What Did Isaiah See?

Icon-of-IsaiahThere are numerous examples in scripture of men of God who loved God and were willing to live a life that was authentically joyous in God even amongst struggles. We read in the Old Testament of a great man who had a true care for the truth that God had revealed and spent his life warning the covenant people of disasters to come should they not repent. This man was none other than the prophet Isaiah. One illuminating portion of his book is found in the 6th chapter when the great prophet is brought into the presence of Jehovah Himself.

 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

We have here a very special incident in the life of this man “Isaiah Ben Amoz”. Isaiah was a prophet and in essence what he did as a prophet was to communicate the will of God. He was one that proclaimed a message from God to God’s covenant people. Generally a prophet lived a very hard life which was entrenched in persecution and poverty. Isaiah was a man who was considered one of the most upstanding and respected men in his country. Most today would have called him a righteous man or even a saint. This event in his life would have taken place around the year 758 B.C. while the people of Israel had lost their king. Isaiah saw something that day and nothing could have prepared him for what he was about to see.

Isaiah begins in v.1 by sharing with his readers the vision he saw of a greater king than Uzziah. Notice also how there is no confusion about whom he saw. Isaiah saw the Lord! His eyes had fixed upon the Sovereign King of eternity sitting on a throne.  One exalted and elevated above all! Isaiah was gazing at the Creator who formed everything we see around us and who did so from nothing. This was the One whom the Psalmist spoke:

The Lord robe, his symbol of royalty and majesty filled the entire temple. This was a statement of grandeur and was similar to the thoughts of the psalmist when he said: (Psalm 104:1-2)

His most beautiful and admired servants, the seraphims, surrounded the Lord and were tending to the worship of their King. These angelic beings, in a harmony of worship, exclaimed with a loud voice: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of Hosts”. There is great significance to these words. Notice how their chant was threefold, “Holy, Holy, Holy”. In Hebrew writing, when a writer wanted to put emphasis on a particular term, he would use repetition to bring his point across. We see this in the statements made by the Lord Jesus when he would repeat the term “truly” (Truly, truly, I say unto you). You knew He had something important to say when this repetition took place! This attribute of God is the only one He possesses that is emphasized threefold in scripture. God is never said to be love, love, love or justice, justice, justice but He is holy, holy, holy.

What does that term mean, Holy? It can have several meanings such as “purity” or “free from evil or corruption”. In other words, it means to “be separate in an absolute way”, to be transcendent or “exceeding the limitations”! I believe he saw the standard on which all humanity will be judged. He saw true holiness and such as humanity has never attained.

I would like for you for a moment to put yourselves in Isaiah’s shoes. What would be your reaction be to what he saw? Notice carefully what Isaiah didn’t say! He didn’t say: “wow, this is amazing stuff” or “It’s an honour to meet you God” The first three words out of his mouth were “woe is me”! The term “woe” may not mean much to most folks today and to explain it in simple terms is difficult. When a prophet would announce something that would be a blessing to God’s people, the prophet would generally use the term “blessed” however when the term “woe” was used, it was to announce that a certain doom was coming and that the judgment of God was going to fall on them. What is astonishing to me is that Isaiah didn’t announce this to others but called this doom upon his own head!

Directly after these words he cried out “I am undone”. To be undone is simple terms was to either cease to exist or to be cut off from something. Every shred of pride, every shred of self-righteousness this man may have had was completely and utterly taken away. Isaiah saw for the very first time, in a true sense, by gazing at the absolute standard of Holiness who he really was. It’s easy to see yourself as good when you compare yourself with other people but when you see perfection in this light, you cannot cease but see the reality of the stain of your sin. The great prophet understand that he was “a man of unclean lips”. The bible says that it’s not what enters into a man that defiles him but what comes out of his mouth. (Romans 3)

Notice that the Lord didn’t just say to Isaiah “it’s o.k., you’re as good as you can be, don’t panic” or “live your best life now’ or even “say the sinner’s prayer. The Lord did something about Isaiah’s sin in that He placed a coal on his mouth and it took away his sin. This was the method that God had “atoned” for his sins. Isaiah could not continue in the presence of God without something being done about his sin!

To those who are reading this and don’t have their sins atoned for, I wonder if you can in any way relate to Isaiah? Can you compare yourself with the upmost standard of holiness and see yourself as you really are? Do you understand that you are man of unclean lips before a Holy God? Would you be willing to exclaim as Isaiah did on that day, “woe is me, for I am undone”? You see, God did something for those people who would exclaim this today! Sin was put away 2000 years ago on a cross at a place called “Golgotha” in Jerusalem. Christ Jesus, the Son of God, “atoned” for the sins of His people. God raised Him from the dead in a declaration that He was satisfied with His Son’s sacrifice. All people who repent from their sins and believe on Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins will one day stand in the presence of God perfectly safe in Jesus Christ. I pray that God will move your heart to say those same words Isaiah uttered so long ago and that you will be healed from your sins by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to cleanse you from your sins!

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