Isaiah’s Vision (Isaiah 6:1-8) 

Isaiah’s Vision

Isaiah 6:1-8

Open your Bible to Isaiah 6 and let’s read the text together. “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. 2Seraphim 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. 3And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ 4And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5Then 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.’

6Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’

8Then 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, his parents gave him a trip around the world. He toured parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

As he was exposed to the intense poverty and suffering in these countries, his heart began to change. He witnessed a world lost in sin and destined for destruction. He felt the compelling need to do something growing within him. Writing home to his parents, he expressed the desire to be a missionary to China. Upon returning home, 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 gave all of his money to missions–hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a result, he was told that he would never work in the family business and they disowned him. Even still, he finished college, went to seminary and set out for China.

Just four months after leaving for China, William Borden 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 the greatness and grandeur of God. He understood His heart for the lost and His power to save. He became consumed with God’s work in the world and the course of his life was radically altered. With his eyes fixed on God and a heart set aflame by the cross of Jesus Christ, like Isaiah he said, “Here am I send me.”

Do you want to be used by God to see the lost saved, and to alleviate the hurt of those around you with the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.? Have you ever said, “Here am I, send me?” And you pray, “God use me–whether it be four months or forty years, use me for your glory.” It doesn’t have to be overseas, but have you prayed, “God use me at school, or at work, or in my family? Use me with my friends, my siblings, my cousins, my parents.”

Right now, today, God wants to use each of us. Are you there? Many of us are not. True, we come into a meeting like this one, acknowledge the truths that are proclaimed, and raise our voices in song. But too often as the service ends and the moment fades, there is no lasting change. And we are content to live our comfortable, American, Christian lives. We go to our favorite coffee shop, we carry around our study Bible and stack of Christian books, and we exist in a Christian bubble, insulating ourselves from the physical and spiritual needs around us–but we don’t burn for Christ.

We don’t ache for the lost, we don’t see the need, and we don’t beg God like Isaiah did—God, use me. What’s missing? We do not see God rightly. He is way too low and we are way too high. We see our own issues, our own problems, and our eyes are fixed on ourselves. In addition, we have an anemic view of God that keeps us locked in a continual struggle with the same old sins and the same old struggles. Is your walk with God stale? Is your heart distant, your love cold?

This passage is so helpful to the weary and wandering soul as Isaiah shows us the pathway back. He lifts our view of God, lowers our view of self, and reminds us once again that God is worthy of our very lives. My goal this morning is to move us to a place where we say as individuals and collectively, “God, use me.”

In fact, this is our thesis this morning–it is a prayer, “God, use me.” And it is my hope that as we leave this place in less than an hour from now, you will pray, “God use me.” This morning, as we study Isaiah 6, we enter into the very throne room of God as Isaiah recounts the day that he saw God and it changed the trajectory of his life forever. Let’s dive in.

1.  God is greater than you can comprehend  Verses 1 to 4

In order to pray, “God, use me,” we must see Him rightly. And He is greater than you can comprehend. In the first four verses of chapter 6, we see seven different aspects of the character of God that will help raise our view of Him. I will point these out one at a time. Buckle up, because we are going to move fast.

First  God is Alive

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord” Verse 1

Uzziah was the king of Judah for 52 years 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. You can read the account in 2 Chronicles 26. He was removed from the temple, removed from worship, and banished to live out his days in isolation as a leper.

And now in Isaiah 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 same question, the answer would be easy—”God is dead.” He has been removed from our schools, from our government, and from our culture. In a society full of agnostics and atheists, 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 noonday sun, closing your eyes as you feel its warmth on your face, and saying, “The sun doesn’t exist, because I can’t see it.” But make no mistake, there is a God and He is alive.

In the garden, Adam saw God. Enoch walked with God. Jacob wrestled with God. Moses used to talk to God as a man talks to his friend. The apostles saw God in human flesh in the Lord Jesus Christ. He walked on water, He opened blind eyes, He raised the dead. When Thomas saw Him after His resurrection, he said, “My Lord and my God.” And mark it, there is a day coming when we too will see God.

Uzziah may be dead, but God is very much alive. And before we leave this point, notice who Isaiah says is on the throne–the Lord. In Ezekiel’s vision in Ezekiel 1:26, he says that on the throne was one who had “the appearance of a man.” Revelation 7:17 says that “the Lamb [is] in the center of the throne.” In John 12:41, John tells us that Isaiah saw Christ in “His glory”.

Second  God is Sovereign

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne” Verse 1

Who sits on thrones? Kings do. Uzziah the king, sat on the throne of Israel. God the King sits on a much greater throne. Matthew 25:31 says it is a “glorious throne”. Isaiah 66:1 says it is far above the earth. Ezekiel 10:1 says it resembles a precious stone. Daniel 7:9 says it was on fire. First Kings 22:19 say that it is surrounded by an untold number of angels. This is the throne of Heaven, the throne of the universe.

Notice that as we read Scripture, 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 divine to-do list. Verse 1 says that He is seated–He is on His throne in the position of authority and of 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 strained relationship, or anything else is outside of His plan. The psalmist said, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6). Every molecule in this universe is under His control and functions according to His plan–God is sovereign.

Third  God is Transcendent

lofty and exalted”  Verse 1

We tend to think of God as highest in an ascending order of beings, starting with a single cell organism and then going from fish to reptile to bird to animal to man to God. But it doesn’t work this way. God is infinitely greater than the created order. He is as high above the highest archangel as He is above a caterpillar.

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all” (1 Chronicles 29:11). “Before Him presidents and popes, kings and emperors, are less than grasshoppers.”–A.W. Pink

Fourth  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, it’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, the larger the train of his robe. This train filled the entire room, from end to end, corner to corner–it is 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 is alive, He is sovereign, He is transcendent, He is majestic, and . . .

Fifth  God is Revered

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.”  Verse 2

These are unique and highly exalted angelic beings who dwell in the presence of God. The Hebrew word for seraphim means the burning ones–which is no doubt why Psalm 104:4 says, “He makes the winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers.” They stand before Him in perfect purity, guarding the way to His presence, protecting His holiness, lost in worship, 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. Exodus 33:20 says, “No man can see [God] and live”–and not even the holy angels look directly at Him, but use their wings to protect themselves from His glory.

Sixth  God is Holy

And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts”  Verse 3

The seraphim are not silent. They are heralds. One speaks and then the next and then the next. They are calling out back and forth. With loud, clarion voices, in that most hallowed place, there is only one thing to say. Their sermon is but one word, one concept, one thought, one permeating and all-encompassing idea–a singular declaration that is repeated over and over and over again.

And this is not just true in Isaiah’s vision. In Revelation, John has a similar vision of the throne. In Revelation 4:8, he records the four living creatures–each one of them having six wings are full of eyes around and within. And day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” This is almost 1,000 years later, these seraphs are still in the presence of God, still circling the throne, and still crying out day and night and night and day–the same message, for there are no other words.

They exalt God in the highest way that created language can afford. 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.” 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.

“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

To highlight something, we put it in bold, underline it, change the font size. The Hebrew language often used repetition in an attempt to emphasize, underscore, and to magnify. One commentator described it as a super superlative. No other attribute of God is ever repeated and none is raised to the third power.

RC Sproul writes, “The Bible never says God is love, love, love; or God is mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath, wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. Yet, these burning ones declare Him to be three times holy.” 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–unique, unapproachable, unattainable. “There is no one holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee” (1 Samuel 2:2).

2) God is without sin

Total and complete moral perfection, absolute freedom from every type of evil. He has infinite and incomprehensible purity. He does not conform to some holy standard, He is the standard.  One author says, “He is the sum of all moral excellency.”—Pink

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. And 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. And finally . . .

Seventh  God is Glorious

The seraphs end in verse 3 by saying, “the whole earth is full of His glory.” His entire creation radiates His glory and displays His awesome nature. John MacArthur says, “The glory of God is the sum of His attributes and divine nature.” 

And verse 4 tells us that at this declaration, “The foundations of the thresholds trembled…while the temple was filling with smoke.” At the death of Uzziah, Isaiah had come to the temple in Jerusalem to find solace, peace, and direction. But now, the very ground beneath him shakes and the temple above him fills with smoke, signifying the very presence of a three times holy God.

God is the sovereign, transcendent, majestic, holy and glorious King, who is far greater than we can ever comprehend. And now that he sees God rightly, we would expect Isaiah to exclaim with joy and excitement, “God, use me.” But when Isaiah saw God, the effect was devastating–absolutely devastating. That leads us to . . .

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. This finite, mortal, defiled sinner stands juxtaposed in the presence of infinite, eternal, and perfect holiness. And in that moment, he feels the crushing weight of his sin and total despair overtakes him.

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 is passing judgment on himself. He is literally saying, “Send me to Hell, just get me out 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. Verse 5, “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. Isaiah is not the only person who has claimed to have seen God. From the 4-year-old who inspired the book, Heaven is for Real to a man who went to Heaven when his heart stopped beating in the back of an ambulance. 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.

I will just give you a couple. 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). Daniel said, “No strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. … 9and 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” (Daniel 5:6) referring to Belshazzar.

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. AW Tozer says, “Such an experience cannot but be emotionally violent.”

Earlier this year, my daughter Zoe and I went to visit a missionary family in the Republic of Georgia, which is below Ukraine and above Turkey. I had the privilege of meeting Kaha, one of the men from the village. The missionary told me his story.

He got a call one night from Kaha’s mother saying, “You better get over here, something is really wrong with Kaha.” He rushed over to find an emotionally distraught man contemplating suicide.  Kaha was contemplating suicide because for the first time, he understood the weight of his sin in context with the holiness of God and he saw no solution. He was laid bare before God.

Brodie, opening his Bible, shared the good news of Jesus Christ, and that night, after seven years of work, Kaha became the first Christian in the village of Didi Tchkoni.

Like Kaha, Isaiah is laid bare. 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. Hopeless, helpless, he recognizes his utter inability to do anything to help his cause. He is guilty and he knows it.

This is the state of every sinner. All of us have been marred by sin. We have chosen to go our own way, and like Isaiah, we stand condemned. Do you see your sin? God does. He sees every thought, word, and deed that has fallen short of His perfect standard. Every infraction of His holiness. Every attack on His sovereignty. Every question of His goodness. Every doubt of His love. Every worship of another god. 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. Is this the time to pray, “God use me? Send me where you will, I am ready to be used.” Isaiah does not pray that here, and neither do we. God is greater than you can comprehend and you are more sinful than you are aware. A huge gap remains between a sinful man and a holy God. But this is not the end of the story and so we need not despair. 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 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, this is a unilateral act. It was all God. What did he deserve? Judgment, wrath, destruction. What did he receive? Grace, mercy, and forgiveness. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9not 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 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 thing that blocked us from coming into His holy presence was our sin–and on the cross, Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. When He died, the veil in the temple was torn in two and for the first time, through the work of Christ, a sinful person could enter directly into the Holy of holies and stand in the presence of God. Not in abject fear. Not in shameful disgrace. Not in a frightful panic.

For those in Christ, the apostle tells us in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation.” In Psalm 103:14, the psalmist tells us that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Micah 7:19 says, “He casts our sin into the depth of the sea.” And God Himself in Isaiah 43:25 says, “I will remember your sin no more.” The war is over–we now have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

And so we enter into the very same throne room, and we do not find a throne of judgment, but a throne of grace–with a mediator who intercedes for us, stands in our defense, and welcomes us as His beloved. And so Jude 24 says we can now “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.” And all God’s people said amen.

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. He is now standing in the presence of the blazing glory of the all-consuming holiness of God without fear. And 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. I surrender all.” He doesn’t ask, “What is my mission?” He doesn’t ask, “Where are you sending me?” He simply responds, “Here am I. Send me!” He is ready to be used by God. And God does use him. He preached to Israel for more than 60 years. This vision was the cornerstone of his life and ministry. And so we have seen . . .

1.  God is greater than you can comprehend

2.  You are more sinful than you are aware  Verse 5

3.  Grace is more amazing than you ever imagined  Verse 6

It is only when we see God rightly that we are ready to pray, “God, use me.”

As we close, can I challenge you directly?

1.  Pursue holiness

We are commanded in 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” What sin do you battle this morning? Anger, fear, worry, lust, pride, rebellion, lack of desire. Let me diagnose your sin problem–you have a low view of God. And the solution is not to focus on not sinning and 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, majestic, holiness, then the desire to sin will melt away.

2. Answer the call

God called Isaiah and He is calling you. He wants to use you right now. Jesus didn’t save us to be good pew-sitting Christians.  He saved you so He could use you. He wants to put you in the game right now. He wants you to think radically about what it means to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. 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. He has given gifts, He has given passions and desires, He has given us good works to walk in. Let’s get to it.

So let me ask you–what is God calling you to do? Maybe it is time to serve in children’s, or start attending a community group, or to share Christ with your neighbor, or to love an unlovely spouse. Is it orphans, widows, abortion, human trafficking? Is it training center to get equipped? Is it missions, you feel the call of God to go to the unreached with the Gospel?

I believe there are missionaries and pastors in this room. You may not have been sent yet, but your heart burns for the lost. It aches for the lostness that you see around you and you want to go. Do not stop. Do not be pushed aside. Do not be told it’s too dangerous, it’s too far, it’s too radical, it’s for others. No, it is for you.

Stir up the passion and feel the need of a world that is in the power of the evil one. Redouble your studies, your prayers, your efforts, and your plans to go. May God use this as a spark in your heart to ignite a flame that cannot be extinguished. We are all in different places and stages in life. I can’t tell you what to do. But I can encourage you to take a step today and get to work for the Kingdom. Your prayer, “God, use me.”

3. Turn from your 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 home to his family. In the margin of his Bible, he had written three phrases, all dated. “No reserve”–written shortly after he gave his vast inheritance to missions. “No retreat”–written shortly after his father told him he would never work in the family business because of his commitment to Christ. And “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, “God, use me.” Let’s pray.

About Shawn Farrell

Shawn leads the college ministry and serves as an elder at Faith Bible Church

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