You’ll never really change until you grieve over your sin.
And you’ll never really grieve over your sin until you see yourself for who you are.
And you’ll never really see yourself for who you are, until you’ve first looked upon God’s face, and seen Him, as He really is.
And you’ll never really see God for who He is, until you see Him, the way Isaiah does here.
As absolutely and completely holy.
Which, if you want to change, is what you have to be praying for. This is what you have to be seeking in God’s Word. Because, this is what brought Isaiah to the breaking point.
“In the year that King Uzziah died…”
Uzziah, for the most part was a pretty good king. He had become king when he was only sixteen years old. And he ended up ruling as king for about fifty two years.
Which means he had been king for a very long time.
And for most of that time, really, he had done what was right in the eyes of God, and as a result, he had prospered, or as the Bible says, he had become strong. And yet, unfortunately, as he became more and more powerful, he also became more and more proud.
Which is too often the way it works.
And it’s what ended up being his downfall.
Because for some reason he decided to enter into the temple and begin trying to do something, that he was specifically, forbidden by God, to do.
It’s like he thought, ‘Because I am the king, I can be a priest as well,’ and so he tried to burn incense on the altar of incense, even though all these priests, about 81, in all, came as he was doing so and told him very clearly it was wrong.
They basically pleaded with him to stop.
And because he wouldn’t, God stopped him. And he was immediately struck, with a skin disease, they call leprosy, all because he had forgotten a very clear and obvious biblical truth.
Which I think, is revealed here in verse 1.
“In the year that King Uzziah died. I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne. High and lifted up…”
When most prophets give the timing as to when they were called, they talk about the time when someone became king. I don’t think there is another place, where someone talks about becoming a prophet and dates it by a certain king’s death.
The way Isaiah does.
He’s specifically trying to make a contrast.
Uzziah. And he’s coming into the temple. Just like Isaiah did. And yet, as he comes into the temple.His attitude is obviously completely different.
Because look at Isaiah.
He’s saying, ‘Woe is me.’
There’s no way he’s going over and touching any altar. Or trying to tell God what to do. And you are thinking, what does Isaiah see about God that Uzziah didn’t?
And I think.
He was seeing God as the sovereign King. “In the year that King Uzziah died. I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.”
Which is one of the first steps towards understanding the whole concept of holiness.
This is what you need to know about God if you are going to be cured of spiritual blindness.
You have to see God as the absolute and only sovereign King.
And that means.
You are just never going to do what God wants and you are never going to be holy the way God wants unless you know who God is. And you’re never going to know who God is, unless you’re, convinced, first, and, absolutely convinced that He alone is God, and you are not.
There is One King who rules over this whole universe.
And as King.
He deserves your complete and absolute obedience.
All the time.
I think if you look at Uzziah. Obviously, what happened, why he was judged and why he started acting the way he did, was, because he had lost sight of that.
He tried to come into the presence of God as if he were the one in charge. It’s like he had stopped seeing God as sitting on his throne, high and lifted up.
And so as a result.
He had stopped seeing himself as his servant.
Which I think, often happens to us.
That’s the thing.
Instead of thinking, this sin deserves God’s judgment. Instead of thinking, I deserve God’s judgment. Instead of thinking, it would be completely just if God forever to cast me into hell.
We invent these excuses for ourselves.
We think about the good things we have done. We think about how much we didn’t want to sin.
Instead of just acknowledging, that no matter how hard we might have tried not to do it.
We did it.
And that, if left to ourselves, God would have every right to cast us into hell, just because he’s God.
If we saw the unending majesty and authority of God as we should that we would never say.
‘Oh. It was such a strong temptation. You don’t understand. I had all these things going against me. And I wanted to do what was right. And I am sorry. Isn’t that enough?’
Of course it is not enough.
“If we have seen,” as Jonathan Edwards has put it, “the infinite majesty and authority of God, as we ought, we would have done anything and suffered anything rather than have disobeyed the infinitely excellent, glorious, and sovereign King of heaven and earth.”
Which is why, Isaiah cries out, here. ‘Woe is me.’
It’s why he doesn’t make excuses. He sees God alone as King. And what a king! Really.
“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.”
Which is awesome.
You need to think about the massiveness of that. Because obviously this is a picture God is a spirit and doesn’t literally wear a robe. But obviously the fact Isaiah sees God as wearing a robe that fills the temple is supposed to reminds us we serve a massive God.
A small God is a big problem, and for a lot of people that is the problem. That is the essential problem. Their view of God is way too small.
They think of Him as essentially a little better version of themselves, maybe, when in reality, God is in a class all by Himself.
If we look the seraphim, they certainly understood that.
“Above him stood the seraphim.”
Which are some kind of angel it seems.
It’s hard to know much about the seraphim, because this is the only place in the Scripture where they are mentioned, actually. We find cherubim in other places. And beings we might call watchers or guardians, but this is the only place we find these seraphim, so I am assuming they are a class of angel, but they must be significant, because of the fact they are so close to the very throne of God.
They are obviously awesome beings, because we see in verse 4, as they cry out, the foundations of the thresholds of the temple shake at the sound of their voice, which is frightening.
I mean, beings whose very voice can cause the earth to quake, and yet, as we look at these seraphim, what are they doing.
“Each had six wings. With two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”
Which is basically a way of them saying, even though we are perfect, and we’ve never sinned, and we’re glorious beings, even we realize, we don’t deserve to be in God’s presence.
There’s just this distance. This unending distance. Between even the most holy creature. And the Creator of all things.
I sometimes wonder if we get that. I was reading a preacher named Paul Washer and he puts it like this.
“Until you know who God is and the privilege it is to be in his presence, you probably don’t have any right to be there. You have got to know this God of yours before you start doing foolish things before him and shame his glory.
One time I was in a meeting.”
One time I was in a church and they said, “Oh, the presence of God is here, isn’t it?” And I knew the Church well. I said, “No, it is not.” And they said, “Why?” I said, “Because half of you would be dead.” We have to be very careful. We have made God too common and it is not a wise thing that we have done.”
If you look at most people coming into the presence of God, in Scripture, what are they doing, actually.
He reveals His glory.
They are shaken. They are silenced. They are on their faces. They are overwhelmed.
There’s a lot of time for joy and excitement in our relationship with God. And I am not saying there isn’t.
I like how Paul Washer puts it.
He talks about the throne room experience and a wedding experience, and we need to hold on to those two things.
And what I am talking about is here we have the throne room experience. When God manifests his glory and men are struck down before him because of his great holiness,that should occur in your life.
There should be times when God manifests himself to you that you are thrown down and you tremble before him because of his greatness and his holiness.”
And of course.
“There are also other times when you come before God and it is like that wedding day that Jesus had in John chapter two with his disciples, when you can worship God with joy and even laughter and raising your hands and even being childish before him. Oh, you can leap with joy. You can have a good time in the presence of almighty God. Yes, that’s true. But you need to see that there are two types of manifestations here.
And for so many people today.
The only thing we have got are children dancing before God and they remain children because they never grow close enough to God to know the other side.”
It’s funny, how Paul Washer says it. He says,
“When I am in charismatic churches preaching I always tell them. I say, “Most of you shouldn’t be jumping around.”
And they say, “Why?”
And I say, “Because you have never trembled.”
And I wonder, how many of us have, that’s the thing.
If we are going to change, we have to see ourselves, if we are going to see ourselves, we have to see God, if we are going to see God, we have to see Him as holy, if we are going to see Him as holy, we have to see Him as sovereign King, and if we are going to see Him as sovereign King, we have to see and feel the infinite distance between Him as God.
This is part of what we mean, when we call God, holy. When the Bible talks about the holiness of God, the first thing, it’s telling us, is that he is different, and better than us, and anything else in the whole created universe.
The word holy comes from a Hebrew word that means separated, basically.
And he’s separated from the created world, obviously, just by virtue that he is the Creator, but even beyond that, which is the second thing that the word holy means, he’s also completely separated from any tiny spot of sin, or impurity, or imperfection.
As the Bible says.
His eyes are too pure to even look on evil.
You can imagine.
As Isaiah comes into God’s presence here. And sees him as this great and awesome king.
He’s feeling, like.
He must be, this is a little bit dangerous. I think there’s a kind of terror he’s experiencing, and these glorious beings, we call the seraphim, are responding, basically, by saying, you even don’t begin to know how dangerous it is.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.”
Different, different, different, in other words.
“The whole earth is filled with his glory.”
Where I come from, and I imagine it is the same here.
The president, will go out among the public. And whenever the president goes out, he doesn’t go out alone. He always has these security guards around him.
We call them the Secret Service.
And their job, basically, is to protect the president, from the public. The public can be dangerous, and so the president, needs protection.
Which in a sense, may be how these seraphim are functioning, only here, they are not protecting God the King from Isaiah, they are protecting Isaiah from God the King.
Because God’s not good. But instead because He is so good.
Holy, holy, holy.
The whole earth is filled with His glory.
One of the things that has really helped me this year, is reading through the Old Testament more carefully, and one of the books that has helped me the most, surprisingly, is the book of Leviticus.
I have always been confused by Leviticus because there are just so many strange rules and all these sacrifices, but one of the things that has actually really helped me understand Leviticus, was coming to appreciate that this whole concept of God’s holiness is not just a subject, or an idea.
It’s who God is.
And it’s hard to find the words to express it, I guess, but God is unendingly valuable and majestic and beautiful and perfect, and that blazing beauty, you might say, shines forth from him, with a very real intensity, that would consume anyone or anything close to it.
As an example.
Look at what happens.
In Exodus 19.
When God approaches His people on Mount Sinai.
God tells Moses.
“Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments, and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. “
And then you know.
He comes down.
“On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on in it in fire….And the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. The Lord came down on Mount Sinaio, to the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And the Lord said to Moses, ‘God down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord, and many of them perish.”
Why, because of just the absolute beauty and majesty and otherness and holiness and blazing perfection of God.
It’s not just an idea.
And I am afraid for some of us, our ideas of God, are just so tame, which is why we aren’t changing, that’s why we aren’t humbled.
And we can talk all day long, about what to do or how you need to do it and when you need to do it and all kinds of ideas and strategies for changing, but, it doesn’t do much, because.
We are not in awe of God.
We know certain facts about God, maybe.
But they don’t grip us.
The way they should.
It’s kind of like the difference between going to the zoo and seeing a lion, I guess.
If you’ve ever seen a lion behind a cage, it’s not very scary. But I guarantee, it’s a whole different thing, if you are somehow thrown, in the front of the lion and there’s nothing between you.
Which I think is what Isaiah is feeling here.
He’s seeing God as King.
He’s seeing God as Holy.
And He’s seeing obviously, that God’s, a God of wrath and judgment.
Which is what.
I think is intended.
In verse 4,
When Isaiah says.
“And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.”
Which is not a manifestation of God’s mercy, obviously.
This is a little like Isaiah’s standing in the middle of a volcano, really, as it is about to erupt and of course, Isaiah’s reaction as he sees all this, is a feeling of complete and utter dread.
“Woe is me.”
Which sounds, hard to a lot of people.
I think sometimes the thing people are most afraid of is seeing themselves as they really are.
Because they want so desperately to think of themselves being able to fix things on their own and so as they come with their problems, wanting help, they are so often primarily wanting you to give them some steps or pieces of advice, so they can go out and fix it themselves.
As we look at Isaiah here, he sees himself and He sees God, and the one thing, that’s become super clear to him, is that he absolutely can’t solve this problem on his own.
“For I am lost.”
Which obviously would be some really hard news.
But hard news.
If this is where the passage ended.
Our problems are so much worse than we think they are. It’s not just that we have these little issues in our life. It’s that God is holy and we are not and as a result, we deserve His judgment and His wrath.But of course, that’s not where the passage ends, it’s in a sense, really where the passage begins.
And it’s where hope for change begins as well.
Because what does God do as we humble ourselves like this? What does God when Isaiah comes to the end of himself?
This is one of the things that makes the gospel so beautiful, because it’s at this point where you think it’s hopeless, that hope begins.
Because, it’s only as Isaiah sees his sin, because he’s seen his God, that he sees the solution, which is not found in him and something he does.
It’s not found in him.
Trying a little harder and trying to be a little better.
It’s found in God acting on His behalf.