Have you ever paused and to assess the state of the world and felt threatened? Have you looked around and thought things could be or should be better? The prophet Isaiah lived in a time when the nation of Israel felt threatened and wrote these words:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The timing of these words is significant because Uzziah’s death was a threat to the nation of Israel. The security of what can be and what should be was in peril. In Isaiah’s day, people were self-absorbed and wanted to live life to the hilt. During these uncertain times, Isaiah was able to see a calling from God. In today’s world, it’s possible to experience that same sense of calling if we see clearly.
We Need to See the Lord
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3
When Isaiah’s stability was threatened and questioned who would reign, he saw the Lord and understood who is on the ultimate throne. His vision was a holy, holy, holy God. In the Hebrew language, there weren’t many adjectives, so to emphasize something as significant, the same word would be used three times. This description of God is asserting that He is beyond anything that we can describe.
Beyond the description of God’s holiness, we are told that the whole earth is filled with His glory. This word ‘”glory” means weight – someone with a bearing on us. In today’s world, we don’t tend to think of God’s glory as something that has bearing on us. We think of glory as an ethereal concept. We don’t see Him as one who brings any weight or breaks anything in our lives. Instead, we look at ourselves as the one with weight and control. This can be proved whenever we reject something we read in the Bible or refuse to follow God’s Word.
Instead, we enjoy God as a concept and pick and choose what we will accept from what He has to say. We look at God with the approach of a cost/benefit analysis. We tend to follow if it helps or benefits us the way we see fit. As long as we remain the arbiter of what is and isn’t good, then we really haven’t encountered God; we’ve encountered a concept that is lighter than God. Ultimately, if we don’t adjust ourselves or our way of thinking of God, then it probably isn’t God that we are worshiping. Instead we’re creating a version of God that is palatable to us.
We embrace the holiness and weight of God when we are willing to say, “When God says it, that settles it.” If we encounter God, we will come across things that are counter to our preference. We would see God differently if we understood His holiness and weight. When we encounter the God who actually is, we no longer serve Him for what we will get. Instead we are simply taken with the presence of who God really is. We have a reverence for God. Pastor A.W. Tozer describes it like this:
What comes into our mind when we think about God is the most important thing about us. We tend, by a secret law of the soul, to move toward our mental image of God. This is true, not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the church. The most revealing thing about the church is her idea of God. And the church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping people. This she has done, not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge. And her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.
Without even realizing it, the church has a low view of God. Just as detrimental is emphasizing one characteristic of God over another. We embrace the qualities we like, excluding the ones we don’t. It’s embracing the God of love, without embracing the God of justice. It’s approaching God as a buddy instead of embracing His holiness and transcendence. We emphasize one part of God while excluding the other instead of being moved by embracing the whole God
We Need to See Ourselves
“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.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:5-7
When Isaiah saw God’s glory and holiness, he was able to see and accept his on uncleanness. When we really encounter God, we stop comparing ourselves with others and making judgments against them. We see God and see ourselves in comparison with Him. Our uncleanness is often seen by the Words that come out of our mouths. It reveals the ugliness of our heart. When we treat holiness as a concept instead of an encounter with God, we perceive that it is other people that God finds unworthy.We become self-righteous by constantly looking at our people’s faults. Instead we need to see ourselves as people with not only unclean lips, but an unclean heart unworthy to stand before God.
When you experience God, it reveals your need for God, but He doesn’t end there. It is God who atones for your sin and restores you. He offers you cleansing through what Jesus has done. When you embrace the message of the cross of Jesus Christ, you are pardoned and your sins are wiped away completely. It’s like running up a frivolous debt and having someone come along and repay it totally for you. God gives you something you can never earn.
Our self-righteousness can often get in the way. We either think that we don’t owe or we think that we can pay it on our own. When you see God with reverence, you can see yourself with repentance. You will know that you owe a debt that you cannot pay. 17th century theologian Richard Baxter said it like this, “Fear your own hardness of heart more than anything else.” It’s our hardness of heart that makes us think we don’t need God and feel more righteous than others.
We Need to See Our Mission
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!” He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’” Isaiah 6:7-8
Isaiah followed God’s calling and the message was unpopular. In today’s world, the message of Jesus is often not well-received. The message of the Gospel is easily marginalized in today’s culture. Jesus gives us a job that isn’t easy. We are called to be His representative in a society that is self-indulgent and self-absorbed, and in a nation that does not honor God. Just as Isaiah was called, people of faith are called today to be people who will follow even when it is not pleasant and not easy.
God gave a hint about this difficulty in Isaiah 6:13, “’as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.’” God was leaving a remnant that he could raise in the nation. There will be life again. He was telling Isaiah that he was being sent to a difficult place, but Isaiah would be God’s representative – His remnant.
Where has God placed you that isn’t easy? Are you able to say “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8b). You may be the spouse who stays at home in what seems to be a thankless job. Maybe you are out in the workforce feeling unappreciated and unable to get ahead. Maybe you’re in a marriage without a biblical reason to divorce, but the relationship is strained and tenuous. Maybe you’re unable to have children. Maybe those around you don’t honor or recognize God and you alone bring the voice of God. In these times, can you say here I am; I will give the best I have to the calling you have given me.
If you understand the vision of who God is and a vision of yourself, then you will understand that wherever He has placed is the calling He has given you today. Be His ambassador. Love the neighbors who are hard to love. Serve the people in your industry. Maintain integrity when others cut corners. As you see yourself as you really are, sinful yet loved, you will be compelled to share that message with others. The deeper God is in us, the wider He will be in the world. The more we’re moved by who God is and what He has done to cleanse us, the more we’ll be compelled to say, “Here am I. Send me!”