The Windows of St. John's

Article Index

The Jeremiah and Isaiah Windows

THESE TWO WINDOWS, opposite each other in the Tower Vestibule, will be treated together. Jeremiah (c. 650-570 B.C.) and Isaiah (c. 742-701 B.C.*) were men of God, true prophets and great patriots. They loved their native land intensely and gave their lives in their attempts to lead the nation into a spiritual rebirth and peaceful relations with neighboring countries. According to tradition Isaiah was sawn asunder by his countrymen and Jeremiah, failing in his mission, was dragged off with his people to Egypt to die in exile.

These men were in constant conflict with constituted secular and religious authority. In their patriotic zeal and religious fervor, which were so mingled as to be inseparable, they brought upon themselves hate, ridicule and persecution. To them religious truth and political justice were one and the same. All men were subject to the law of God who has no favorites and shows no partiality. The people were infuriated by the attacks made upon injustices and prejudices, because they knew, of course, that what the prophets said was true and upset the status quo. But convinced that their messages were inspired they dared preface them with "Thus says the Lord, .... "

The Jeremiah Window

ACROSS THE TOP of the Jeremiah window are the words of the prophet, "The Lord is our righteousness" (Jeremiah 23:6) with which he strove to awaken his people to the realization that salvation and deliverance are from God alone.

Jeremiah is portrayed as a man of strong features and physical strength for only such a one could have endured the terrible ordeals he experienced. He identified with his people in their estrangement from God and with God as his spokesman. In the turmoil of his soul he turned to God, but instead of promising him rest and peace, God said,

I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. (Jeremiah 1:18)

So, in the upper left of the window there is a bronze wall and an iron pillar, symbolic ·of Jeremiah's strong character and uncompromising stand against evil and injustice. Battled, beaten, bruised - he never yielded in seeking to reconcile God and man.

In the background of the window are mountains with a lively stream of water cascading into waterfalls and moving across the lower foreground below the figure of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah stands holding his staff in his left hand, and his left foot on the rim of a stone cistern; with his right hand he points to the river flowing below.

Cisterns were widely used in those days to hold water. This particular one was hewn out of rock - but, this one was broken! Not only have his people turned away from God, but they have defiled the land with their immoralities, while authority is in the hands of worldly priests and rulers who care nothing for righteousness. Jeremiah cries out,

Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12, 13)

To Jeremiah this is the tragedy of all tragedies; here is the river of living waters, flowing full, clear and free; and the people seek water from a broken cistern that can hold no water!

In the apex of the window is a basket of ripe figs representing the Jews taken away in exile who found God as a spiritual Being not confined to the Temple. Those left behind in Jerusalem were so bound by orthodoxy and external ritual that they failed to grasp the spiritual values in the worship of God.

Near the head of Jeremiah is a yoke. One day Jeremiah went before the people wearing a yoke, symbolizing that God is supreme over all nations and had used Nebuchadnezzar, a heathen ruler, to punish the Jewish nation. He believed that God directs all nations according to his purpose.

Around the broken cistern and in the right foreground are blossoms of the almond tree. To Jeremiah the almond blossoms signified that God is awake, alert and is watching over his people to guide, direct, and to forgive and restore when they do wrong and repent.

Jeremiah's message to us, as we enter and leave God's House, is, "God is awake. He is with you. He loves you. He keeps watch over his own."

This window was Given to the Glory of God and in loving memory J. Lewis Smith, Sr. M.D. by his wife. Dedicated May 3, 1964.

The Isaiah Window

ISAIAH IS KNOWN as the statesman-prophet. His ministry began about 742 B.C. and ended perhaps in 701 B.C. He served in Judah under one regent and four kings. He condemned "religious disloyalty, social injustice and the depravity and rapacity of the upper classes."** Isaiah was convinced that God participates in the affairs of men and nations.

But when he lays bare his soul's experience of the sovereign grace of God, when he looks on life with unveiled eyes and sees events shaped by a sovereign purpose, when he calls for that faith which is the resting of life upon a sovereign goodness, he makes his own distinctive contribution to prophesy and religion. These are the words he was sent to speak.**

The window depicts the call of God to Isaiah in the 6th chapter: "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the Temple." God is represented as a brilliant light coming from a throne with streams of light radiating throughout the window. In the lower left is a flaming altar. There are three seraphim, each has six wings: with two he covers his face, and with two he covers his feet, and with two he flies. They call to one another, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." (Isaiah 6:3) Isaiah cries, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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)

One of the seraphim, touching Isaiah's lips with a coal from the altar, says, " . . . Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven." (Isaiah 6:7) Then Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Like prophets from that day to this who hear God's call, Isaiah answers, "Here I am! Send me." (Isaiah 6:8)

The inscription on the window reads, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts." (Isaiah 6:3) AV

This window was Given to the Glory of God and in loving memory of Thomas Hugh Robinson, Sr. by his family. Dedicated June 2, 1963.

*These dates are aproximate for his active ministry.

** R. B. Y. Scott, The Interpreter's Bible, Nashville, Tenn.: Abington Press, 1956, Vol. 5, p. 161.

*** Ibid, p. 164.