The Review and Herald

1871/1902

March 4, 1915

The Call of Isaiah

EGW

The long reign of Uzziah (Azariah), in the land of Judah and Benjamin, was characterized by a prosperity greater than that of any other ruler since the death of Solomon, nearly two centuries before. For many years the king ruled with discretion. “He sought the Lord,” and “God helped him.” Under the blessing of Heaven, his armies regained some of the territory that had been lost in former years; cities were rebuilt and fortified, and the position of the nation among the surrounding peoples was greatly strengthened. Commerce revived, and the riches of the nations flowed into Jerusalem. Uzziah's name “spread far abroad: for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.” RH March 4, 1915, par. 1

This outward prosperity, however, was not accompanied by a corresponding revival of spiritual power. The temple services were continued as in former years, and multitudes assembled to worship the living God; but pride and formality gradually took the place of humility and sincerity. Uzziah, by precept and by example, might have inspired his subjects with reverence for God and for the sacred services of the temple; but “when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God.” RH March 4, 1915, par. 2

The sin that resulted so disastrously to Uzziah was one of presumption. In violation of a plain command of Jehovah,—that none but the descendants of Aaron should officiate as priests, the king entered the sanctuary “to burn incense upon the altar.” Azariah the high priest and his associates remonstrated, and pleaded with him to turn from his purpose. “Thou hast trespassed,” they urged; “neither shall it be for thine honor.” 2 Chronicles 26:5-18. RH March 4, 1915, par. 3

Uzziah was filled with wrath, that he, the king, should be thus rebuked. But he was not permitted to profane the sanctuary against the united protest of those in authority. While standing there in wrathful rebellion, he was suddenly smitten with a divine judgment. Leprosy appeared on his forehead. In dismay he fled, never again to enter the temple courts. Unto the day of his death, some years later, Uzziah remained a leper—a living example of the folly of departing from a plain “Thus saith the Lord.” Neither his exalted position nor his long life of service could be pleaded as an excuse for the presumptuous sin by which he marred the closing years of his reign, and brought upon himself the judgment of Heaven. RH March 4, 1915, par. 4

God is no respecter of persons. “The soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.” Numbers 15:30. RH March 4, 1915, par. 5

The judgment that befell Uzziah seemed to have a restraining influence on his son. Jotham bore heavy responsibilities during the remaining years of his father's reign, and succeeded to the throne after Uzziah's death. Of Jotham it is written: “He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord: he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Howbeit the high places were not removed: the people sacrificed and burned incense still in the high places.” 2 Kings 15:34, 35. Had Jotham inaugurated a thorough reformation, and torn down these favorite meeting places, encouraging the people to engage unitedly in the temple services, he might have done much to strengthen faith in the true God. But although he failed of making a wise use of his opportunities, his rule was not without good results: he “became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” 2 Chronicles 27:6. RH March 4, 1915, par. 6

The reign of Uzziah was drawing to a close, and Jotham was already bearing many of the burdens of state, when Isaiah, of the loyal line, was called, while yet a young man, to the prophetic mission. The times in which Isaiah was to labor were fraught with peculiar peril to the people of God. The prophet was to witness the invasion of Judah by the combined armies of northern Israel and of Syria; he was to behold the Assyrian hosts encamped before the chief cities of the Promised Land. During his lifetime, Samaria was to fall, and the ten tribes of Israel were to be scattered among the nations. Judah was again and again to be invaded by the Assyrian armies, and Jerusalem was to suffer a siege that would have resulted in her downfall had not God miraculously interposed. Already these perils were threatening the peace of Israel. The divine protection was being removed from the southern kingdom, and the Assyrian forces were about to overspread the land of Judah. RH March 4, 1915, par. 7

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. Many of the evils which were hastening the swift destruction of the northern kingdom, and which had recently been denounced in unmistakable terms by Hosea and Amos, were fast corrupting the kingdom of Judah. RH March 4, 1915, par. 8

The outlook was particularly discouraging as regards 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.... Ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor.” Chap. 3:14, 15. Even the magistrates, whose duty it was to protect the helpless, had turned a deaf ear to the cries of the poor and needy, the widows and the fatherless. Chap. 10:1, 2. RH March 4, 1915, par. 9

With oppression and wealth came pride and love of display. “The lofty looks” and “the haughtiness of men” are especially mentioned in the messages of reproof given in those days. “Every one that is proud and lofty,” the Lord declared, and “every one that is lifted up ... shall be brought low.” Chap. 2:11, 12. RH March 4, 1915, par. 10

In the third chapter of Isaiah's prophecy mention is made of the prevailing pride of the “daughters of Zion,” with “their tinkling ornaments, ... the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, ... and the headbands, and the tabrets, and the earrings, the rings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils.” Chap. 3:18-23. How different this picture from that portrayed by the apostle Peter of the God-fearing woman, who, estimating at its real value the “outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel,” chooses rather to cultivate beauty of soul, “even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” It was “after this manner in the old time” that “the holy women ... who trusted in God, adorned themselves;” and their “chaste conversion coupled with fear” (1 Peter 3:1-5), as revealed in daily life, was ever a standing rebuke to their sisters who followed after folly. RH March 4, 1915, par. 11

(To be concluded.)