1 – The Death of the King v1a
One of the first sermons I can recall hearing was an aboriginal pastor from WA was speaking on Isaiah 6. He spoke of remembering the death of King George VI. I don’t recall the message from that point on, only that I thought he must be incredibly old. Old enough that maybe he could remember King Arthur or King David as well.
The death of King Uzziah is more than a chronological point for us. There is much to be said of the death of this particular king in the context of what Isaiah shares with us.
Uzziah came to the throne at 16 and reigned for 52 years. The majority of those years were prosperous, peaceful, and he was godly man. The best king Judah had, besides David. His reign ended in disgrace though, when he ‘grew proud, to his destruction’ ( 2 Chronicles 26:16). He went into the temple and attempted to burn incense, trying to do the duties of a priest. For this, God struck him with leprosy, and spent the remaining time of his life in shame and isolation.
2 – The Vision of the Eternal Sovereign v 1-4
The future was uncertain and Isaiah’s people seemed destined for judgement, and he could do little about it, you could imagine he felt a little overwhelmed. But here, in this context, God commissions him, giving Him a vision of Himself.
He sees The Lord sitting upon a throne. He sees the Eternal Sovereign King of Kings and Lord of Lords in His rightful place, and he is not only reminded that earthly kings will come and go but The Lord will remain forever, but he is also put in a position of awe and trembling in this glorious scene of beauty and majesty.
Here is a King Who not only is allowed in the Temple, He reigns from it.
Isaiah gives us a vivid description of his vision, but on closer examination, we notice we don’t get a full description of The Lord. We get more information about His robe, about the seraphs, about the temple. We are told about His position, His environment, His presence, but little about His appearance.
He sees The Lord and all he can talk about is His robe…
We know God is great, not because of descriptions about His physical features. He is great because He is great. He is great regardless of our comprehension. All we can grasp is the mere hem of His garment, and even this is enough to overwhelm.
When you are so low in the presence of God that all you can see is glory, majesty, and beauty, you have reached the position you were made for.
“Lowliness is the perfect posture before God. That is the beginning of wisdom.” – Ed Welch
The cry of heaven from the seraphim is that God is “Holy, Holy, Holy and the whole earth is full of His glory”.
The “thrice holiness” of God indicates not only three in One union, but the eternal truth that this God of ours is beyond our description.
The supernatural superlative of a ‘holy, holy, holy’ God is not out of place. It should be the default response of every created being. It’s what we were made to declare, here on earth, as it is in Heaven.
If the whole earth is full of His glory, and being present in His glory compels us to proclaim His holiness, why do we so often only give such minimal attention to both?
We have God Who is high and lifted up.
It’s about time we got in the right position ourselves.
3 – The Position of Radical Self-Awareness v 5
In this world we cannot see God and live. This seems ironic then, that the great blessing is that, “God will lift His countenance upon you and give you peace”. ( Numbers 6:24-26).
We so often wish God would turn up so we could see Him. So we could tell Him, face to face what we need.
We say we want to see God, but if we knew the truth of what would happen when we did, I doubt we’d really want it.
Too often we rush into the throne room with our prayers of woe and what we perceive our greatest needs are, without stopping to consider Whom we are approaching. The moment we do so we may well realise our woes are not the woes they should be.
I am very acquainted with my ‘woes’. They are sometimes the first thing that greets me in the morning and a constant companion throughout the day.
‘Another day at work…woe is me’. ‘I wish the traffic was better…woe is me’. ‘If only my boss would honour my work efforts with a bonus…woe is me.’ ‘If only my spouse would…If my kids could just…If my parents could only…woe is me.’
Far too often our sorrows are not over our sin, but over the loss of our comfort or over the lack of fulfilment of our felt needs.
Our woes and sorrows are very often out of order and out of place.
Isaiah’s woe is as perfectly in place as the seraphs cry.
In the presence of this overwhelming holiness and majesty, he is brought to a place of radical self-awareness. He has seen God, and know truly sees himself for the first time.
He is aware of his own sin before the sins of anyone else.
He is aware he is in need of cleansing. He is lost and broken. In the presence of the infallible, he knows his fallibility. Of the eternal, he knows his mortality.
Isaiah’s position is despairing. He sees no way out. He is unclean. Everyone around him is unclean, and he is not worthy of the presence of The Lord of hosts. It’s in his despairing, that The Lord reaches out to Him.
4 – The Touch of Cleansing v 6-7
Isaiah’s confession of guilt and failure before God does not bring him judgement. Neither does it bring condemnation.
God doesn’t disagree with him, but neither does He leave him in that position.
A new heart is necessary for Isaiah to do what God has planned for him, and God cleanses his heart from uncleanness by cleansing his lips.
‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’, and God had a message for Isaiah to share that would only be effective if it came from a heart that had been transformed by His presence and intervention.
One of the seraphs brings a burning coal and touches Isaiah’s lips to atone for his sin.
The biggest barrier to our effectiveness or fruitfulness in what God has called us to is not our perceived inadequacies or our limited strengths, or our felt needs that we aren’t seeing being met. Our biggest barrier is our own sin. We need an atonement for our sin. We need a cleansing from it, we need our guilt taken away, and only God’s touch can do that.
It will cost us. It may well be painful. Putting things to death usually is for one of the parties involved.
God dealt with Isaiah’s filthy mouth, not to torture him. Not to extract payment, but to cauterise his wounds. To seal, to sanctify, to heal his flesh by marking him as His own.
“Apart from the fire of surrender and the surgery of the Divine, a clean heart will not be possible.” – Alistair Begg
When God touches our lives to remove our sin, it’s painful. It’s searching, it’s searing, but it cleanses so we can hear the voice of God.
5 – The Offering of a Living Sacrifice v 8
When we finally hear the voice of God in Isaiah’s encounter, it comes with a question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”.
Isaiah saw and heard the Holy One of Israel and he could not keep silent.
‘Send me’, he says.
When we offer ourselves up as living sacrifices, saying, “Here am I! Send me”, we won’t know where God will send us or what we might be called to do, but we will know that HE has called us, HE has cleansed us, and HE is on the throne.
Where initially in God’s presence he is simply overwhelmed with his unworthiness, now, after God’s intervention, cleansing, sealing, he is overcome with his duty. He hadn’t been forced. He hadn’t been coerced. He had been cleansed and called, and now knows he’s fully equipped.
Have you seen God?
Have you had that moment of radical self-awareness in His presence where you have realised your predicament and called out to Him?
Have you felt the cleansing touch of being sealed by the Holy power of God?
Does the cry of heaven fill your heart to not only know God in His fulness, but know yourself truly and what He has called you to do? Does His glory and holiness echo in your mind and heart to the point where you would willing give your all to Him?
There is much we can learn from Isaiah.
We know we should never place our faith in earthly kings. Even the best ones will fail us. All will die. We have an eternal Sovereign Who will never compromise.
We also have a King, although He had all the glories of Heaven, didn’t consider it something to hold on to, and for our sake, He humbled Himself. He became an outsider, a leper by choice. Becoming sin and curse for us so we could be free.King Uzziah died in disgrace, and he stayed dead. His final testimony was one of failure. Our King died, but rose again, defeating death, to take His rightful place on the throne again.
We know that as we are, we are unworthy of His presence.
We know that because of Who He is, He welcomes us and shows us Himself, even if only a glimpse, in order for us to be saved and set apart.
We know we should always be more aware of our own sins before the sins of others. Our woe should only ever be over our own sin, and the sins of those around us that grieve a Holy God. Our woes should never be petty feelings of missing out or anxiety of not knowing what the future holds.
We know that guilt is removed only by God’s intervention.
We know we need to hear God’s voice and respond in obedience to what He asks of us.
Where is God seeking to touch your life with a cleansing touch? Where do you need a coal off the altar in your life?
Where will you being willing to go, when you have seen God?
‘Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.’