Isaiah 6

Sunday Morning Bible Study

February 14, 1999

Introduction

We now enter into a new section in Isaiah, Isaiahís call to the ministry.

:1-8 Isaiah sees the Lord

:1 In the year that king Uzziah died

Uzziah, also known as Azariah, was king over Judah from 792-740 BC. He had a long and very prosperous reign. While he was king, he had great victory over his enemies, increased the nationís agricultural output, built a huge army, designed great war weapons and simply brought the nation to a new, higher level.

(2 Chr 26:15-16) And he made in Jerusalem engines, invented by cunning men, to be on the towers and upon the bulwarks, to shoot arrows and great stones withal. And his name spread far abroad; for he was marvellously helped, till he was strong. {16} But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.

When he was strong, his pride brought him down. He wasnít content to stay within the wonderful calling that God had for him as king, but he wanted to do the things that a priest should do as well.

We pick up the story with the telling by the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews Book 9:10:4):

"Accordingly, when a remarkable day was come, and a general festival was to be celebrated, he put on the holy garment, and went into the temple to offer incense to God upon the golden altar, which he was prohibited to do by Azariah the high priest, who had fourscore priests with him, and who told him that it was not lawful for him to offer sacrifice, and that "none besides the posterity of Aaron were permitted so to do." And when they cried out that he must go out of the temple, and not transgress against God, he was wroth at them, and threatened to kill them, unless they would hold their peace. In the mean time a great earthquake shook the ground and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it, and fell upon the kingís face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediatelyÖ Now, as soon as the priests saw that the kingís face was infected with the leprosy, they told him of the calamity he was under, and commanded that he should go out of the city as a polluted person. Hereupon he was so confounded at the sad distemper, and sensible that he was not at liberty to contradict, that he did as he was commanded, and underwent this miserable and terrible punishment for an intention beyond what befitted a man to have, and for that impiety against God which was implied therein. So he abode out of the city for some time, and lived a private life, while his son Jotham took the government; after which he died with grief and anxiety at what had happened to him Ö

The phrase "the year that King Uzziah died" could bring the idea of this great king who has brought such stability and prosperity passing away and the grief associated with it. But I wonder if there isnít more the idea that of having seen a man humbled in his great pride in the very presence of God.

:1 I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne

There is only one true King sitting on a throne. There has always only been one true King. And it wasnít Uzziah, it is the Lord.

a throne Ė Isaiahís vision takes place within the temple. It could be the temple in Jerusalem, or it could be the REAL temple, the one in heaven after which the temple in Jerusalem was copied after.

There is a throne in the temple, just as there was in the tabernacle in the wilderness. In fact, it was the only piece of furniture that was transferred from the tabernacle to the temple. It was the "mercy seat", the solid gold lid that covered the box known as the "Ark of the Covenant" (Exo. 25). Molded in one piece with the mercy seat were two angelic figures, known as "cherubim", one on each end, facing towards the middle, bowed down, their wings stretching outward toward each other, covering the center of the mercy seat.

This was all a picture of Godís real throne in heaven (Heb. 8:1-5). The "mercy seat" was Godís throne, surrounded by the angelic beings who worship Him constantly.

the Lord Ė the Hebrew word is adonai, which simply means "Lord". Weíre going to have this person identified later as "Yahweh" (Isa. 6:3,5). But before you start limiting this vision to that of seeing God the Father on His throne, the apostle John identifies the "Lord" here as Jesus:

(John 12:41) These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

:1 and his train filled the temple.

train Ė shuwl Ė skirt (of robe). These are the kingís robes, not a passenger train. Robes so royal and awesome that they fill the temple.

:2 Above it stood the seraphims

seraphims Ė saraph Ė literally, "burning ones". I believe these are also the same beings that are referred to as the "cherubim" in the tabernacle and the temple (Ex. 25:18; 1Ki. 6:23) and the "living creatures" seen in Ezekielís and Johnís heavenly visions (Eze. 1; Rev. 4). Ezekiel and John add a few more details about these beings, that they each have four faces (man, lion, bull, eagle), they move as quick as lightening, and there is some kind of fire and wheels associated with them.

:2 each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face Ö

There seems to be a sense of humility even among the angelic beings in that they cover themselves while in Godís presence.

It has been suggested that Satan was once one of these cherubim:

(Ezek 28:14 KJV) Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

Yet Satanís fall was not too unlike that of Uzziah. He fell because of pride.

(Isa 14:13-14 KJV) For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: {14} I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Lesson

Make no room for pride.

If you didnít get the message while we looked at Uzziah, listen again. The person who thinks theyíre really hot stuff, and God is lucky to have a person like them, doesnít have a clue to real life.

Illustration

A newly elected politician was visiting Washington, D.C., to get acquainted. He was visiting in the home of one of the ranking senators who was trying to interpret the bizarre wonder of the capitol. As they stood looking out over the Potomac River, an old deteriorating log floated by in view on the river. The old-timer said, "This city is like that log out there." The fledgling politician asked, "How's that?" The senator came back, "Well, there are probably more than one hundred thousand grubs, ants, bugs and critters on that old log as it floats down the river. And I imagine every one of them thinks that he's steering it."

Illustration

Dick Jones lived as if everything in the whole community depended upon him. One morning he woke up early with a high fever. His wife called next door to a doctor friend. When he diagnosed that Jones had viral pneumonia, he suggested that Dick stay in bed for several days but Dick complained, "No! I've got a breakfast meeting at the school, I'm president of the PTA board, then I've got crucial business at the office, a luncheon date, and three very important dates this afternoon, and then the Building Committee at church this evening. There's no way I can be sick today doctor."

"I'm sorry," says his doctor friend, "but Dick, I don't know anyone who's indispensable, and I suggest you stay in bed." But at that very moment, as the story goes, Dick's high fever sent him into a trance. And there in that trance, he saw himself looking in on heaven. The angels were gathering around God and His holy throne. But everything seemed to be in disarray; some papers were being passed around, and finally after some discussion, the angels passed a significant-looking paper to God, He read it and God was obviously upset. God got up off His throne and said "Oh, no! Oh, no! What will I do today? What will I do?" The angels in chorus said, "What is it, God? What is it?" And God replied, "What will I do today? Dick Jones is sick!"

:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts:

God is holy.

holy Ė qadowsh Ė sacred, holy, set apart. He is not like us. He is totally pure, totally clean, totally apart from sin. We see Godís holiness often described as "light".

(1 John 1:5) This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Why do the angels repeat "holy" three times?

It might just be because God is really, really holy. It might also be because there are three persons in one God.

:3 the whole earth is full of his glory.

John heard the angels say much the same thing:

(Rev 4:8 KJV) And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

Notice how the first part is the same, but the latter part is different. In Revelation, the focus is on future things, and so the angels add the part "who was and is and is to come".

In Isaiah, the focus has been on Uzziah seeking his own glory, and now we see the contrast with Yahweh. With Yahweh, the WHOLE EARTH is full of His glory.

:4 and the house was filled with smoke

I donít think this means that the temple was on fire. This is simply Godís glory filling the temple. When Moses set up the tabernacle, it was filled with a "cloud" and Moses wasnít even able to enter into the tent because of it (Ex. 40:34-35). When Solomon built the temple, there was also a cloud:

(2 Chr 5:13 Ė 6:1) It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; {14} So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God. 6:1 Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.

:5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone

undone Ė damah Ė to cease, cut off, destroy, perish

When Uzziah came into the temple, he got angry because the priests wouldnít let him do what he thought he should be allowed to do. When Isaiah came into the temple, he realized he was unworthy, unclean, and shouldnít even be there. One man came out of the temple a leper. The other came out cleansed. Which do you suppose was the proper response to Godís presence, Uzziahís or Isaiahís?

I believe that if weíve been truly worshipping, thereís going to be a time when this too is the place we come to.

Illustration

Itís like being in the light. The more light you have, the more you see the imperfections. If youíve ever tried to shave your face in a darkened bathroom, and then later are able to look in a mirror with a bright light, you can see all the imperfections. The more light you have, the easier it is to see the problems.

The more we spend in Godís actual presence, the more we will be aware of our own sinfulness and Godís holiness.

:6 a live coal in his hand Ö from off the altar

This is referring to what was called the "golden altar", the altar of incense. It stood somewhere near the veil that separated the holy of holies from the holy place. It was used for burning incense during the hour of prayer. The incense represented the prayers of the people, rising before the throne of God as a sweet perfume.

:7 thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

God doesnít leave you in a "woeful" condition. When you cry, He responds.

(Prov 28:13 KJV) He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.

(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Weíre not done worshipping when weíve gotten to the "Woe is me". Godís desire is for you to be cleansed.

:8 Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?

I believe the "us" is referring to God, the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Jews have no problem seeing the Father here, because of the use of Yahweh. Yet John told us it was Jesusí glory that Isaiah saw (John 12:41), and in Acts 28:25, Paul said it was the Holy Spirit who was speaking.

:8 Then said I, Here am I; send me.

Illustration

There is a story told about a faithful old deacon whose oft repeated prayer expression was, "O Lord, touch the unsaved with Thy finger." One prayer meeting night he was leading in prayer when as he intoned this petition, as he so often did, he abruptly stopped praying. Supposing he had been taken suddenly ill, someone went to him and asked if there was anything wrong, if he were ill. "No," he replied, "I'm not ill. But something seemed to say to me, 'Thou art the finger'."

:9-14 Isaiah receives his message

:10 Make the heart of this people fat Ö

Verses 9 & 10 are quoted six times in the New Testament. (Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39-41; Acts 28:26-27; Rom. 11:8)

It almost sounds as if God doesnít really want the people to change so He can wipe them out. But keep in mind what we already know of Godís heart toward sinners:

(1 Tim 2:4 NASB) Ö who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (also 2Pet. 3:9)

So what's this passage talking about?

These are a people who donít want to see the truth. So God helps them with their wish. Someone once said, "Godís law is that those who "will" not see, "shall" not see."

Itís like Pharaoh and his hard heart. As you read through Exodus, you see how Pharaoh kept hardening his heart (Ex. 8:15) until finally God stepped in and hardened Pharaohís heart (Ex. 9:12) for him. Itís possible to harden your heart to the point where itís not that you "wonít" believe, but you "canít" believe.

:11 Then said I, Lord, how long?

How long would Isaiahís ministry be? How long would the people be blind?

:12 And the LORD have removed men far away Ö

This probably refers to the Babylonian captivity, though it might also refer to Rome. Though Isaiah wouldnít live until the time of the Babylonian captivity (almost 200 years away), the message would keep going out until the time of judgment happened.

We get a picture of Godís patience with men here. Even though the judgment on their sins (the Babylonian captivity) was a long time away, God began to warn them. Pay attention to Godís warnings.

:13 But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return Ö

Some trees, even if you cut them down to just a stump, are able to keep growing and come back to life. The same would be for the nation of Israel. Though they would be almost totally wiped out, there would be a "remnant" (Rom. 11:5) a portion that would be a seed to grow a nation back again.

This probably refers to 1/10 of the people returning after the Babylonian captivity, but it might refer to what weíve seen fulfilled before our eyes as the nation of Israel has come back from being just a "stump".

Lesson

Summary - Ingredients to ministry.

This chapter is the "commissioning of Isaiah". In it we see the key elements to his ministry. Look at the key words:

1) I saw - Seeing the Lord

There are too many people doing "ministry" who donít have a real good grasp on just who God really is. We get all kinds of goofy ideas but we donít really see Him in His glory and power.

2) Woe - Humbled in sin

Thereís a sense in which you arenít going to get anywhere with God until you start taking responsibility for your own sin. You canít blame it on anyone else. Until youíve been humbled by realizing how great your sin is, youíre going to be more like Uzziah than Isaiah.

3) Purged - Receiving cleansing

It doesnít stop with conviction. The process should always go through to cleansing. Some of us are good at wallowing around in condemnation, but we stop short of the cleansing that God wants to give us. We get to Romans 7, "O wretched man that I am", but we stop before we get to Romans 8, "There is therefore now NO condemnation Ö"

4) Who will go - Hearing a call

What is God asking you to do? Are you doing what He has asked you to do, or are you making up your own plan? Itís okay to be serving if you havenít heard the specific call, but have you asked God for a specific call on your life?

5) Understand not - Even when itís tough

Isaiah wasnít promised thousands of converts. Instead, he was promised that peopleís hearts would grow harder. Are you still willing to go, even if you donít have a glorious, glamorous, people-flocking-to-hear-your-incredible-wisdom-kind-of-ministry?

6) Send me Ė Availability. Heís calling, Heís called. Will you go?