Isaiah ’s Turning Point

Apparent Prosperity

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” Isaiah 6:1. KJV

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king; and he reigned fifty-two years in Jersualem, one of the longest reigns of any of the kings of Judah. “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah did. And he sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God: and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper. And he went forth and warred against the Philistines, and brake down the wall of Gath, and the wall of Jabneh, and the wall of Ashdod, and built cities about Ashdod, and among the Philistines. And God helped him against the Philistines, and against the Arabians that dwelt in Gurbaal, and the Mehunims. And the Ammonites gave gifts to Uzziah; and his name spread abroad even to the entering in of Egypt; for he strengthened himself exceedingly.” 2 Chronicles 26:4–8.

Outwardly, Israel was experiencing great prosperity. Oftentimes, however, people who are having the greatest outward prosperity are in the deepest trouble spiritually. We have two examples in the book of Revelation that reveal how the outward circumstances are no indication of the true spiritual condition. There is the church at Smyrna which outwardly was a persecuted church and was in poverty and in terrible trouble; but the Lord said, “Really, you are rich.” (See Revelation 2:9.) In fact, there is no condemnation or rebuke given to the church of Smyrna. In contrast, there is the church of Laodicea. Outwardly, Laodicea was prosperous and rich; but of its spiritual condition, the Lord says, “You are poor, wretched, miserable.” (See Revelation 3:17.) You see, what is happening to you on the outside may in no way reflect your true spiritual condition. During the reign of Uzziah, the people of Israel wee in good shape financially, militarily, and economically; but notice what took place.

“But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the LORD His God by entering the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men. And they withstood King Uzziah, and 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 to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You have no honor from the LORD God.’ Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censor in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the LORD had struck him. King Uzziah was a leper until the day of his death. He dwelt in an isolated house, because he was a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. Then Jotham his son was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land. Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz wrote.” 2 Chronicles 26:16–22. NKJV

Uzziah had leprosy, and everybody knew why he had it; He had leprosy because he had transgressed; he had disobeyed. I have often wondered if the Christian world would not be a completely different place if we were living in the time of the old covenant and judgment against our sins came instantly. One of the amazing things that I have learned from studying the Old Testament, however, is that when the Lord did bring judgments instantly upon people, while it affected the person who received the judgment, often the rest of the people went on as if nothing had taken place. Apparently it was this way in Judah.

Approaching Retribution

The time came when Uzziah died. It was in the year Uzziah died that Isaiah was called to be a prophet. “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.” Isaiah 6:1. The New Kings James Version says, “the train of His robe;” but it would be more accurate to say the “train of His glory filled the temple.” When Isaiah received this revelation, he was in a state of depression and discouragement. The divine protection was starting to be removed from God’s chosen people, and they were soon going to suffer terrible calamities. There was something, however, that was worse than these threatening outward dangers that troubled Isaiah. “But the dangers from without, overwhelming though they seemed, were not so serious as the dangers from within. It was the perversity of his people that brought to the Lord’s servant the greatest perplexity and the deepest depression. By their apostasy and rebellion, those who should have been standing as light bearers among the nations were inviting the judgments of God. . . . The outlook was particularly discouraging as regards to the social conditions of the people. In their desire for gain, men were adding house to house and field to field. (See Isaiah 5:8.) Justice was perverted, and no pity was shown the poor. Of these evils God declared, “The spoil of the poor is in your houses.’ ‘You have beaten My people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor.’ Isaiah 3:14, 15. Even the magistrates, whose duty it was to protect the helpless, turned a deaf ear to the cries of the poor and needy, the widows and the fatherless. . . . With oppression and wealth came pride and love of display.” Prophets and Kings, 305, 306. The Lord rebuked that in Isaiah 2 and the prevailing pride of the daughters of Zion with their tinkling ornaments described in Isaiah 3:18–23.

Isaiah knew about these things. He was perplexed and discouraged and did not know what to do. How would you feel if you were supposed to be a prophet under conditions like that?

God knew how Isaiah felt, and He did something for him. “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.” And he saw a picture of innumerable angels around this throne, below it. Ellen White says that it was like the veil to the Most Holy Place had been lifted and he could see in where he could not go. He heard the angels saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah 6:3.

Do you realize that what he saw that day changed his whole life? What he saw that day became the burden of his message and everything that he wrote. He was never the same again. Ellen White says that he was transformed; he was changed by what he saw. So he started to tell the people, “You need to behold your God.’ What will happen if you behold Him? “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22. NKJV.

So often, friends, when we are in situations like Isaiah was in, and there is trouble on the outside and greater trouble on the inside, we have a tendency to look at the problem and then try to figure out the solution from just studying the problem. But notice what happens to you if you do that. “Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven to darkness.” Isaiah 8:22.

You do not dare concentrate your mind on the imperfections that are all around you because you will be driven to discouragement and despair. This was Isaiah’s condition already, and what was the solution to it? The Lord lifted the curtain and Isaiah saw something else. He saw the glory of God; and when he got his mind fixed on that, it changed his life. “And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:4 NKJV. What was it that filled the temple with smoke? It was the glory of God and His power.

“As Isaiah beheld this revelation of the glory and majesty of his Lord, he was overwhelmed with a sense of the purity and holiness of God. How sharp the contrast between the matchless perfection of his Creator, and the sinful course of those who, with himself, had long been numbered among the chosen people of Israel and Judah!” Prophets and Kings, 307.

Isaiah ’s Turning Point

When Isaiah saw the glory of God, his own character was transformed. “When one turns away from human imperfections to behold Jesus, a divine transformation takes place in the character.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 250. Suddenly Isaiah realized this true condition. He realized that inside he was defiled. His defilement stood out in startling clearness, and he was alarmed. He was no longer concerned about the Assyrian armies. He was not even concerned now about the dreadful social condition of the people, although he recognized that he dwelt in the midst of a people of unclean lips. Now, it was not just the others, it was himself about whom he was concerned. By human standards, he would have been judged one of the most holy of men; but when he saw the divine perfection, he said, “I am undone. I am a wicked man. My heart is defiled with sin.”

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34. The reason that we have unclean lips is because we have unclean hearts. When the heart is changed, the lips will be changed. “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. And he touched my mouth sand said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away and your sin purged.’” Isaiah 6:6, 7. NKJV. This is a symbolic representation of what God wants to do in our hearts. “The Holy Spirit will work with power through all who realize that a deep and thorough transformation must take place in the heart. A transformation represented by the touching of the lips of God’s servant with a live coal.” Pacific Union Recorder, July 17, 1902.

Isaiah realized that even though he was a sinner, that his heart was desperately wicked and deceitful, God had a remedy for his problem. He realized that the same remedy that God had provided for him, He would provide for anyone else who was willing to look to Him. That is why he said, “Behold your God.” He had caught a glimpse of the loveliness of the divine character; and he could testify to the people that in beholding the love of God, there was the power to change their lives. The Lord revealed to Isaiah all of the evil that had been developing for generations would not be turned around and stopped in his lifetime, but he was assured that the time would come when a remnant would be saved.

So Isaiah began his mission, undaunted by the discouraging prospect, knowing that God’s church was eventually going to triumph. In fact, some of the most wonderful prophecies in all of the Bible about the future triumph of God’s people come from the pen of Isaiah. He began to teach the people that God’s glory—His character—was to be revealed to all mankind. This is what it means for the glory of God to cover the earth. The Bible says that as surely as God lives and reigns, His glory shall be declared among the heathen, His wonders among all the people. (See Psalm 96:3.)

There were some people in Isaiah’s time who had gone into such depts. Of wickedness that when the prophet went to speak to them, they were afraid that God would not receive them if they turned back. To them, Isaiah said, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:27–31. NKJV.

God’s Love for His People

Isaiah taught that the heart of the infinite God yearns over people who feel powerless to free themselves from the snares of Satan. Have you ever felt that you were on a toboggan run down to the bottom of the hole of sin and there was no way out? Isaiah taught that there is a way out. If you look to the Lord, the Lord says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. NKJV.

As I visit with people I find many who realize that they have chosen their own way. Sometimes they are past the meridian of life and have wandered far from God. They have feasted on the fruits of transgression and found that they turn to ashes on their lips. They seem alone and desolated. Oh, friend, you need to see what Isaiah saw. You need to hear that voice speaking to your heart that perhaps you would not listen to before, coming to you distinct and clear, saying, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest; because it is defiled, it shall destroy you, even with utter destruction.” Micah 2:10. NKJV. Return to your Father’s house. He is inviting you right now. He says, “Return unto Me,” no matter how bad you have been, no matter what you have done, no matter what you have done, no matter what mistake you have made. If your life seems thwarted, all your dreams have disappeared, your hope is gone and it just seems like nothing is working out right, the Lord says, “Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:22. NJKV. “Incline your ear,” the Lord says, “and come to Me. Hear, and your soul will live; I will make to you an everlasting covenant—the sure mercies of David.” Isaiah 55:3. NKJV.

Do not listen to the enemy’s suggestions telling you to stay away from Christ until you have made yourself better, until you think that you are good enough to come to God. If you wait until you are good enough, you will never come. Come just the way that you are. Say, “Lord, help me to see Your character and to be transformed into the same image by the Holy Spirit.” If the devil is telling you that your garments of character are filthy, you tell him that Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me, I will by no means cast out.” John 6:37. NKJV. That is an emphatic statement! Make the prayer of David your own. Say to the Lord, “Purge me.” That is what God did for Isaiah. He touched him with a coal and He said, “Your iniquity is purged. You are clean now.”

David said, “Purge (purify) me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:7. Oh friend, Isaiah tried to get the eyes of the people fixed on the One who is altogether lovely. Have you seen Him? He is described as the “Chiefest among ten thousand.” Song of Solomon 5:10. He is spoken of as “The King in His beauty.” Isaiah said, “You are going to see the King in His beauty.” (See Isaiah 33:17.) Have you seen that beauty? The day is coming when the people who see it are going to say, “The majestic LORD will be for us a place of broad rivers and streams . . . (for the Lord is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; He will save us.)” Isaiah 33:21, 22.

This vision was the turning point in Isaiah’s life. It turned him around and made him a different person. It not only transformed his life, but it transformed the life of everyone who would listen to what he said. If you want this experience to be yours, you must fix your eyes on the One Who is altogether lovely. You will be transformed in character, your iniquity will be purged, and your heart altogether changed. Ask the Lord to work this miracle in your life today.