The Best of Times and the Worst of Times
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"
I was only seven years old and the memory of that day remains fixed in my mind. For a reason that I can’t remember now, I didn’t go to school that day. I can still see the afternoon sunrays shooting through the window reflecting on tiny lint particles flying around in the air, as Mom ironed clothes while watching The Guiding Light. Suddenly, our regular seven ‘o clock guest showed up early and interrupted Mom’s “stories,” as she called them.
The grandfatherly like gentleman who visited every evening via a worn out black and white Phillips television, Walter Cronkite, who bored me stiff but daily captured the attention of my parents with his evening news, interrupted Mom’s soaps. “There has been an attempt, as you may know, on the life of President Kennedy.”
Mom froze. “Oh, my God!”
Minutes later, he added: “From Dallas, Texas the news is apparently official, President Kennedy died at One PM, Central Standard Time.”
It didn’t mean a lot to me…until I saw Mom cry. Then, the always composed Cronkite took off his black horn-rimmed glasses and right there in front of me and the world, he cried. Off and on, throughout the evening, Mom wept. The next day at school Mrs. Crumpler, my second grade teacher, cried in front of all us kids. I admit, at first I wasn’t bothered that a president had been shot dead until I saw how it troubled everyone else. Especially grown ups. It seemed like all of America wept when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Kids like me couldn’t comprehend the gravity of the times. But we remember.
This is the kind of historical landmark Isaiah recalls when he talks about the events that surround the time God changed his life. The Lord moved on the heart of Isaiah “in the year that King Uzziah died.” That was the year that all Israel cried, and it’s possible these days pressed Isaiah to seek the Lord more seriously. Maybe God moved on Isaiah’s heart because he died.
For fifty-two years Israel prospered in every way under the leadership of Uzziah. Military, agricultural, and economic advancements skyrocketed. Families were happy. The nation was at peace. The king was popular. And then, he died. Much like America in the 60’s after President Kennedy died, the attitude of Israel went south because they saw, what seemed to them as, the end.
But it wasn’t.
Not for Isaiah. Not for Israel.
The nation became distressed because, for the first time in half a century, their throne was empty. The king they had come to trust and revere no longer occupied their seat of authority. Israel’s condition drove Isaiah to prayer and it was here that he saw what others did not see. He saw a throne that was elevated with greater authority than the one that was unoccupied in Israel. And this one was not vacant because the Lord was seated on this throne!
From Isaiah’s perspective, heaven was not stressed in the least over King Uzziah’s death. Heavenly beings took flight, singing as they circled the throne, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Don’t miss what they saw. At a time of unprecedented darkness, they saw “the whole earth…full of his glory!”
No mention of a potential downturn in Israel’s economy now that the king died. Not one word of fear over their military weakening if the right man doesn’t replace Uzziah. From heaven’s perspective the glory of God was filling the earth at the most unlikely time.
Our perspective? We’re crying. Politicians, some say, are ruining the nation. Gas prices rising. Terrorists threaten. Jobs are scarce. Economy plummeting. Middle class vanishing.
Even if it’s all true, I want to encourage you that there’s more you don’t see. It’s impossible to see it through the lens of CNN, and dare I say, even FOX. But like Isaiah, you can allow what’s happening here to inspire you to a better view from there. When everything in Israel went south, Isaiah headed north—toward the heavens. He sought the Lord. In his seeking he found God occupying the greatest seat of authority over all the earth. In Isaiah’s quest, he heard heavenly beings declare that God’s glory was covering the earth, quite the opposite of what he experienced only hours before.
Forty-eight years have passed since Mom and I heard Walter Cronkite announce Kennedy’s death that, along with the Vietnam War, gave birth to the rebellious 60’s. Unknown to us, simultaneous with our nation spinning out of control, the Lord was launching an age of glory that would soon spread across the world.
During the exact same era, an Episcopalian priest, Dennis Bennett, announced to his affluent congregation in Van Nuys, California that he had seen the Lord in a way that was highly unusual for mainline Christians in America. Bennett told his congregation he had experienced a baptism with the Holy Spirit that changed his life. Throughout the next decade as LIFE magazine plastered their covers with scenes of war, drugs, and death, people who were hungry to see more than this experienced the glory of God.
No doubt about it, these days look dark if you’re looking through a lens that only reports a horizontal point of view. It’s not wrong to acknowledge there’s darkness here as long as it drives us to see God’s glory there. There is another outlook—another perspective. While our crazy world gyrates out of control, there are “Dennis Bennett’s” who are seeing the Lord. It’s through them that the glory of God will be revealed to the world.
As Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, these are “the best of times and the worst of times.” As for me, I see the Lord.
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