THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Sanctified and convicted, God’s servants are inspired to serve
Isaiah 6:1-7 SCC 3/10/13
WHEN CONFRONTED WITH THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD IT UNCOVERS SINFULNESS
The Lord Reveals His Glory in A Vision 1-4
Verse 1 begins the report of the heavenly vision in the year that King Uzziah died. This suggests Isaiah is very much awake and physically observing this sight. The object of the sight is "the Lord". The term signifies lord or master, the sovereign. The term "sitting" when used of God is an anthropomorphism. It means, "rule," that is, sit enthroned above. The exalted nature of the Lord is presented to us with "high" and "lifted up". The physical description of His location, part of the anthropomorphic vision, is also symbolic of His nature as the "Highest"--an expression often used in the Bible for absolute sovereignty. The symbol of sovereignty, "his train," completely fills the temple. Such is the dominance of the Lord of Glory.
Verse 2 introduces the angels. The term for angels in this order is seraphim "to burn". These are attending, literally, "standing about/over him", the LORD as ministering servants. Their description focuses on their wings. Each angel had six wings. Two covered the angel's face--such is the nature of God that even angels blush to look at Him--two covered their central body and with two they flew.
Verse 3 reports what they cried continually to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is Lord of Armies; the whole earth is full of His glory!" “Holy" means "distinct, unique, set apart." It means there is no one like the Lord in the universe. The threefold use of the term is a Hebrew way of expressing He is incomparably holy. The armies are all armies--earthly or heavenly. They are all at His disposal. The use of "glory" has to do with "weight, being heavy"; metaphorically this becomes "be important." To describe God as glorious essentially means that He is the most important person in the universe. The words of the angels assert that the whole earth is filled with the evidence that the LORD is the sovereign God of the universe.
Verse 4 Isaiah's vision concludes with the note of the effects of the Presence--the place shook, and was filled with smoke. This imagery is drawn from Mount Sinai and the Temple Sanctuary.
This vision convicts Isaiah of his sin 5
Verse 5 "Woe is me” is a wail of lamentation. It is an expression that cries out of distress, that all is lost, that grief will overtake; there is nothing that can be done. The key word in here is "unclean" which means off limits, out of bounds, unacceptable in the presence of God because of physical, earthy nature and contaminations. The focus is on the lips, which though what he talks about is perhaps good, clean, and normal, it is not as holy as the angels' speech was. Isaiah, and the nation, are not fit to enter the Presence of the LORD--their speech betrays greater problems.
NB: What will we talk about in the presence of the LORD? How will our conversations change? The Bible has so much to say about speech, how it is a window to the heart.
People often compare themselves with others and come out looking fine. The standard, however, is the glory of the LORD. How do you measure yourself and how does it stand compared to His holiness and glory? For Isaiah it only revealed His sinfulness.
ACKNOWLEDGING OUR SINFULNESS DELIVERS FORGIVENESS ENABLING US TO SERVE
Verse 6 Here is a symbolic act; it signifies that the sin was removed. This is a heavenly scene and the heavenly correspondent to the coals is meant; the coals were the instruments of consuming the sacrifices that became the sin offering. The point is that the prophet was cleansed by direct divine intervention. That is the way it always is, of course. No one can make himself clean enough to be fit for the presence of the Lord. The Lord must do it and in Christ that is exactly what he has done. The focus is on the lips because they represented the sinfulness of the prophet. The prophet was cleansed; the people, however, had yet to hear the word, confess, and be cleansed.
Verse 7 "iniquity" here probably includes all three of the categories of meaning it has--sin, guilt, and the punishment for the sin. The critical word here is "atoned" meaning that the sins were removed (atonement) and the person was forgiven (expiation). The sins were not just covered over but absolved. The point here is that Isaiah's sins were forgiven; God will not bring them up again.
Verse 8 records the commission of the prophet in response to the Word of God. Once one is forgiven and walking with Him, one can hear His voice through His word. One has to be on speaking terms with God for this to be the case. The call passages in the Bible all use the verb "send". It expresses divine authentication and enablement for the mission, usually accompanied by the divine Presence. Unless the Lord sends, one cannot go with any authority (Catholic Priest and authority on the plane). Isaiah's response? "Here am I, send me” a bold break-through response: "Look--me!" And then the verb is repeated, "send me." Not "I will go." That would be presumptuous. But "send me," an imperative, is a request for the divine authority that goes with the mission.
OUR SERVICE TO GOD IS RENDERED BY FAITHFUL PROCLAIMING OF HIS WORD
The message in these last few verses is a message of judgment.
God warns sinners of judgment. He does this in order that they will repent and become part of the "remnant". This generation had persisted in sin for so long that God was going to judge them. And he will begin to do this by hardening their hearts at the hearing of the Word of the LORD, just as He did Pharaoh.
Instructions in regard to his service 9-10
Verse 9 God sent Isaiah back to the people among whom he lived, a people with unclean lips (v. 5). He was to tell them to listen and to look at the revelations he brought from God, but they would not understand what the prophet meant fully.
Verse 10 The effect of Isaiah’s preaching would not be that the people would repent but that they would harden their hearts against his messages. If people live under the influence of the Scriptures and continue to reject its message, Paul says that God gives them up. There is a point of judicial rejection. We do not know when that is, so we cannot say; we keep on preaching, admonishing, and proclaiming. Isaiah was told in his case. And then it was the actual preaching of the Word of God that hardened them even more. We can see that even today when the Word offends even the ones who appear "religious." It has been said, "It is not our task to tell people what they want to hear; we must tell them what in some sad future time they would wish they had heard."
The case for judgment 11-12
Verse 11 Isaiah is not happy about this; it is much nicer to have a positive message. But the positive message is meaningless if there are no "teeth" in it. Both in the prophets and in the ministry of Jesus there is the same refrain, "repent or perish." The denial of judgment, the rejection of the idea of Jesus' death being atonement, begins with the denial of sin and evil. Modern theologies cannot explain evil, let alone resolve it. So they deny it and also the Bible that claims it.
Verse 12 Isaiah had to preach this until all the cities were laid waste and the judgment complete. The preaching of it was a call for repentance. Jonah knew this; he knew that the LORD was compassionate and merciful, whereas he--Jonah--wanted the sinners wiped out. The penalty for resisting that the Lord set forth in the Mosaic Covenant culminated in military defeat and exile from the Promised Land (Lev. 18:25-27; Deut. 28:21, 63; 29:28). The Lord took full responsibility for this judgment, though He used other nations as His instruments to execute it.
There will be a remnant 13
Yet there was hope. A tenth of the nation would survive, but even that minority would again face judgment. The end of this passage refers to the "holy seed". This "seed" is distinct (holy) from the rest of the population. It is only a remnant. Israel was the tree; but because it bore no fruit, it was cut down (exiled). There was only a stump left--the righteous believers who kept the covenant alive with only a minority of believers in the land by this time. Isaiah will develop this image further by showing that a small branch, a tender shoot, will grow out of the stump, and become a great king, and restore the nation to its glorious heritage.
1. One cannot go and have a look at the LORD in glory. Instead today we have the revelation of it in Scripture, many times over. So we should meditate often on the scriptures and that vision of the glory of the LORD, the risen Christ, will convict and inspire in His teaching and commandments to us. In 2 Corinthians 3 and 4 Paul says that we look into the Scriptures as in a mirror and behold the glory of the Lord. But since it is a mirror it reflects and so we are changed into that glory. Then, in chapter 4 he lists all the hardships of the ministry, but concludes that focusing on the eternal weight of glory enables him (and us) to endure.
2. When the Word of the LORD convicts us, we must confess it so that we may be open to His will. Sanctification must be the response of meditation in Christ; otherwise we harden out hearts. So, like Isaiah, we too, confronted with the presence of the Lord and dealing with our sinfulness we are prepared now to serve Him.
3. We must then be willing to go where He sends, and to speak what He wants us to speak. It may not be popular; it may not be what we would like to say. But we are to proclaim the Word of the LORD.