In this post-election period people throughout our country are experiencing a wide range of feelings … some are euphoric while others are anxious or even fearful. We are in a time of transition, and transition often creates uncertainty. As we move from the known toward the unknown there is often an accompanying sense of loss, and that loss often includes our sense of control.
Yet times of transition, political or otherwise, can be enormously productive seasons of growth, especially for us as believers. These times give us fresh occasions to renew our faith, trust in God and exercise obedience toward His will for our lives.
The Bible gives us great models as we read about those who endured times of transition in a godly way. For example, the prophet Isaiah found himself in a time of major transition, not because of an election (Israel was then a monarchy not a democracy), but because the beloved king had died.
King Uzziah had reigned for 50 years, during which time there was great prosperity and peace in Israel. His death brought uncertainty throughout the Land and to the heart of the prophet as well. This became the occasion for God to call Isaiah into a special commitment to ministry. That occasion began with a vision of Almighty God that would put the king’s death in proper perspective:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4).
In this time of crisis Isaiah went into the Temple, perhaps out of habit or perhaps because of his own felt need. There in the place of worship he presented himself before God, and it was in that context that God gave him exactly what he needed to cope with the uncertainty of this transition. Isaiah was reminded that while His beloved King Uzziah was no longer seated on the throne in Jerusalem, God was still on His throne in the heavens.
Nothing restores the faith of God’s children like a fresh glimpse of who He is as we come before Him in worship and prayer. Isaiah saw God in His sovereignty, seated on a throne. He saw His transcendence as the angels called out three times to exclaim His holiness. And he experienced God’s immanence in a powerful and tangible display of His real presence, with the sight of smoke and sound of shaking doorposts. Indeed the whole earth is seen as a display of God’s kavod, His weighty and most glorious presence.
As we take care to present ourselves to the Lord, to worship Him in the place of His holy sanctuary, we may not see visions, but our vision will be restored. We need not be overwhelmed by the unknown with all the changes it might bring when we know the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Our faith and our calling will be renewed if we see things as they really are, not through our temporal and often distorted lens of fear or uncertainty concerning the future.
And when we see God for who He truly is, we will also see ourselves as we truly are. Isaiah’s response to his vision of the Lord became a marvelous confession of sin:
“So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
A close encounter with the Holy One reminds us of our own lack of holiness. Seeing God in all of His glory can only amplify awareness of our own imperfections. Furthermore, we see similar failings in all those around us. We all have unclean lips, and our lips are not the only problem, but a symbol of how sin infects and permeates our whole lives.
During the runup to this election, many referenced the well known passage from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Now that the elections are over, how much more should we continue to follow this admonition? We see the magnitude of sin not by judging others, but by seeing how far we ourselves fall short of God’s glory. When we see the sins of others we are seeing those who share our own shortfall of righteousness. It is shortsighted to condemn the failings of others, because when we see God we recognize our fellow miscreants as objects of compassion in need of the same mercy and grace that we have received. Gratitude for our redemption ought to make us into true intercessors.
The mercy and grace that Isaiah received came in the form of a burning, searing coal to cleanse those filthy lips:
“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 with it, and said: and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:6-7).
The Temple not only represented God’s presence, but also His purifying power. Confession leads to cleansing. Sin needs to be seared. We don’t know that the coal produced a burning sensation or left a scar on Isaiah’s body—after all it was a vision. But the fact remains that true repentance and forgiveness is often a painful process and cleansing is the only cure.
I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ description of the curing of the boy-turned-dragon Eustace in “Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” It was only when Eustace willingly submitted to the sharp and penetrating claws of the Lion Aslan that his scaly dragon skin was torn away and the boy flesh restored.
It was this kind of deep cleansing that enabled Isaiah to hear and respond to the call of God:
“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, Here am I! Send me'” (Isaiah 6:8).
It wasn’t for the prophet’s sake alone that he was cleansed. It was so that others might experience that same blessing of forgiveness. Isaiah had a job to do and so do we.
Regardless of political leanings, it’s natural for all kinds of people to be wondering what is next for America and for the world in the next four years. We who know the Lord need this reminder: God is still on His throne. Before Him, we all have need of redemption and cleansing, and those of us who have experienced it can do no better than to point the way to others. After all, God is eager to see His good word and grace extended to all people.
When God asks, “Who will go,” He is really asking, “Will you go?” May we all respond to His voice as Isaiah did: “Hineni! I’m here, God, reporting for duty. Please send me, God, to tell my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues, my community of Your saving grace.”
God is on the throne in heaven. He knows exactly what is going on here on earth. He knows what is best for us and He wants what is best for us. Therefore, He will do what is best for us, though it might be painful. Can we trust Him?