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Isaiah 6:1 to 8
You must see God rightly to be used by Him
Please stand with me in honor of the Word of God. “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!’”
In the year 1904, William Borden graduated from high school. He was a good looking, athletic young man who was the heir to a very large fortune. For his high school graduation at the age of 16, his parents gave him a trip around the world. He toured parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. As the trip went on and he was exposed to more of the world, his heart began to change as he witnessed intense poverty and suffering in these countries.
He wrote home expressing his desire to be a missionary to China. Upon returning home, he started college at Yale. While there, he wrote in his journal, “Say no to self and yes to Jesus every time.” This became Borden’s motto, and this man who refused to buy a car or make lavish expenditures, instead began to give all of his money to missions–hundreds of thousands of dollars.
He was told that he would never work in the family business, and was disowned by his family. Even still, he finished college, went to seminary, and eventually set out for China. Within four months of the start of his ministry, he contracted spinal meningitis and died at the age of 25. His tombstone reads, “Apart from faith in Christ there is no explanation for such a life.”
What happened to him while he was on that trip around the world? What caused the change within him? William Borden came in contact with God, and it changed His life forever. He saw his own sin in light of the holiness of God, and the course of his life was radically altered. He gave himself fully to the calling of God. Like Isaiah he said, “Here am I, send me.” His motivation came from a heart that had been cleansed, and a desire to honor the One who had shown him grace.
Have you ever said to God, “Here am I, send me”? Are you ready in your own heart to leave all and sacrifice all for the sake of Christ? Does your heart break as you see the hurt in this world, and the lostness of souls around you? So you pray, “God use me–whether it be four months or forty years, use me for your glory.”
Are you there? Most of us are not–and we are content to live ho hum Christian lives. We go to our favorite coffee shop to study, and we exist in our own little Christian bubble, insulating ourselves from the real physical and spiritual needs around us–but we don’t burn for Christ. We don’t have a passion for His name. We don’t ache for the lost. We don’t beg God like Isaiah did—“Use me. Here I am, use me.”
And the question I want to ask is, “What is missing?” We do not see God rightly. We don’t have a right view of God. We do not see Him for who He really is–and so we are stunted, and we are dull, and we are calloused, and we become ineffective. But as we look at Isaiah 6 this morning, we will see that God is great, and that He is worthy of worship. And once we have seen Him rightly, the result will be that we will plead with Him to use us in amazing ways. Let’s turn our attention to this amazing vision of God in Isaiah 6.
1. God is Greater than You Can Comprehend
If we are to be used by God, then the first step is to see Him rightly. There are six different aspects of the character of God in these first four verses that will help raise our view of Him. Buckle up, because we are going to move fast.
a. God is Alive
“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord.” Uzziah was the king of Judah, and under his rule, Jerusalem became a strong and fortified city. As a result of his leadership, the people enjoyed great prosperity and peace. But when he looked at his accomplishments, his heart was filled with pride, and God struck him with leprosy. He was removed from the temple, removed from worship, and banished to live out his days as a leper.
And now in 6:1, the king is dead. Assyria is amassing troops to the east, and civil unrest and the fear of war is brewing. And the people are wondering, “Where is God?” If you asked a contemporary audience, the answer would be easy—“God is dead.” In our culture full of atheists and agnostics, God is at best viewed as outdated and irrelevant, and many would say that God doesn’t exist.
But denying the existence of God is like standing outside in the noon day sun and closing your eyes as you feel its warmth on your face and saying, “The sun doesn’t exist because I can’t see it.” That’s what it means to deny God. But make no mistake, there is a God, and He is alive. In the garden, Adam saw God. In Genesis, Enoch walked with God, Moses used to talk to God as a man talks to his friend. In the New Testament, the apostles saw God in human flesh in the Lord Jesus Christ. And a day is coming, when we too will see God. Uzziah may be dead, but God is very much alive.
b. God is Sovereign
“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne” (verse 1). Who sits on thrones? Kings do. And this is not just the throne of Israel where Uzziah sat, but the throne of Heaven, the throne of the universe. Notice that we never see a vision of God where he is balancing his checkbook, or filling up his gas tank, or running late to work. He does not hurry around like an overworked manager, or become overwhelmed by too many things on His to-do list. God is seated. He is on His throne in the position of authority and control. All is as it should be, according to His sovereign will.
That means there is nothing in your life that is not a part of His plan for you–no sickness, no disease, no loss of a loved one, no loss of job, or broken heart, or anything else that is outside of His plan. Every molecule in this universe is under His control, and functions according to His plan. He is sovereign.
c. God is Transcendent
He is “lofty and exalted”, verse 1—He is above all. His throne is above all others. He does not compete for control, He is infinitely greater than the created order. I was trying to explain this to my girls, Zoe and Haley, the other night in our big story time–see the picture on the right. God is greater than everything.
We cannot think of God as highest in an ascending order of beings, starting with a single cell organism, and then going from fish to bird to animal to man to God. It doesn’t work this way. He is as high above the highest archangel as He is above a caterpillar. The gap between God and the created order is infinite–He is the exalted One.
d. God is Majestic
“With the train of His robe filling the temple,” verse 1. We have seen weddings where the bride’s dress has a train. Guys, that’s the part of the dress that drags on the ground behind her. You know how in the ceremony, the maid of honor has the most important job–her one job, where she takes it and whooshes it? And every girl waits for the day where she can go whoooosh?
In ancient times, the greater the king was, the bigger the train of his robe. This train filled the entire room, from corner to corner–a tapestry woven together in a most amazing display of beauty. What does this tell you about the One wearing it? It tells us that He is a God of incomparable splendor–a God of majestic beauty.
God’s majesty is clearly seen in His creation. Consider the snowflake. These little pieces of snow fall from the sky every day, billions and billions–and if you stop to look closely, you will see their amazing design. Snowflakes are as individual as fingerprints, and are a brilliant display of creative beauty by an infinitely majestic God. Do you see the picture on the right? That is manmade snow.
e. God is Revered
Verse 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.” These are unique and highly exalted angelic beings who dwell in the presence of God. The Hebrew word for seraphim means burning ones. They are there to do His bidding. They are ready to be dispatched in a moment to accomplish His purposes. They stand before Him in perfect purity, lost in worship, guarding the way to His presence, protecting His holiness, and ready to act on His behalf.
Notice verse 2 tells us, they have six wings, but they do not use all six for flight–two are used to cover their face, and two are used to cover their feet. Why? In absolute reverence for God, they humbly cover their faces and feet in His presence. No man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20), and not even the holy angels look directly at Him, but use their wings to protect themselves from His glory.
f. God is Holy
Verse 3, “And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts.’” The seraphim declare the holiness of God. Of all of His attributes, holiness is the one that most uniquely describes Him. It is the attribute of God that binds all of the others together. When the angels cry out in worship to one another, they do not say eternal, eternal, eternal or mighty, mighty mighty. They declare Him to be holy, holy, holy–He is three times holy. This is to emphasize, it is to underscore. No other attribute of God is repeated or raised to the third power, as this one is. It is to say, “He is holy, holier, holiest.”
“Sovereignty is the scepter in His hand, righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne, truth drips from His lips, love fills His heart, omnipotence is in His arms and in His hands, omniscience is His eyes and His ears. But the crown jewel of all of the attributes of God is His holiness.”–Steve Lawson
Holiness can be defined in two ways.
1. God is set apart
That is the original meaning of the Hebrew word. God is completely set apart from everything and everyone else. God exists outside of the created order, He is separate, He is set apart, He is holy. “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee” (1 Samuel 2:2). God is uniquely set apart and different from us. He is not like us. He is different in His very nature.
2. God is without sin
Total and complete moral perfection, without fault–He does not conform to some holy standard, He is the standard. So much does He hate sin that He created an eternal lake of fire for the devil and His angels after they sinned. So much does He hate sin that He banished Adam and Eve from the garden after they sinned. So much does He hate sin that He sent a flood of water to cover the earth. So much does He hate sin that He sent down fire to devour Sodom. So much does He hate sin that He poured out His wrath on His own beloved Son when He took our sin in His body on the cross. God is holy.
John Piper says, “In the end language runs out. In the word ‘holy’ we have sailed to the world’s end in the utter silence of reverence and wonder and awe.”
g. God is Glorious
“’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” (verses 3 and 4). At this declaration, the very foundation of the temple began to shake and the temple filled with smoke, signifying the presence of the glory of God. His entire creation radiates His glory, and displays His awesome nature.
God is the sovereign, transcendent, majestic, holy and glorious King, and He is far greater than we can ever comprehend. And having seen this God, one might think that Isaiah’s response would be joyful, or full of excitement, or even giddy. But when Isaiah saw God, the effect was devastating, absolutely devastating. That leads us to point two . . .
2. You are More Sinful Than You are Aware
Verse 5, Isaiah is aware of Uzziah’s death. He is aware of the One who sits on the throne. He is aware of the seraphs darting to and fro, declaring the holiness of God. And now suddenly he becomes aware of himself. He recognizes that he is a sinful man standing in the presence of holiness. This finite, impure, defiled sinner stands juxtaposed in the presence of infinite, eternal, and perfect holiness. And in that moment, the crushing weight of total despair overtakes Isaiah. Look at verse 5, “Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined!’”
He pronounces a curse upon himself. The word for ruined means “to be undone, to come apart at the seams, to unravel, to disintegrate, to be damned.” He passes judgment on himself. He is literally saying, “Send me to Hell, just get me out of His holy presence.” Why? Because I am a man of unclean lips–he has sinned with his lips. And this points to the greater problem, because Jesus said, “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.” Isaiah didn’t have a mouth problem, he had a heart problem.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9. “And I live among a people of unclean lips.” Israel had a heart problem too. “For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah may as well have been a bug trying to live on the surface of the sun. The intensity of holiness threatened to undo him. As he sees God, he recognizes his own sin.
There are people who claim to have seen visions of God–from the 4-year-old who inspired the book, Heaven is for Real, to a man named Don Piper who went to Heaven when his heart stopped beating in the back of an ambulance. (I said Don Piper, not John Piper.) These stories are pretty far-fetched, and are nothing like the biblical accounts.
Take the story of Roberts Liardon–he went to Heaven and here is his report. Liardon said that Christ was “about six feet tall, with sandy-brown hair, not real short and not too long.” Jesus escorted me through the gates of Heaven where I saw golden streets, dazzling looking flowers, plenty of mansions, trees that “swayed back and forth, dancing and praising as we passed,” and a “knee-deep…crystal clear” river of life. Upon walking to the river, Liardon recounts the first thing Jesus did to him: “He dunked me! I got back up and splashed Him, and we had a water fight. We splashed each other and laughed.” This is not the response we see in Scripture when people come in contact with God.
In Judges 6, God appears to the parents of Sampson. “Manoah said unto his wife, ‘We will surely die, because we have seen God’” (Judges 6:22). “No strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. . . . 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” (Daniel 10:8 to 9).
“So I got up and went out to the plain; and behold, the glory of the Lord was standing there, like the glory which I saw by the river Chebar, and I fell on my face” (Ezekiel 3:23). “Then the king’s face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together” (Belshazzar, in Daniel 5:6). “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man” (Revelation 1:17).
A true vision of God is devastating. Sinfulness cannot dwell in the presence of holiness. It exposes us for who we really are, and we stand guilty and condemned before a holy God. Isaiah is laid bare before Him–his sin is fully manifest. He is uncovered and unprotected, and he thought this was it–judgment day. He was expecting to leave the presence of God and enter into Hell. He is hopeless, helpless, and unable to do anything to help his cause. He is guilty and he is ruined–and he knows it.
This is the state of every sinner, including you and me. All of us have been marred by sin, we have chosen to go our own way, and like Isaiah, we stand condemned. Do you feel your sin? Do you see your own inadequacies and shortcomings? God does–He sees your heart. He knows your private sins, and your public sins. He knows your fears, your worries, your shortcomings. He is intimately aware of all your moral failures. If you are feeling the weight of your sin, then realize that you are in the same boat as Isaiah–desperate, hopeless and condemned. But don’t despair quite yet. Good news is coming.
3. Grace is More Amazing Than You Ever Imagined
Verse 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.” In great dread and overwhelming fear, he is waiting for the pronouncement of judgment. But the hammer never falls. Judgment never comes. Instead, verse 7 says, “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.’”
The very same lips that he had just declared unclean were touched with a red hot coal, and he was declared righteous. God took away his sin. This is symbolic. Just as the sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed toward a greater sacrifice, so this too points toward the ultimate means of forgiveness–not coals from a fire, but nails on a cross. Sin was ultimately paid in full when Jesus gave His life.
What did Isaiah do to earn forgiveness? Nothing–absolutely nothing. He did not beg for it. He did not try to clean himself up, or convince God that he deserved it. He did not claim that he was a good person, or even point to his religious deeds. On the contrary, grace was given to him in a unilateral act–it was all God. What did he deserve? Judgment, wrath, destruction. What did he get? Grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Isn’t that amazing? “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8 to 9).
Listen carefully. Forgiveness is not an end in itself. We often express our gratitude by saying, “Thank you, Lord, for forgiving me so I won’t have to face your wrath, and spend eternity in Hell.” But forgiveness has a higher function. The point of forgiveness is to take the thing that separates us from God and get it out of the way. Do you recognize that? The whole point of forgiveness is to get sin out of the way, so that we can be brought back into fellowship with God. The thing that blocked us from coming into His holy presence was our sin–and in that act, Christ took our sin and removed it, so that we can have a relationship with God. That’s the point.
Isaiah’s sin was removed, and now he can stand before a holy God without the fear of judgment. He has been made right with God, and it is only at this point that he is ready to be used. Look at what happens in verse 8–a new voice is heard. For the first time, God speaks. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’” Isaiah is no longer on his face, his knees are no longer knocking together, he is no longer pronouncing judgment upon himself. Now he is ready to respond.
You revealed Yourself to me, You forgave me and made me clean, You restored me, and now I offer you my life. I will give you everything. He doesn’t ask, “Where are you sending me?” He doesn’t ask, ‘What is my mission?” He simply responds, “Here am I. Send me!” He is ready to be used by God–and God does use him. He used him to preach to Israel for more than 60 years. This vision was the cornerstone of his ministry. Well, we are about out of time–but before we finish, can I give you three closing thoughts?
1) Pursue Holiness
We are commanded in 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Did you come this morning battling with sin–anger, fear, worry, lust, pride, rebellion, lack of desire? The reason that you struggle with sin is because you have a low view of God. If you want to diagnose your sin problem, here it is–you see God as low, and yourself as high. You see your desires up here, and what God wants down here. It was only after Isaiah saw God, that he saw his own sin. Don’t start with, “Man, that message fired me up, I need to stop sinning–I need to try harder”. No, start with God. Fix your eyes on God. Raise your view of God, and when you are saturated with His sovereign, transcendent, glorious holiness, then you will find the strength and the desire to obey.
2) Answer the Call
God called Isaiah, and He is calling you. He wants to use you right now. He didn’t redeem you so that you could sit in the pews and critique sermons. He didn’t give you spiritual gifts so you could stand on the sidelines thinking you aren’t ready yet. He didn’t give you passions and desires for you to do nothing. It’s time to get in the game, time to stir our hearts to action–to get out of our seat, and to invest in eternity. There is work to be done. Jesus didn’t save us to contemplate our navels, and read the latest Christian self-help book. He saved us to use us for His glory. And this is your one God-given life, to make an impact for the cause of Christ, to be used by God, and to store up treasure in Heaven.
So let me ask you, what is God calling you to do? Is it TC? Guys, there is still time. Is it missions—do you feel the call of God to go to the unreached with the Gospel? Maybe God is putting the church plant on your heart, and you need to go with Jake and Daniel in the fall. Is it orphans, widows, abortion, human trafficking? Maybe it is time to serve in children’s ministry, or start attending an RMG, or to share Christ with your neighbor, or to love an unlovely spouse. I can’t tell you what to do–but I can encourage you to stop making excuses, and to get to work for the Kingdom.
3) Turn from Sin and Follow Christ
If you are not a Christian, then stop running, stop fighting, stop pretending. Come to God, and ask Him to forgive you. What a great morning to give your life to Christ.
After his death, William Borden’s personal effects were shipped to his family. In the margin of his Bible he had written three phrases, and all were dated. The first was, “No reserve,” written shortly after he gave his vast inheritance to missions. The second was, “No retreat,” written shortly after his father told him he would never work in the family business because of his commitment to Christ. And the third, “No regret,” written right before he died.
Oh, that we would be men and women who burn for God, and who answer the call. May our prayer be, “Here am I, send me.” Let’s pray.