Summary: When hope dies we need a fresh vision of God, a transformation of the heart and a mission to the world.
Most of us who were old enough to understand at the time can remember where we were on November 22, 1963. President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade was on its way to a luncheon in downtown Dallas. The president and his wife were sitting in the back of an open convertible, and Governor and Mrs. John Connally were sitting with them. The large crowds which gathered were wildly enthusiastic. Kennedy had become one of the most popular presidents ever. In 1962, he successfully backed down Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missel crisis, which some believe prevented a third World War. He had just negotiated a nuclear test ban treaty with the USSR in August. He had written two popular books, one of which, Profiles In Courage, won a Pulitzer Prize. John and Jackie had transformed the White House, and brought a new appreciation of culture and tradition. The media kept his moral failures private and promoted the successes of his presidency. There was an air of royalty and romanticism which surrounded the Kennedys, and the newspapers began describing the Kennedy household and administration as “Camelot.” Pride and optimism were growing in the nation. But with the assassination of Kennedy there was widespread shock and mourning. There was a sense of irreplaceable loss. Problems in Viet Nam were looming large. The thought of Lyndon Johnson being president was not a comfort to most people, and there began to be a growing concern about the future of the country.
That was much the same mood that we find in the sixth chapter of Isaiah. King Uzziah had died. There had not been another king like him since Solomon. Uzziah was an able administrator and military leader. He began his reign at 16, and it lasted 52 years — a remarkable tenure. He was an extremely popular king, and his accomplishments were many. Under his leadership the nation of Judah had grown and known tremendous prosperity, peace and stability. But with Uzziah’s death came the death of hope for many. It was the year hope died, because Judah was facing the transition from one very popular and proven ruler to an inexperienced and less favored successor. There was anxiety and concern throughout Judah. Would Uzziah’s son be able to lead them? To the north, the Assyrians were gaining power and were gulping down nations all around them. They were pushing closer and closer every day. An even larger threat was presenting itself in the rising kingdom of Babylon. It was a frightening and depressing time in the history of the nation.
What do you do when hope dies and fear comes alive? Where do you go when stability is lost and the future is uncertain at best, and something to be dreaded at worst? There are three clear messages in this chapter of Isaiah, and the first is this: When hope dies we need a vision of God. Isaiah said, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted....” It was depressing to think of what was going to happen to the nation with the death of the king. Judah was in need of continuing great leadership if the nation was going to remain free and prosperous. All of this was now uncertain with Uzziah’s death and Isaiah was in despair. Isaiah needed a vision of God to bring him out of it. With the death of Judah’s king, Isaiah needed to see THE King — the Sovereign of all the earth whose kingdom will never end.
How often we have puny little concepts of God which put life out of perspective. I have had people tell me that they do not believe in God. Sometimes I ask them what they think God is like, and after they tell me I say, “I don’t believe in that God either.” Their idea of God is distorted and inadequate. In a time of despair you need to run to God, not away from him. But be sure it is the true God and that your God is not too small. Take a look at Isaiah’s God and see how yours compares. If you are not occasionally overcome with the thought of the bigness and greatness of God, then you need a new vision of God.
Even people outside the Christian faith have noticed that if God does exist, he exists in a grandeur unknown to us who are confined to time and space. J. B. Phillips, in his book Your God Is Too Small, says: “The discoveries of modern physical and biological science, of astronomy, and of psychology, have profoundly influenced his conception of the ‘size’ of God. If there be a Mind behind the immense complexities of the phenomena that man can observe, then it is that of a Being tremendous in His power and wisdom: it is emphatically not that of a little god.” Sara Maitland, in her book A Big-Enough God, observes: “So, as it turns out, we do not have a little, tame, domestic God, thank God, but we do have a huge, wild, dangerous God — dangerous, of course, only if we think that God ought to be manageable and safe; a God of almost manic creativity, ingenuity and enthusiasm; a Big-Enough God, who is also a supremely generous and patient God; a God of beauty and chance and solidarity — or one could say, an Extreme God.”