We are in a series we are calling, “In Light of the Cross” where we are looking at how God uses the truth of the Gospel to bring about lasting life change in our lives.
CONTEXT: Jewish tradition tells us that Isaiah’s father Amoz, also a Prophet, was the brother to the previous King Amaziah. So Isaiah was a member of the royal family.
Isaiah lived during a time when the Nation of Judah was in steep decline. If something didn’t change one of Judah’s enemies would likely attack and take 100’s of 1000’s into exile.
But there seemed to be a glimmer of hope a young King Uzziah (otherwise known as Azeriah) had become King. This would have been Isaiah’s cousin. We are told in 2 Kings 15:3 (ESV)
3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done.
You see, since Genesis 3:15 (KJV 1900)
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
NOTE: This is a prophecy of a male child that will be born that will defeat Satan and set right what went wrong in Eden. In one sense the entire OT is a search for that seed.
2 Chronicles 26:16 (ESV)
16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
Now if you remember this was very similar to the sin of Saul. He didn’t follow the prescribed procedure laid out in the Word of God. It was the priest’s place to enter the temple and burn the incense. But Uzziah’s success had gone to his head and he devalued the word of God. God struck Uzziah with leprosy and ultimately he died. The death of Uzziah is the context for our story…
TEXT: Isaiah 6:1 (ESV) 1 In the year that King Uzziah died
It was most likely the year 759BC. Ironically, tradition holds that the very same year two brother established a village across the mediterranean - the village of Rome and the brothers Romulus and Remus.
It must have been devastating to Isaiah and to all of Judah. This King who held so much hope, so much promise was dead.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Now we are told in the Gospel of John chapter 12 - that the Lord whom Isaiah saw was Jesus. John 12:41 (ESV) 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
So this is a pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus. Theologians call it a theophany.
Note here that while it seems that the whole world is falling apart around Isaiah - Jesus is still on the throne.
Isaiah 6:2 (ESV)
2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
These seraphim were a race of angel - the root word means, “fiery ones”. We are told that cherubim were on either side of the Arc, but these are Seraphim.
They each had 6 wings - we might assume they were normally be used for rapid flight, but here in the Divine presence they have a different use.
Isaiah 6:3 (ESV)
3 And one called to another
The grammar here is saying, “they kept one crying to one another”
3b. and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Notice the declaration… HOLY, HOLY, HOLY - In the Hebrew language there was no grammatical mark ups for emphasis. For example, when we want to emphasis something we underline, bold, italics, we use exclamation points. None of that was available to the Hebrews. So when they wished to emphasize something they would repeat the word.
No other attribute of God is spoke of in this way - God is called Love, but not Love, Love, Love… it is as if to say that all of God’s other attributes are saturated and baptized in His Holiness.
LISTEN: You’re verbal expression of worship is in direct proportion to the revelation of God you have experienced. These seraphim were in the unveiled presence of Jesus and they shouted, “Holy, Holy, Holy”!
Isaiah 6:4 (ESV)
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
How would Isaiah respond to this amazing revelation? He sees through a cloud of smoke - the smoke filling his nostrils, the ground under him trembles like an earthquake.
Isaiah 6:5–7 (ESV)
5 And I said: “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 is literally prophesying against himself. Imagine that - the word of God filling the mouth of the prophets and his very words pronounce upon his own life a curse.
From everything we know Isaiah was one of the most highly respected Prophets in all of Israeli history. Moms and Dads prayed that their sons would grow up and be like Isaiah. Perhaps there was no one in all of Israel who was more righteous than Isaiah… but he no longer stood before Israel. Now one greater than his peers had come. He stands before the thrice Holy Christ. And all he can say is WOE IS ME!!!
And notice, his greatest asset became his greatest liability - his lips. He was a Prophet, a Preacher - and a truly great one at that. Before Christ he recognizes how sin had touched his lips.
What was unclean about Isaiah’s lips? Was he prone to lie, boast, gossip, vulgarity?
Either way you turn it, humanly speaking we give a lot of grace for sins of the tongue. We’ve all been guilty and we know how easy it is to sin this way. But in the presence of Jesus he didn’t brush it off, he didn’t say, “Well everybody does it”. Isaiah was crushed.
Imagine him there undone, barley breathing, in complete and total despair.. his heart racing as he is conscious that the man standing before him is HIS GREATEST THREAT. Jesus himself said, “Don’t fear man who can destroy the body - but fear God who after he has destroyed the body can cast your soul into hell”.
Do you see - your greatest threat isn’t man, it isn’t even Satan. The greatest threat to your existence is Jesus himself.
THEN THE MOMENT HE CONFESSES HIS SIN LOOK WHAT HAPPENS.
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
Do you see that? The fire of this alter was to hot for even an angel to touch. This was the fire of God.
7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Al Mohler writes in his book, “God is Not Silent” - This scene is clearly an anticipation of the work of Christ. It is a unilateral act of God, a unilateral propitiatory sacrifice. It is a picture of atonement. This is our allusion of the Cross in the OT.
NOW NOTICE THE CHANGE THAT THE GOSPEL WROUGHT TO HIM -
Isaiah 6:8–13 (ESV)
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”. Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
We say this a lot but here is the perfect example - the Gospel shows you that you are more wicked than you ever believed, “Woe is Me” and at the same time more loved than you ever imagined. So it produces humility but also boldness.
This is the ballast of your soul - it keeps you balanced.
That is why Isaiah dared to say, “here am I send me”.