throne, and when at last Zechariah, the fourth descendant from Jehu, assumed the crown, his reign was ended in six months by Shallum, who killed him in the presence of the people. Shallum also destroyed all the members of the family of Jehu, and thus the prophetic threatening was fulfilled. Shallum, the murderer, enjoyed the throne for only one month, and was in his turn murdered by Menahem, who for the next ten years oppressed the people, who were wholly given to their idols. At this period we hear, for the first time, of an Assyrian invasion, and Menahem purchased peace by paying a heavy subsidy and yielding a number of his subjects as captives. At Menahem’s death his son Pekahiah mounted the guilty throne, to pursue the same course of sin as his predecessors, but in the brief space of two years his reign was over, for Pekah, one of his captains, assassinated him, and began to reign at about the same period, or a little before Jotham; so that Pekah, as king of Israel, was contemporary with Jotham and Ahaz kings of Judah. Do not feel troubled by these details, for nothing in God’s word is trivial. Those who love the Lord love every letter of his Book. The prophecy of Hosea will lose much of its interest to us if we are not acquainted with the times in which he lived. The histories of Scripture are as much inspired as the Psalms or the Gospels, and it is a shame for Christians not to be well acquainted with them.