Isaiah very famously received a vision of the throne of God, during which time he was given his commission to go preach to sinful Judah (Isaiah 6). Most Bible students are familiar with this incredible chapter and of the vivid details the prophet brings to it. I wonder, however, if we have missed a key component, one that would help us really appreciate why Isaiah sees what he sees.
It’s right there in the first line of the chapter:
“In the year that King Uzziah died…”
The prophet goes on to say that it was in that year that his vision happened and in it he saw the Lord high and lifted up, like a King whose train (the long flowing robes a King would wear) filled…not the palace, but “the Temple.”
God’s throne is His Temple.
That’s not all: Too many blow right past those opening words, treating the reference to King Uzziah’s death like it’s just a chronological marker, letting the reader know when this vision took place (and nothing more). On the contrary, there is great significance to this historical event.
King Uzziah’s death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 26 and the circumstances of that death are critical to appreciating the prophesy of Isaiah 6. Uzziah died a leper, having been stricken with the disease by God as punishment for entering the Temple of God without authorization. The high priest Azariah tried to stop him, along with eighty other priests, reminding the King that only the sons of Aaron had the right to enter the Temple and burn incense. The King grew angry at their daring to challenge him; clearly he was intending to swing his authority around and force his way in. Instead leprosy struck him and covered his body, sending the message that God’s house was not to be defiled.
In the year that King Uzziah died for profaning the House of the Lord, Isaiah saw a vision where he visited the “throne” of God. Where was that throne located? In the Temple. Why does Isaiah’s vision seem to take place in a heightened, heavenly version of the Sanctuary? Because God is a King who rules, not from a palace, but from a Temple. Israel was unique in that it was a nation whose cultural center was not its government but was its religion. The capital of the country was not built around the home of the King, but the home of their God (the true KING of the Israelites).
It’s fitting then that God would invite Isaiah up to His throne room to give the prophet his message to preach, and its fitting for that throne room to resemble the holy temple where He receives worship from His subjects.
God’s Temple is no longer in Jerusalem. It wasn’t really in Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day either; he didn’t see a vision of the Jerusalem Temple, but of God’s Heavenly Throne. It was simply made to resemble the Temple to give a frame of reference. God is bigger than Temples made with hands (Acts 7:48). The whole of Heaven is His throne and the physical universe is His footstool (Acts 7:49).
God punished Uzziah because he forgot that the Throne of God was supposed to be the center of his life.
We’d do well to remember that, too.