World War II, the assassination of JFK, the Space Shuttle Disaster in 1986 and again in 2003, the OKC Bombing in 1995, 9-11, Hurricanes—What do they all have in common? They are historical moments that impact life. They change things. September 11, 2001, changed our world. Some defining moments are historical moments that link all of us. In Louisiana, we add now Hurricane Laura to all of her ancestors.
Isaiah lived in uncertain times. The familiar words of Isaiah chapter 6 underscores this reality: “In the year that King Uzziah died.” This was a defining, historical moment in Isaiah’s lifetime. The books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles reveal that Uzziah reigned for 52 years as King over Judah. Remember kings in this period of history were recorded as either good or bad according to their adherence to God’s law given through Moses. Uzziah is recorded as a good king. He was a strong military leader. He had weapons that were advanced for his time that shot arrows and hurled large stones from towers. In sum, Uzziah’s reign was a good reign. His death brought uncertainty. Would the next king follow in his steps? Would the new king lead the people closer to God or farther away from God? For a person like Isaiah who earnestly and eagerly sought after God, these were difficult times. These difficult times led to a defining moment for Isaiah—a moment that would change his life forever.
The Progression from Disaster to Defining Moment
How can historical moments of crisis and disaster become defining moments?
Look Upward! The sum of what Isaiah experiences is although King Uzziah is dead, God is very much alive. The sum of our Laura experience is although some have suffered devastating loss, God is very much alive.
Look Inward! Times of uncertainty ought to cause us to look within. Actually, for Isaiah, this is a by-product of his upward look. Because Isaiah sees the holiness of God, his attention is taken from the situation around him to the sin within him. Notice the first part of his confession: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah enters the Temple trembling concerning his situation, but in meeting God, he trembles at his sin.
Only after Isaiah acknowledges his own sin does he mention the sin of the ones around him. We usually get this backward.
Look Outward! Finally, in the midst of uncertain times we need to look outward. In this experience of being in the Temple, God ultimately calls Isaiah to be a prophet. God needs people in uncertain times to speak a word in the midst of the chaos. In times of crisis, many are overwhelmed. Many are looking to see if there is any hope. Many will look to the church, but only see similar panic and chaos. We will have many opportunities if we can look outward.
God uses historical moments in our lives to capture our attention. The question is whether we will allow these historical moments to keep our attention. May the Church rise to the occasion!