Wisdom, Works, and Worship
Main point summary
Isaiah recognized his sinfulness while in the presence of God. Although he would become one of God's greatest spokesmen he knew he was not worthy to see God. Yet, God had mercy on Isaiah and purified him. This same God purifies us through the blood of Jesus. When we come to Him and, like Isaiah see our sinfulness and cry, "Woe," God has mercy upon us.
In the year that s King Uzziah died
I t saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up;
This is the only place in the passage that uses the word 'Adonai' for God. Verses 3 and 5 use His covenant Name, Yahweh.
and the train 1 of his robe filled the temple.
The length of the train of a royal robe represented the grandeur & majesty of the Royal. God's train fills the entire temple, indicating His infinite majesty
Above him stood the seraphim.
Most people assume there were only two seraphim, but the number is never given
Each had u six wings:
with two he covered his face,
and with two he covered his feet,
and with two he flew.
And one called to another and said:
u “ Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
Three-fold cry to solidify God's eternal holiness
v the whole earth is full of his glory!” 1
And w the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called,
and x the house was f illed with smoke.
Shekinah glory (cf, 2Chron 7:2)
And I said: “ Woe is me!
y For I am lost;
(or, "I am destroyed.") (NET Notes: Isaiah uses the suffixed (perfect) form of the verb for rhetorical purposes. In this way his destruction is described as occurring or as already completed. Rather than understanding the verb as derived from דָּמַה (damah, “be destroyed”), some take it from a proposed homonymic root דמה, which would mean “be silent.” In this case, one might translate, “I must be silent.)
z 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 a King, the Lord of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me,
having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
And he b touched my mouth and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips;
your guilt is taken away ,
and your sin atoned for . ”
Wisdom, Works, and Worship
The Passage The entire passage is tied together with a Situation/Response relationship. Verses 1-4 comprise the Situation in which Isaiah sees the exalted Yahweh (Adonai is used in verse 1. Verses 3 , 5 uses the covenant Name, Yahweh). Verses 5-7 is Isaiah's response to that vision. While an Idea/Explanation relationship could have sufficed I chose the Sit/R for two reasons: A Sit/R made more sense for the context. Isaiah is presented with this vision from God. In the vision he is faced with his own unholiness in the light of God's perfect holiness. The only expectation to such purity and majesty is the kind of response such as Isaiah gives. Much more than a mere Id/Exp is going on in Isaiah's mind as he recounts this vision. I don't believe he intended to simply "explain" the vision, but rather to show his response to Judah, whom he was about to prophecy to. If Judah could catch the same kind of Holy fear of Yahweh that he himself had caught then their response would indeed have to be the same as his own. I believe this section could very well tie the rest of Isaiah's prophecy together as he expects his people to repent and submit to God as King, LORD of Hosts (6:5) . But alas, they would not believe because if they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead (Lk 16:31). The Situation (vv. 1-4) An Action/Result relationship holds the first few verses Isaiah's vision together. The action is centered around the Person of Yahweh as He is seated on the throne. He is surrounded by His ministers, of which there is a (somewhat) vivid description. Much debate has taken place exactly what kind of creatures the Seraphim are. We can ascertain certain things from their description: 1. they have wings and fly (v. 2). 2. they have feet (v. 2c). The standard Hebrew word for 'foot' is used, but whether or not this means that the creatures are bipedal cannot be forced into the text. It can simply be taken as something foot or leg-like. 3. they have hands (v. 6). Again, this cannot be taken as literal human hands, but from the description given the Seraphim used tongs to get a coal and carry it in his hand to Isaiah. No matter what the Seraphim are the focus is on God Himself, particularly the nature of His holiness. Hence, the creatures call out to one another of that holiness and how it fills the entire earth. The three-fold purpose of the cry is to solidify the fact that God's nature is holiness. He is set apart from every other thing, even in His dwelling place where the Seraphim cover their eyes to keep from gazing upon the Great and Awesome Majesty. If God's own creatures dare not look upon the Splendid One imagine how terrified Isaiah must have been! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31). This same mentality is echoed later on in Isaiah, no doubt stemming from this experience (Isa 33:14). If all this wasn't enough the Result relationship between verse 3-4 cannot be mistaken. Upon the callings out of the Seraphim another voice echoes in the background. It is the voice of Yahweh and His voice makes the very foundations of the Heavenly temple tremble. At such an awesome thing the entire temple is filled with God's Shekinah glory, the same glory that was so dense that the priests, upon dedicating the first temple, were not even able to perform their priestly duties (2Chron 7:2). The Response (vv. 5-7) The last half of the passage is Isaiah's response to what he has just witnessed. His response is one that epitomizes that of humility as he comes to the reckoning of how he truly stands in God's sight. There is no more religion, or commandment keeping, or family associations. He is simply sinful Isaiah in the unhindered presence of his Creator. His cry, "for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts," is an admittance that no human can see God and live (Ex 33:20). This confession is a Ground that ties this small section together. There are three separate Ground relationships present within the section: for I am lost... for I am a man of unclean lips... for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts It is the third Ground which is the core of Isaiah's confession. Ultimately, he expects to die for having seen God as a mere man. No doubt that he is trembling in this moment. The axe is about to fall, so to speak. And then... The Temporal relationship of verse 6 follows on the heels of this confession and is God's response to Isaiah's admittance. " Then , one of the Seraphim flew to me..." God has one of His ministers take a coal from His altar to Isaiah. This is significant because the altar of God is not human in origin, signifying that true redemption cannot be imparted by anyone or anything other than God Himself. Because Isaiah bewails his unclean lips (maybe a euphemism for uncleanness in general, Mt 15:19 ) the Seraphim touches the coal to his lips. The proclamation of God's mercy and grace follow: "your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." What more glorious words could ring in the ears of one who was certain of judgment! and no doubt, if God had not intervened Isaiah would have died. There was no other way for Isaiah to live. This is shown in the -/+ relationship, the two separate pieces from verses 5-7 . Although there are no key words that typically connect them the negative aspect of Isaiah's imminent death is offset by the positive aspect of God's mercy in allowing a solution to that problem. I originally thought that this relationship might be a Concessive, but the more I meditated the more I came to realize the part God played in Isaiah living, hence the -/+. What We Take Away The holiness of God is high and lifted up above all else . This holiness sets Him apart from everything in the Heavens and Earth. He is above all creatures, including mankind. Isaiah saw clearly this holiness. He himself is thought to have been a converted scribe or some type of nobility, yet when he encountered the Living God in all His splendor he reckoned himself as a dead man. The mercy and grace of God stems from His holiness. Simply speaking, Isaiah should have died. No unclean thing can be in the presence of such Purity and Brightness without being fully consumed. Yet, we see God's mercy upon Isaiah in the atonement that was made for him: a burning coal from God's very own altar. If we can really grasp the reality of this it would change the way we see God forever!!! Imagine for a moment you are caught up in this same vision. You see the things Isaiah saw and experience the same kinds of emotions: fear, excitement, maybe even uncontrollable weeping. And just on the verge of death you peer into the eyes of a creature of splendid brilliance. This is it. Now comes the judgment. Only, there is no judgment. No death comes to you. Instead, he holds something in his hands. He touches your mouth and declares you clean, guiltless. You can walk away completely innocent; only–you're not innocent, but you are innocent. Now, imagine what your emotions would be like as compared to only moments ago. No doubt you feel overjoyed, and relief, and gratitude, and peace, and a myriad of other things. But most importantly you would understand two things: (1) that you deserved the very condemnation that God was about to bring to you, and (2) that God was most merciful and gracious in that you are still breathing. THAT is the vision of Isaiah. Application Isaiah's vision is a beautiful representation of the mercy of God through the gospel. Because God is transcendent no person can fully be in His presence. Yet He descended to us in His great mercy. The very altar of God is seen in the cross and the burning coal that purifies us now is the blood of His Son , Jesus Christ. When we gaze into God's perfect Law ( Ps 19:7 , James 2:10-11 ) we see just how sinful we really are. We come to understand that judgment must come upon us. That judgment has already come in the Person of Jesus Christ. His blood has been presented to the Father once for all His people (Matthew 1:26, Heb 9:12 ). What should our response be? Man or woman, examine yourself in the light of God's Word. Let Him compare your "holiness" to His own so that you, like Isaiah will have that dreaded sense of fear. But do not stay in that fear. Cry out to Him to cleanse you with the burning coal from His own altar, which is the blood of Jesus upon the altar of the cross. I promise you, you will see things anew and never cease to be amazed at His awesome and wonderful mercy. Believer, renew in yourself that holiness by which you were once fascinated and drawn by. Our God delights to show mercy (Ps 35:27, Ex 34:6). When we delight in His works He is glorified even by the heathen (Matthew 5:16). Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving and into His presence with praise!!! (Ps 100:4). May God be glorified in your life forevermore. Amen.