Archive for July, 2013

Isaiah stained glass window at St. Matthew's L...

Isaiah stained glass window at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, SC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have the wonderful opportunity to lead a church service at an assisted living facility here in Chattanooga once a month. It is my one consistent opportunity to preach God’s Word, and I love the folks there dearly. In light of last week’s moral madness by the Supreme Court, I thought hard about what text to share with the half-dozen senior citizens this month. This is the result. If you would like a much better discussion of Isaiah’s vision, have a listen to Issues, Etc.’s podcast with Lutheran Pastor Tom Baker here.

Isaiah 6

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Isaiah’s Vision

6 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.”

SendMe_titleIsaiah’s Commission

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!” 9 He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

121.Isaiah's_Vision_of_the_Destruction_of_Babylon

Isaiah’s Vision of the Destruction of Babylon

11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And He answered,

“Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant,
Houses are without people
And the land is utterly desolate,
12 “The Lord has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 “Yet there will be a tenth portion in it,
And it will again be subject to burning,
Like a terebinth or an oak
Whose stump remains when it is felled.
The holy seed is its stump.”

via http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%206&version=NASB

First, let’s cover some background. 

From the MacArthur Study Bible, Introduction to Isaiah:
Map of the Levant circa 830 BCE

Map of the Levant circa 830 BCE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

” Isaiah, son of Amoz, ministered in and around Jerusalem as a prophet to Juda during the reigns of 4 kings of Judah: Uzziah (called “Azariah” in 2 Kings), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), from ca. 739-686 B.B.” (1.)

“Isaiah was a contemporary of Hosea and Micah.” (2.)

“During Uzziah’s prosperous 52 year reign (ca. 790-739 B.C.), Judah developed into a strong commercial and military state…Yet the period witnessed a decline in Judah’s spiritual status. Uzziah’s downfall resulted from his attempt to assume the privileges of a priest and burn incense on the altar ( 2 Chr. 26:16-19). He was judged with leprosy, from which he never recovered (2 Kin. 15:5; 2 Chron 26:20,21).” (3)

vision_of_isaiah_luther_bible735x650

Isaiah’s Vision from Luther’s Bible

From the Lutheran Study Bible

“Isaiah records the longest list of clothing and accessories in all of Scripture (3″6-4:1), which he cites as evidence of Judah’s affluence, idolatry, and growing indifference to God’s Word. As a Jerusalem insider, with access to the king’s court, Isaiah saw firsthand the extravagance, injustice, and spiritual failure of Judah’s leaders. He would witness the lean years during the siege by the Assyrian. He would prophesy Judah’s downfall to the Babylonians. He would see the daughters of Zion in chains but then set free, worshipping the Lord with those who had formerly oppressed them.” (4)

From the NIV  Archaeological Study Bible:

Isaiah wrote during a period of upheaval and general unrest, as the Assyrian Empire was expanding and the northern kingdom of Israel facing decline and imminent disaster. Judah was also vulnerable, although her destruction was ultimately to come at the hands of a later power, Babylonia…it appears that the prophet labored under the conviction-in his mind a foregone conclusion-that the people would reject his message and the nation of Judah would be destroyed (1:9-13). Nevertheless, the prophet still followed through with his duty to warn the people and exhort them to repent… (5)

English: Ozias(Uzziah), King of Judah (809-759...

English: Ozias(Uzziah), King of Judah (809-759 B. C.) son and successor of Amazias. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Isaiah faced a difficult task. Prophetically, he saw the destruction of Judah, and the temple. He saw the coming enslavement and deportation of Judah’s inhabitants to Babylon. He also knew his message would go unheeded. That sets the backdrop to this wonderful vision of Adonai enthroned in the Temple.

In verse 1 we have several things going on.

  1. King Uzziah had died. Uzziah had been stricken by leprosy by the Lord for offering incense in the temple (see 2 Chr. 16). Until that time, Uzziah had been a good king. He had military successes against the Philistines, and Arabs. But his pride became his undoing. He had to live a separate and lonely life from that point on. Uzziah was dead. Jotham would be king.
  2. Isaiah saw the Lord.  This is strikingly similar to Rev. 4:1-11, we practically the same results on the prophet. We have to understand that seeing the Lord in a vision is different from seeing the Lord in Person. No one could see God’s face and live (Ex. 33:20). Even Moses had only been permitted to see the Lord from the back (Ex. 33:18-23). Isaiah saw the Lord in a vision. It’s like the difference between watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11, and actually being there. Ask the people who witnessed that disaster, and see if there’s a difference between seeing an image, and actually experiencing such a thing. Nevertheless, the vision was devastating on Isaiah.
  3. The Lord was sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted. The world Isaiah knew was falling apart around him, but the Lord was still on the Throne. He was still in control, and He was Transcendent and Sovereign. His throne and Temple in Heaven is not subject to the destruction about to come on Jerusalem. This was the Trinity which Isaiah saw, as we shall see later on.

isaiah coal lips
In verse 2, we are introduced to a strange class of angels called Seraphim. They seem to be similar to the 4 living creatures of Rev. 4:6, and the cherubim of Ezek. 10:1ff. “Two wings covered the faces of the seraphim because they dared not gaze directly at God’s glory. Two covered their feet, acknowledging their lowliness even though engaged in divine service. With two they flew in serving the One on the throne. ” (6.) It would seem that when it comes to serving the Lord, we should be doing twice as much praise in His Presence,  as service in His NameIt would also seem that there is protocol in heaven when it comes to worship. There is Awe, there is Reverence, even from these majestic beings, before the Throne of God. How much more should there be protocol, awe, and reverence on earth?

Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910) once said “If one looks at a congregation of professing Christians, engaged in their worship, does not one feel and see that there is often a carelessness and shallowness, a want of realization of the majesty and sanctity and tremendousness of that Father to whom we draw near? “

 In his commentary on Isaiah, John Gill makes the point that these creatures are not unlike the ministers of the Gospel, who says of their covered faces-“…expressive of their modesty and humility, looking, upon themselves as less than the least of all the saints, and the chief of sinners, and as ashamed of themselves before the Lord…”  Of their covered feet he says “…as conscious of their conduct, walk, and conversation, as ministers and Christians.”  He says of their wings for flight …this denotes their readiness and swiftness in preaching the everlasting Gospel, running to and fro with it, having their feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace…”(7.) This a little too allegorical for me, but the connection is understandable.
Vision AlternateIn verse 3, the seraphim called out to each other.  They sang in response to one another in antiphony. They cried “Holy, Holy, Holy…” This cry is twofold:
  1. For emphasis. God is separate from His creatures. This cry is called the Trihagion.

  2. Implication of the Trinity. Just as in Gen. 1:26, where God says “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”, this is another hint of the Trinitarian Being of God.

The seraphim finish their hymn by declaring that the whole earth is full of God’s Glory. When we look at our world, and see the calamities that abound, and the ones we know are near, it’s good to take a moment and “smell the roses”. I know when I get discouraged about the decline of our nation, and Evangelical Christianity, and even my own deteriorating health, a good walk in the Chickamauga Military Park, with its myriads of trails does me wonders. Or, if I’m ambulatory at the moment, a good sit in my hammock in the back yard can have the same effect. The birds sing of God’s glory; the trees lift their solid arms to the heavens of God’s glory; even the clouds above seem to speak to me of the glory of God. But alas, fallen humanity is busy denying God’s glory, to its own detriment, as Romans 1 declares.

Prophet Isaiah, Russian icon from first quarte...

Prophet Isaiah, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is getting long, so I will continue another day. My sermon was much shorter than this, but I wanted to unpack this chapter over several posts.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams
Rossville, GA
godsguy12@comcast.net
christianreasons@gmail.com

1. MacArthur, John. “Introduction to Isaiah.”  The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006. Kindle Edition.

2. Ibid.

3.Ibid.

4. Engelbrecht, Edward A., ed. “Introduction to Isaiah.” The Lutheran Study Bible. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009. Kindle Edition.

5.  “Introduction to Isaiah.” NIV Archaeological Study Bible: An Illustrated Walk through Biblical History and Culture : New International Version. Ed. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. Kindle Edition.

6. MacArthur Study Bible, commentary on Is. 6:2.

7. Gill, John. “Commentary on Isaiah.” John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible by John Gill. N.p.: Amazon, 2012. Kindle Edition.

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