The phone rang as I stepped out of the shower. As I picked up the receiver, I heard the voice on the other end say, “Mr. Phillips, your wife, Paulette, has been in a little fender bender.” I dressed quickly and jumped in the car.
As I crested a hill on the main highway, I was unprepared for what I saw. Through the rain, I spotted my wife’s little convertible, now a twisted mass of metal. An ambulance stood waiting, and workers were trying to free Paulette from the wreckage. The smell of gasoline was heavy in the air. I tried to get close to the car but was held back by emergency workers. I was frustrated and felt helpless knowing she must be desperately hurt and I was unable to offer comfort. However, God had provided someone at the scene to do that for me. A fireman, at the risk of his own life because of the potential for an explosion, removed a window from the car and climbed in next to Paulette. He covered her with an asbestos blanket, held on to her, and spoke life into her. It was his job to watch her carefully and keep her talking to be sure she wasn’t falling into deep shock.
Twenty-five agonizing minutes passed before the firemen and the Jaws of Life freed her from the car. And we didn’t know it then, but it would be six months before her crumpled body would allow her to return to a normal life. As I ran to Paulette’s side while they hurried her stretcher toward the ambulance, I remembered clearly hearing her say, “Thank You, Lord!” I know that in the midst of that tragedy, God was there, and He provided a wonderful young Christian fireman whose presence comforted my wife in that dark hour. His heroic presence was the touch of God. She felt carried in the Father’s arms.
Paulette returned home from the hospital after two weeks, but life at home was difficult. We had to rely on our extended family, our amazing church family, and heavily on the Lord to carry us through each day.
When tragedy strikes, we find ourselves in need of the assurance of God’s presence more than ever before. To that point in my life, I never needed the Lord more than I did in those first hours and days following her wreck. It is no coincidence that our ascent into the most secret place with God can occur during times of great heartache and tragedy. Tears have a way of driving us from ourselves and into His arms. Who hasn’t cried out in the dark night of the soul for comfort that can only come from Jesus? Expect to find the pathway to His presence stained with the tears of thousands of heartbroken saints before you.
Isaiah, the court prophet, cousin and confidant to King Uzziah, thought he had it all. His cousin king, although a leper, had given the nation peace and hope. Isaiah’s own ministry was one that sternly laid down the law to God’s wayward people. He had angered them, calling them stubborn, ungrateful children, and even went as far as to compare them to “rotten, stinking grapes”! (See Isaiah 5:4.) Surely God was pleased with Isaiah’s obedience in ministry. He surely had the ear and heart of his cousin, King Uzziah. Isaiah is like many of us. When you read the first five chapters of Isaiah, though inspired, you feel that something is missing in his life. There is a lack of hope and only a vague hint of what God is actually up to. Isaiah 6 gives us the turning point—an amazing “alone” experience with God that is vivid and clear.
After Isaiah’s dear cousin died suddenly, Isaiah felt his life collapsing. The hope that had sustained him and the promise of ministry in a peaceful Jerusalem that kept his eyes looking ahead seemed to evaporate. Tragedy is like that. Normally, it will either drive us to God or cause us to run away from Him. But Isaiah made the boldest decision any prophet ever made. He decided to charge into God’s presence! Isaiah turned purposefully toward the temple of Solomon, the three-room structure that housed God’s presence. Beyond the outer court, beyond the candlelit holy place, Isaiah knew there hung a thick veil. Beyond that veil, God promised to be present. However, the rules were clear—only the high priest could step behind the veil; anyone else would be struck down by God! Even the high priest could only enter the holy of holies once a year!
Isaiah came to the place of absolute self-abandonment, just as each of us must approach God. Death no longer mattered to Isaiah. He pushed his way past quiet worshippers and astounded priests to get to God. Isaiah needed help and hope, and had come to the end of his own resources. He was now a candidate for a miracle. He pressed past the veil into the holy of holies. The fearful protesters behind Isaiah no doubt backed away in fear, certain that this crazed man was walking straight into death.
There in the holy of holies, lit by only the Shekinah glory of God, Isaiah did die, in a sense. He died to himself and all of his own ambitions! In this bold step, I believe Isaiah gave up on Isaiah! He met Yahweh, and nothing else mattered. God was in that place, high and lifted up, with His unmatched glory trailing behind Him like the train of royal robes billowing behind a sovereign. Angelic worshippers surrounded the throne crying, “Holy!” The place shook with the voice of the angels. Isaiah 6:1–4 paints a vivid picture of the scene that Isaiah saw when he stepped inside the holy of holies:
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.
At that moment, Isaiah had no choice but to die to his flesh and ambitions. “Woe is me…” he cried, in an expression that could be also translated, “I am doomed!” He understood that even his own mouth, the mouth of a man of God, was unclean. Angels brought cleansing fire to touch his preaching lips, and his life was transformed. Soon he heard the voice of God crying for volunteers to carry His message. “Here am I, send me” (Isa. 6:5–8) cried the transformed Isaiah.
No man can see the Lord and continue living like nothing ever happened! No, the old life will be burned away and a new life will begin. Isaiah stormed into God’s presence in the middle of his pain because he needed answers, comfort, and help. The New Testament puts it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. ~ Galatians 2:20
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ~ Galatians 5:24
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ~ Galatians 6:14
In the secret place of God, we come to the end of ourselves. We come as a bride to take on Jesus’s name and nature. When we are willing to die daily, Jesus says to us:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” ~ Luke 9:23–24
~ from the book, The Power of Agreement
by Ron Phillips and Ronnie Phillips, Jr.
© 2014 Charisma House Book Group