The time stamp of Isaiah 6 is also significant. All of this occurs in the year that King Uzziah died.
Uzziah was king in Jerusalem for over 50 years. (You can read his story in 2 Chronicles 26.) By most human standards, Uzziah was a pretty good king. He subdued Israel’s longtime nemesis, the Philistines. He built up Judah’s military and expanded her economy. Most importantly, he learned the fear of the Lord from a teacher of the Law named Zechariah. And God granted the king much success; in fact, the writer of 2 Chronicles says that Uzziah’s fame spread far throughout the land. It seems that Uzziah was something of an international celebrity.
But this popularity eventually went to Uzziah’s head. 2 Chronicles 26:16, But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. Uzziah’s pride led him to do something terrible: he desecrated the temple of God. In an act of supreme arrogance, Uzziah marched into the temple to burn incense on the hoy altar. This might not seem like a big deal, but this was an affront to God, who commanded that only the priests were to burn the incense. Eugene Peterson says of Uzziah, “He decided to take charge of his own soul and put God to his own uses. He went to the holy altar of incense…and proceeded to run things according to his own tastes and desires.”
Azariah and eighty of the other priests stood up to the king and told him that this was forbidden. But this only angered Uzziah all the more. The Bible says Uzziah had a censer in his hand, presumably to make the incense offering. The way the story is told, it seems as if Uzziah had decided to completely ignore both the word of God and the rebuke of God’s servants. And that’s when Uzziah was suddenly struck with leprosy on his forehead as a visible manifestation of God’s judgment upon him.
You see, Uzziah thought he was truly sovereign, the captain of his own ship. In his pride, he thought he could make up his own rules, no matter what God had commanded. But that is sacrilegious. It’s not an exact parallel, but imagine someone entering the church with a can of spray paint and desecrating the communion table and the baptistery and the cross with the words: “There’s a new sheriff in town. We’re doing things MY way now!” That’s essentially what Uzziah has done in the temple.
And so Uzziah spends the rest of his life in isolation because of this leprosy, his life serving as a cautionary tale of the danger of sinful pride. And we would do well to heed this cautionary tale in our day.
Worship is about the life of the holy God, not the prideful preferences of sinful man.