Summary: Maybe the future of our country looks uncertain; or we are living under oppressive leadership. But when we recognize that God is still on the throne, we find the confidence necessary to carry on with boldness!
I wish to begin our message by sharing something about the time in which Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived. The Nazi regime ascended to power on January 30, 1933. “Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address in which he attacked Hitler and warned Germany against slipping into an idolatrous cult of the Führer . . . In April, Bonhoeffer raised the first voice for church resistance to Hitler’s persecution of the Jews . . . Hitler [soon thereafter] unconstitutionally imposed new church elections in July 1933. Bonhoeffer put all his efforts into the election, campaigning for the selection of independent, non-Nazi officials, [but] despite Bonhoeffer’s efforts, in the rigged July election, an overwhelming majority of key church positions went to Nazi-supported German[s].”(1)
Bonhoeffer continued to resist the Nazi regime from 1933 onward. “In September of 1940, the Gestapo forbade Bonhoeffer from public speaking and publishing . . . In 1943, Bonhoeffer was arrested and remained in several different prisons for nearly two years. In February of 1945, he was moved to a concentration camp in Buchenwald. On April 9, 1945, he was sentenced to be executed. As he was led out to the gallows, Bonhoeffer spoke, [saying], ‘This is the end. For me, the beginning of life’.”(2) His very last statement struck a chord with the words of the apostle Paul who, amidst persecution, declared, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). So, how did Bonhoeffer have such an unshakable resolve to fight for truth and liberty? Well, it had something to do with His faith in Jesus Christ and His faith in who was really on the throne.
When King Uzziah Died (Isaiah 6:1-8)
1 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. 2 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. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
The sixth chapter of Isaiah begins with the statement, “In the year that King Uzziah died” (v. 1). The first question we want to ask is “who was King Uzziah?” “Uzziah reigned as king over Judah from 792 to 740 B.C. – a long reign of 52 years. It was second only to the reign of Judah’s King Manesseh, which lasted 55 years . . . [He] was considered a great king in Judah. R. C. Sproul says of Uzziah’s reign that he was among the top five kings of Judah. Uzziah was his throne name; it means ‘the Lord is strong.’ His birth name, however, was Azariah, which is the name used for him in 2 Kings 14 and 15. Azariah means ‘the Lord helps.’ Both of these names are appropriate for Uzziah.”(3)
In 2 Chronicles 26:2-15, we are provided “a substantial list of achievements that made King Uzziah great. The first is listed in verse 2. We read there that Uzziah rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah after Amaziah’s father died. Elath was an important seaport in Edom, and it gave access to trade with the east. It had been used by Solomon, but had been lost during the reign of Jehoram over 100 years earlier. And so, Uzziah’s restoration of Elath as a seaport was very good for Judah’s economy.”(4)
“In verses 6 through 8, we see more international achievements of Uzziah. He took on several long-term enemies of Judah – the Philistines, the Arabs, the Meunites – and he defeated them all. In doing so, he also gained the fear and tribute, and perhaps, the vassalage of the Ammonites; and as a result, we read in verse 8 that Uzziah’s fame spread as far as the border of Egypt, because he had become very strong.”(5)