“In the year that King Uzziah 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)
Understanding the subject of holiness brings us to an understanding of who God is. As we begin studying Isaiah 6:1-7, we initially see that God is eternally sovereign. This is in contrast to Judah’s King Uzziah who ruled for 52 years, certainly a lengthy reign for any human monarch, but which pales in comparison to the Lord’s rule and reign.
The text begins by saying, “In the year that King Uzziah died.” The year was 739 B.C. Uzziah’s death was ultimately caused by leprosy. While leprosy was a common skin disease in the ancient world and which was perceived as highly contagious, Uzziah’s condition was a direct judgment from the Lord. 2 Chronicles 26:16 states, “But when he (Uzziah) became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.”
Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Uzziah attempted to usurp the role of the priest, which is forbidden in the Leviticus code (law). See Numbers 13:10; 18:7. Proverbs 16:18 indicates that pride precipitates a fall, and it did in his case. Even the king could not live above God’s law”
Following the death of a king who had such a lengthy and prosperous rule must have prompted the Prophet Isaiah perhaps to seek the Lord for guidance with respect to the then current, and future, well-being of the Nation of Judah. The prophet encountered much more than he could have anticipated.
“I saw the Lord.” Isaiah personally perceived, observed and was attentive to the Lord. The English rendering “Lord” is in reference to the Hebrew title Adonai, which means Master and sovereign One. It is a title for God’s sovereign deity focusing on His authority and majesty as ruler of the universe.
The question is asked, “How could Isaiah see God, who is Spirit (John 4:24)? How could God be seen in a visible shape? John Calvin comments that, “We ought to be aware that when God exhibited Himself to the view of the Fathers, He never appeared such as He actually is but such as the capacity of men could receive. God comes down to them in such a manner as to cause some kind of mirror to reflect the rays to His glory. There was, therefore, exhibited to Isaiah such a form as enabled him, according to his capacity, to perceive the inconceivable majesty of God; and thus he attributes to God a throne, a robe and a bodily appearance.”
Who exactly was the Lord that Isaiah saw? The principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture is very applicable here because John 12:39-41 says, “39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.” Isaiah saw the pre-incarnate glory of Jesus Christ, who as the second person of the Godhead is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).
Isaiah then mentions three things about the Lord who he saw. The Lord was “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”
First, what does “sitting upon a throne” mean? The word “sitting” is an active participle and it means dwelling and abiding. It figuratively refers to God’s royal dignity, authority, and power. He is sovereignly in control.
Second, what does “high and lifted up” mean? Other similar words include lofty and exalted. Judah’s King Uzziah may have occupied a lofty position as king, but there is no one more highly exalted than the Lord. In other words, the LORD is worthy of all praise.
Third, what does “and the train of his robe filled the temple” mean? Unlike King Uzziah who died an unhealthy and segregated death because of his diseased body, the Lord is eternally healthy, valued, satisfying and strong. The robe is an extension of His personhood. God’s person appears in the temple, which is where He said that He would meet His people (I Kings 8) so they would know that everything they have is from the Lord (James 1:17). There is no place within the temple which He is not present.
Dr. John Walvoord explains that, “Three things struck Isaiah about God: He was seated on a throne, He was high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. In the most holy place of the temple in Jerusalem, God’s glory was evident between the cherubim on the atonement cover over the Ark of the Covenant. Therefore some Israelites may have erroneously thought that God was fairly small. However, Solomon, in his dedicatory prayer for the new temple, had stated that no temple could contain God and that in fact even the heavens could not contain Him (1 Kings 8:27). Therefore Isaiah did not see God on the Ark of the Covenant, but on a throne. Almost 150 years later Ezekiel had a similar experience. He envisioned God being borne along on a great chariot throne by living creatures called cherubim (Ezek. 1). To Isaiah, the throne emphasized that the Lord is indeed the true King of Israel.”
Not only would Isaiah would see the Lord, but also he could hear something about the Lord. That is what we will consider when next we meet.
Soli deo Gloria!