The Power of New Beginnings—Isaiah 6:1-8. –DBC– February 10, 2019—David Denny
Introduction: This morning I’m going to take you on a roller coaster ride plunging from the heights of amazing accomplishment to the depths of despair and then back up with a spectacular new beginning. This dramatic circuit often parallels our own lives of boom and bust. Sometimes we’re riding high and then at other times were on the edge of disaster. But through it all, God is there and He can infuse the life and inspiration you need to undertake a new beginning.
*Grapes of Wrath—One of the great novels of the world shows us the power of new beginnings. Written in 1939 in the midst of the great depression, this uniquely American adventure tells the story of one family that hit bottom and decided to start anew by going west. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was published in 1939 and won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and led to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962.
Tom Joad had just been released from prison for killing a man. When he got home, he found his farm abandoned. The dust bowl and swallowed up the farm and the crops and the banks had foreclosed and all the family knew to do was start over. They would go west and live the American Dream in California…
- Uzziah’s Descent. Let’s step into the text now and discover another tale of woe than inspires our young prophet Isaiah to launch into a dynamic new beginning. But first, we must follow the sad path of Uzziah who started off in life so well and then plummeted into despair. He was 16 years old when he joined his father—Amaziah- in ruling the Kingdom of Judah.
He did so well at the beginning. He was a brilliant leader with so much talent. He invented some powerful weapons that made the city of Jerusalem invincible. He crafted some ingenious machines that would fire off arrows from the towers on the wall. And he invented a machine that would hurl massive stones over the wall at the enemy. —But he also loved simple things like farming and gardening. He served the Lord and his reputation spread through the world. Tragedy struck in his thirties—His father was murdered which left Uzziah as the sole king/ruler. At first, things continued on well but Uzziah began to change. Dressing in the robes of the king swelled his sense of pride and before long he walked with a swagger and saw himself as all-powerful.
Then one day he did something so horrible he never recovered from it. He decided one day that he would stroll down to the temple and enter the holy place and burn incense on the altar. This was a sacred ritual assigned by God to the priests, the sons of Aaron. No one else could it. But Uzziah didn’t care. And so he prepared the incense and marched off to the temple. The high priest discovered the plot and gathered 80 of the temple’s priests to stand as a barrier to the holy place. Uzziah shoved his way into the temple and faced off with the priest Azariah backed by his army of priests. 2 Chronicles 2618 tells us what the high priest said to him. “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the Lord God.”
The Bible tells us that Uzziah was enraged. He was king. How dare they attempt to stop him. And then what happened next was truly incredible! The Bible says that while he stood enraged and shouting abusively to the priests his face began to change before their eyes. The text says specifically that the changes were first visible on his forehead. And then it spread, a bubbling, boiling putrid series of scabs and sores erupted on his face. God Himself struck the king with leprously. And when he read the faces of the priest who surrounded him and saw their stares of disbelief, he ran his hands over the scabby eruptions and dropped the incense tray and ran out of the temple screaming. From this time on he was banned from the city and forced to live in a small hut away from the people he ruled.
*Now 800 years later Josephus, the first-century historian tells us more details. He said in his histories that at the very moment of brazen assault on the holy place violent earthquake struck the city and as the walls of the temple cracked a brilliant ray of sunshine fell upon the king’s face and then leprosy struck.
*Modern geologists think they have discovered proof of this earthquake that had a magnitude of 8.2. Masonry walls and debris from six of the Judean cities show clear signs of this earthquake and the date of the fallen rocks and walls date to this middle of the 8thcentury BC, the exact time of Uzziah’s reign.
And so Uzziah’s world crumbled into ashes as he lived out his life in horrible isolation locked away in a tiny house on the outskirts of the city and buried in a lonely tomb.
- Isaiah’s Vision and New Beginnings. But now let’s pick up the inspiring trail of Isaiah’s call to serve. Out text begins with these haunting words: “In the year of King Uzziah’s death…”. What does this mean? Now we understand it all so much more clearly. In the year of King Uzziah’s death—Now we know the tale of woe this suggests and now we see the big picture. The city is overwhelmed with sadness and fear. For the Assyrians have just conquered the region and now the people of Judah and Jerusalem must pay annual taxes and tribute to a foreign power.
And in the midst of these dark clouds that now hang over the city, a young man named Isaiah makes his way to the temple to pray and prepare for his day. And as he worshipped silently seeing the sacred smoke from the morning’s incense rising in the air and hearing the chants of the priests, his mind began to drift toward heavenly things. And he saw in his mind a most wonderful vision of God Himself as He hovered over the mercy seat in the holy of holies. (Read Isaiah 6:1-4).
Paul had a similar experience. IN the book of Acts (22:17) Paul says that he went into the temple and began to meditate and pray and there against the backdrop of the sights and sounds of the temple, he fell into a trance.
And here in our Isaiah text, we see the young prophet, a man in his twenties, living in the worst of times searching for hope and meaning. And then He sees God hovering over the mercy seat with the seraphim hovering about. Him. And God speaks to him and asks the question of questions—“Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?” And then Isaiah rises up with the hope a new beginning for his life and shouts out, “Here am I. Send me!”
When your life hits its nadir, when your life plummets to some unknown despair, remember Uzziah and remember Isaiah. One abandoned the Lord and one surrendered to the Lord. One lost his way while the other found a new beginning.