2016-01-24 The Holiness of God

ISAIAH 6:1-7                                                                                             January 24, 2016


Have you ever been overwhelmed? The only experience that comes close is when I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. I was speechless. I was overwhelmed and could only gasp in wonder. Have events ever caused you to fall apart?  Personally, I have not had such an experience. I have witnessed people who were so overwhelmed by tragic events that they emotionally shut down. Some have fainted while others blanked out. The prophet Isaiah had an encounter with God that profoundly shook him to his core. This passage is essential to our understanding the holiness of God so that we might worship him correctly.

If you have the sheet of scriptures please observe in verse one that the word “Lord” is spelled with all capital letters. When “Lord” is spelled with a capital “L” and then the rest of the letters are in lower case, the word “Lord” is not the name of God but a title for God. The word “Lord” is the Hebrew word for Adonai, meaning “sovereign one”. When “LORD” appears in scripture God’s name is being used. The name of God is Yahweh. Exodus 20:7 (NIV) 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”The Jewish people rarely used God’s name Yahweh, as they did not want to break the third commandment. The people most often used Adonai, “Lord”, when speaking of God. The title Adonai, “Lord” was used only for God. It was also the title later given to Jesus. When scripture uses the word “LORD” it is referring to God by name, Yahweh.

Isaiah was a part of the Jewish leadership. He had grown up under the reign of King Uzziah. One could say he was a part of the nobility. King Uzziah had ruled Judah for 52 years. Prophets were chosen by God. No one sought to be a prophet as being the mouthpiece of God was not a career any sane person chose. Most prophets suffered greatly and many were killed. Isaiah grew up in Jerusalem and shortly after the king’s death Isaiah went to the Temple to worship. There he encountered God.

Before we can begin to understand the full significance of Isaiah’s vision we need to return to Moses encounter with the LORD. Moses asked to see God. No one is allowed to see the face of God. Exodus 33:19-20 (NIV) 19 And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”  Moses did not realize how he was affected upon seeing the glory of God. Exodus 34:29-30 (NIV) 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.”

Isaiah’s eyes were opened and he saw the real king of Israel. Isaiah 6:1 (NIV) 1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” We are not able to see God because we have a problem with our eyes. We have a problem with our hearts. We are not able to come into the presence of God until we are cleansed of our filth, our sins.

Isaiah 6:2 (NIV) 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” These creatures created by God are not able to even look on the face of God as two wings cover their eyes. Two wings enable the seraph to fly as they are not to stand in the presence of God either. Two wings are used to cover their feet. Remember when Moses encountered God for the first time in the burning bush. Moses was required to remove his shoes for he was standing on holy ground. Exodus 3:5 (NIV) 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Whenever scripture uses repetition it is a means of great emphasis. Jesus said in John 1:51 (ESV) “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” The NIV renders the double use of the word as “I tell you the truth”. Only on a few occasions is something repeated three times. This elevates something to the highest degree. In Revelation 8:13 (NIV) 13 As I watched, I heard an eagle that was flying in midair call out in a loud voice: “Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels!” God’s judgment is coming upon the earth! Woe indeed!

Only once in the Bible is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree.” Isaiah 6:3 (NIV) 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  “The bible does not say that God is love, love, love: or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath.” (R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, pg. 25)Scripture says that God is holy, holy, holy. The LORD’S holiness describes his essential nature.

When the seraphs proclaimed the holiness of God, the Temple shook like an earthquake and filled with smoke. R.C. Sproul said that what quaked the most was not the building but the body of Isaiah. Isaiah 6:5 (NIV) 5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”  The word “woe” is an announcement of doom. Have you heard the phrase “Oy vay!” This Yiddish saying is a shortened version of “Oh, woe is me!” Isaiah says he is ruined. The KJV uses another phrase. “Woe is me! For I am undone!” Isaiah had come apart at the seams. Isaiah’s world disintegrated, his view of himself was shattered when he saw the holiness of God.

What made Isaiah unclean? He said he was a man of unclean lips. Was Isaiah a potty mouth? No, we best understand his words when we remember what Jesus said about unclean lips. Matthew 15:10-11 (NIV) 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.'” It is our sins that make us unclean, filthy! Isaiah saw himself as God saw him and all at once. Gratefully God usually shows us how sinful we are over time. I am sure Isaiah would have crawled under the floor if he could have.

Yet, God did not leave him that way. Isaiah 6:6-7 (NIV) 6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” It was like a wound being cauterized. Isaiah was cleansed by the refining fire of God. Isaiah repented of his sins when he cried out in pain. God then healed him and took away the pain, but not the memory. 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV) 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Isaiah 6:8 (NIV) 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” When are cleansed by the righteousness of Christ God sends us out on a mission. Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” May the eyes of our heart be opened so that we might see his majestic holiness and be drawn into worshiping our LORD! Psalm 29:2 (NIV) 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”

Let us pray.

I am indebted to R.C. Sproul and his book, The Holiness of God, for much of my material.