In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.…
Isaiah saw God: do men see Him today? Was He any nearer to Jerusalem than He is to London and New York? Did that old Hebrew possess faculties different from ours?
1. God can be seen and known. He has been seen and known. Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, Paul, John — all saw Him. He has been seen and known in all lands and among all religions.
2. What do we mean by seeing and knowing God? A spirit cannot be seen with physical eyes. We mean that we are so convinced of the nearness and reality of God that our thinking and living are all determined by that conviction — so sure of Him that we live as if we saw Him by physical sight.
3. But have not men seen their own imaginings, and thought that those were God! Is not a perfect God the noblest work of man! It has not been proved that any have actually known God. It would, in the nature of things, be impossible to demonstrate that to anyone who did not himself possess the same knowledge; but it has been proved that these whom the world always heeds when they speak concerning other things have believed that they had this knowledge; and that faith has been the inspiration of dauntless heroism, most patient endurance, and most sacrificing service.
4. How is God known! Many answers are given. Probably all are partially correct. As each individual sees natural objects from his own standpoint, so must he approach the highest knowledge. We are not asking whether men have known about God, but whether they have known Him. We know about Caesar, but we do not know him; we about the Mikado of Japan, but we do not know him. Many know about God who show no signs of knowing Him. I think that no one has been able to tell how this knowledge is attained: Some say, "We are conscious of Him"; others, "We see Him with the inner eye"; others, "Reason leads to Him"; and others still, "He is seen and known in the things which are made." But after all, the most that any can say is, "I know Him." Isaiah said, "I saw the Lord," but all is hazy and indistinct when he comes to detail
5. All who have learned to love man in the spirit of Christ never can fail of coming to the knowledge of God, "for whosoever loveth is born of God and knoweth God." Love is the new life; and love secures knowledge.
6. When we want to know about God we stand before the majesty of an ocean in a storm, before the terrible splendour of Alpine crests and glaciers, beneath the host of the heavens that in solemn silence thread the mazes of the sky, and say: "Behold the greatness of God!" We study the movement of history, and see how the dispersion of the Jews sent true spiritual ideas into all lands; how the triumphs of Alexander gave a common language to the world; how the supremacy of Rome made nations one; how the carnival of blood called the "French Revolution" overthrew more abuses than it worked; how the American Civil War ended in the proclamation of freedom, and we say, God is revealing Himself in history. We read the story of the life and death of Jesus, and say, if that is a revelation of God, then He is the One for whom our souls long. But all these revelations may be accepted without personal knowledge. The Father, who is a Spirit, comes to us in spirit; speaks in a still voice in the chambers of memory, conscience, aspiration; and we know Him and yet may not be able to explain "that knowledge to those who do not have it. I know my Father; He knows His child." That is the highest human experience. That is eternal life.
7. If eternal life is not a question of dates, of the succession of months and years, but knowing God, then no question is more imperative than, "Is it possible for me to know Him?" It is a great thing to claim that knowledge. It should never be done irreverently or lightly, but always humbly and with great joy. The mission of the pulpit and the Church is primarily to help men to know God. How, then, may we know Him? However many answers are possible, only one need be given. All who follow Jesus Christ are sure, sooner or later, to realise that, like Him, they, too, are sons of God.
(Amory H. Bradford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.