Bethel Baptist Church
Today is the first Sunday of 2019: New Year Sunday. On the Christian Calendar, it is Epiphany, which celebrates the wise men who came to worship Jesus at his birth.
The message today is titled Isaiah’s Epiphany. In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord (Isaiah 6: 1). The word “epiphany” describes a sudden realization or a transcendental revelation in one’s life. New Year celebrations mark a new cycle of the earth’s movement around the sun or of the moon’s movement around the earth. Time, as measured by these movements, is devoid of content. It is events and experiences occurring during these planetary movements that endow time with meaning. This is probably why New Year resolutions are made as personal pledges of the content we intend to put into the New Year.
Isaiah’s epiphany had nothing to do with the movements of the earth or the moon. It was about the sudden realization of the prophet followed by the transcendental experience that he had on the death of King Uzziah. They shook the very foundations of his life. Uzziah and Isaiah were first cousins. Uzziah’s death was not just an event of state. It was personal and profound.
The question before us this morning is: What marked your epiphany in your walk with the Lord? If you have not had one, will 2019 be that year? For Isaiah, his epiphany was in the year that King Uzziah died.
Isaiah’s Sudden Realization: God is Absolutely Sovereign
2 Chronicles Chapter 26 records that Uzziah was appointed King of Judah at age 16. He reigned for 52 years. His appointment was popular with the people. His father had been a God-fearing king. Uzziah followed in his father’s footsteps. Judah prospered economically, creatively and militarily. King Uzziah became famous. Judah, the small kingdom in the hills of Palestine, sandwiched between the powerful empires of Mesopotamia on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates and the great Egyptian empire watered by the Nile, held its own. Jerusalem stood proudly.
2 Chronicles 26: 16 states, “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction.” After 40 years of following the Lord, being blessed with success in all his undertakings, King Uzziah overreached. Not satisfied with being king, he determined to be a high priest as well. He had arrived at that stage when pride led him to “mash-up” his life: a common human phenomenon. In the midst of defying the Chief Priest, Uzziah was struck with leprosy.
For the next 12 years, King Uzziah lived in a separate house. In seeking to impose his presence on the Lord, Uzziah lost presence in the palace and with the people. King Uzziah died a leper. This spectacle caused Isaiah to suddenly realize that God’s discipline applies to all.
Isaiah’s Life-changing Revelation
Isaiah’s sudden realization of God’s absolute sovereignty was followed by a transcendental experience. He had a vision of God enthroned in the Temple and being worshipped with the refrain: Holy, Holy, Holy. This vision of the Alpha and Omega brought him to a new view of himself and the people to whom he had prophesied. Woes pronounced on the people were replaced by “woe is me”. He was a man of unclean lips who wass no different from the people. His unclean state did not permit him to join the chorus. However, his confession resulted in him being cleansed. Being changed, he now heard the call of God for volunteers: Who shall go for us, and who should we send? God seeks volunteers from among the redeemed. Isaiah volunteers — “Send me”.
Isaiah enquired: What is the mission and the message?
God’s answer is best expressed in the words of Margaret Clarkson:
“So send I you to hearts made hard by hatred,
To eyes made blind because they will not see,
To spend, tho’ it be blood, to spend and spare not –
So send I you to taste of Calvary”.
Isaiah cried, “How long, oh Lord?” — and got the answer, “For as long as you live”.
Be a faithful messenger in a world hostile to God; rebellious against His way; dismissive of His offer of salvation, and vicious in its treatment of His messengers.
Isaiah lived and prophesied consistent with his epiphany. 2,760