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.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
As we consider this beautiful and mysterious vision…
I want you to employ your best imagination…and put yourself in Isaiah’s sandals…as it were.
Here’s the reason…
This is not a record of the prophets call to salvation or even ministry.
He’s already a prophet of God by this time.
Isaiah had been serving God as His spokesman to the common people and kings for years.
His influential ministry had already made him well known in Judah by now.
I want you…church…to place yourself in the text because it pictures the Lord calling out a called man to a higher calling.
Isaiah is being sent for a superior purpose…a greater objective.
God had used him mightily…but there was a mightier task ahead.
Insert yourself in the text and ask the question…
Lord…are you calling me to a higher purpose?
I know I’m saved…
Yes, I’ve served You over the years.
Have You been preparing me for something more?
These are dangerous questions.
So much so…I can understand why some of you won’t ask them.
Because when God calls out the called…
It’s never to a comfortable and convenient place He sends them.
We’re in our deacon selection process.
God is calling out the called.
To those who are nominated…be sure you know that your “Hear am I. Send me,” is a commitment to an uncomfortable and inconvenient work.
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying.
I’m not saying we…this church…doesn’t need a calling out of the called.
We need it more than ever.
Whether it’s a call to serve as a deacon or through the hospitality ministry…
- Children or youth work
There is no place of service at PBC that hasn’t been weakened over the past 14 months.
I believe this message is divinely timed…because God is calling out the called.
- Who will respond…how will you respond?
I’m slicing the passage into four layers as they build on one another…
Leading to Isaiah’s plea to be sent.
- The Holiness of God
- The Humiliation of Repentance
- The Healing of Forgiveness
- The Honorable Response
The Holiness of God (1-4)
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.
Whenever Scripture peels back the curtains of heaven to reveal the unfiltered holiness of God…
It is a wonderous mystery.
Isaiah captures an unprecedented vision of God’s heavenly temple that begs explanation.
The date is the year of King Uzziah’s death.
- 754 B. C.
He’d been king for 52 years.
- He was 16 when he became king
- Military and economic strategist
- Fortified Jerusalem
- Brought peace to the nation
Uzziah’s advancements led to arrogance.
2 Chronicles 26:16, But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
2 Chronicles 26:19, But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the altar of incense.
2 Chronicles 26:21, King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord. And Jotham his son was over the king’s house judging the people of the land.
The people followed their leader into pride and arrogance.
Their prosperity led to moral and spiritual decay.
Prior to chapter 6 and Isaiah’s vision his prophetic ministry centered in calling the people to repentance.
Following it…his word to the nation shifted to one of unavoidable doom.
- God’s judgment on His people for their refusal to change
And God’s authority to judge them is rooted in His holiness.
He has the right to decide their fate because His judgment flows from perfect moral purity.
- God’s purity is His holiness and His holiness is pure
- Heb. qadosh, sacred, holy, set apart
His holiness is indescribable…
Isaiah (Scripture) can only depict the setting of God’s holiness.
- 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.
Get this…even though Uzziah is dead and Judah is collapsing into a spiritual abyss…though the future is not bright…
The Lord is on His throne…lofty and exalted.
What Isaiah sees is that humanities failures do not diminish God’s holiness.
Our brokenness cannot lessen the brilliance of His light.
The angelic seraphim will never stop proclaiming…Holy, Holy, Holy!
Let’s pause here for a moment.
- Holy, Holy, Holy
It’s important to note that holiness is the only attribute of God the Bible cites with this triple wording.
It doesn’t say God is love, love, love…
Or that He is light, light, light…
- Merciful, merciful, merciful
Only that the Lord is…holy, holy, holy.
This triple mention of His holiness emphasizes it among all His other attributes.
It is Isaiah’s visionary presence of the Lord’s holiness that moves him to the humiliation of guilt.
[The Holiness of God]
The Humiliation of Repentance (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.”
Encountering the holiness of the Lord is a terrible thing…
Because it exposes how awful we are.
Here’s Isaiah…given the incredible privilege of this heavenly vison and his first felling is humiliation.
Isaiah…the voice of God’s word to His people…declaring that the instrument of those holy utterances unclean.
- His lips are unclean…
The breath that pronounces divine proclamations is pushed out of a putrefied prophet.
Isaiah sees the scope of his sinfulness under the brilliance of God’s purity…
And he’s ruined!
- Heb., silenced
He’s humiliated by who he is and by what God’s people have become.
This is what it’s like when human flesh enters the Lord’s holy presence.
Job’s reaction from chapter 42 reads…
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You;
6 Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.
Here’s what Habakkuk wrote on entering that hallowed space…
3:16, I heard, and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered.
Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble.
The visions given to Daniel by God practically killed him.
7:28, At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me, and my face grew pale….
8:27, Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision….
10:8-9, So I was left alone and saw this great vision; yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. 9 But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.
The demons are terrified by the Lord’s presence…
Luke 8:26-31, Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. 28 Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me.” 29 For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had seized him many times; and he was bound with chains and shackles and kept under guard, and yet he would break his bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert. 30 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. 31 They were imploring Him not to command them to go away into the abyss.
I’m afraid much of the church has no real fear of the Lord…
No reverence for who He is…
We’ve become too cavalier about His holiness and casual toward His judgment.
Let me give you an example.
I’m working on this message and a notice flashes on my phone.
It’s from a local Christian radio station promoting the latest edition of its on-line offerings…
- O Taste and See Foodie Magazine
The name of their publication is based on Psalm 34:8 which reads…
O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
They’re marketing recipes for fat-free desserts and fish tacos by invoking a verse about the matchless goodness of God.
I’m sorry…but I don’t believe God meant His word to be reduced to a targeted marketing strategy of a national for-profit corporation…
That bill’s itself as a Christian organization.
Back to the text.
Seeing the holiness of God, Isaiah essentially says, “I have a dirty mouth and I’m a dirty man living among dirty people”
We need to experience the humiliation of our guilt and repent before we’ll ever know the exhilaration of revival.
Did you hear that?
We’ve have got to come down before we can go up.
God must bring us low before He will raise us high.
But the truth is…most believers don’t want to be bothered.
They stay in the middle way.
What does Jesus say about that brand of bland belief?
Revelation 3:15-19, to the church of Laodicea…
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore, be zealous and repent.
Church…when Isaiah felt the humiliation of his personal and national guilt…
He found the healing of God’s forgiveness.
The Healing of Forgiveness (6-7)
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.”
With instruction from the Lord…one of the seraphim touch the source of Isaiah’s sin…his lips.
The hot coal cauterizes the wound of his dirty mouth…
The prophet’s guilt is removed…he is forgiven.
We need to understand that there’s no such thing as cheap grace.
It’s not easy to be called out from the called.
To be called out by the Lord for our sins. So He will use us.
Surfacing the transgressions we don’t see until we stand in the light of His holy judgment.
But it’s not until we do this that we fully know the healing of His forgiveness.
God’s forgiveness is an act of unmerited grace.
The guilt of sin is canceled…acquitted by our divine judge.
But His forgiveness is also therapeutic.
The spiritual injuries of our iniquities are covered in the healing properties of the Lord’s compassion.
Too often…too many Christians live with the open sores of their sins because they’re unwilling to face the humiliation of their guilt and repent.
They cling to the distorted thinking that some how their pain is better than God’s pity.
Or that He won’t forgive them.
He not only is compassionate toward sinners…
He’s willing to restore us to full partnership in His redemptive agenda.
Every single Christian…ministering anywhere in the world today does it at the mercy of our Lord’s healing forgiveness.
Isaiah’s healing inspires his honorable response.
The Honorable Response (8)
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
For most of us…the greatest challenge of responding positively to a call from God is that He doesn’t usually like to give a lot of details up front.
His call to Abram couldn’t have been vaguer…Genesis 12:1…
Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.
Moses was fortunate that God gave him a bit more information from the burning bush.
Maybe it’s because Moses asked good questions.
Hears what Isaiah’s told…after his honorable response.
Isaiah 6:9-10, He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”
If I may paraphrase…
Isaiah, preach My demand for repentance the rest of your life because the hearts of the people are so hard against Me…
They won’t return and be healed.
But you keep preaching…you keep prophesying.
Which is exactly what Isiah did.
His honorable response wasn’t just in what he said…here am I…send me.
Isaiah’s honorable response is in what he did…how he lived.
God calls all of us to live honorably for Him.
To honor His word…His name…His salvation…and calling on us.
How do we do this?
Pursue the holiness of God.
Accept the humiliation of repentance.
Experience the healing of His forgiveness.