1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above Him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.
3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “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.”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8 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!”
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
17 If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
Isaiah was a preacher, and a prophet of God, but there was an event in Isaiah 6 that changed his life forever.
Something happened to him which needs to happen to every human being: Isaiah saw God as He really is. Isaiah had an up close and personal encounter with God that radically altered his life.
This vision which is recorded in chapter 6 happened when the so-called golden age of the southern kingdom of Israel was coming to its end.
God was mostly an afterthought in the peoples’ minds in those days.
All that He had done for the nation of Israel had, for the most part, been forgotten.
And there are clear parallels to be seen in the world today. Usually (at least outside of the Church, that is) whenever God is mentioned He is either mocked or ridiculed.
That is why, just like the prophet Isaiah, we need to see God how He really is. In a day when the Church seems to be serving the purposes and pleasures of man, we need to see the way God really is.
In a day where the Church often functions as not much more than just another worldly organisation, we need to get back to the basics of our faith and gaze once more on the awesome holiness of God.
Do you want God to radically change your life? If so, it has to start with you having an up close and personal encounter with the true and living God. You have to grasp something of His holiness, and see it for yourself.
So what is God really like? Of course, from our limited viewpoint, tainted by sin, we simply cannot see Him in all of His glory, but He gives us enough of a glimpse for us to at least grasp some of the complete otherness that He is in comparison to us.
Make no mistake – God is not some kind old gentleman with a flowing white beard. He is holy, holy, holy, and if we were to see Him in His full splendour, we would not survive.
In the first four verses of chapter 6, God reveals Himself to Isaiah, and through the Word, to us as well. And instead of just glancing over those words, we should read them slowly and carefully. The picture which Isaiah paints for us here is wonderful.
God is on the throne. He is the King – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the ruler of all things, and He is in control. God is the absolute sovereign ruler of everything, and He is not about to give up His reign.
He is high and lifted up, He is over and above all things, and He is majestic in His very nature. Nothing and no one has authority over Him. All governments, all power, all people, and each one of us falls under His authority.
Verse 1 tells us that His train fills the temple. His train represents His power. God’s power is everywhere and reaches everywhere. We cannot escape God. There is no hiding from Him, and there is no running away from Him. Sooner or later, everyone will stand before Him.
Psalm 139 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”
God is holy. He is set apart from everyone and everything else. He is perfect, and He has no sin. Sin is rebellion against Him and He cannot and will not tolerate sin. Our sin leaves us with an eternal problem which will not just go away. Sin cannot stand before God.
The power of God is awesome. Even when He speaks, the earth shakes.
All of creation is in His hands. He holds your life in His hands, and He has the power to do anything He wishes. He has the power to speak and see it done.
This is who God really is, and we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface yet.
This omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God is the one we stand before. And we should be trembling with fear.
Because before God can change your life, you have to see Him the way He really is, and then see yourself the way you really are. That’s when we tremble.
When Isaiah saw the way God really is, he realised something. He began to see himself as he really was, and it was not a pretty picture.
“Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”
In order for us to stand before God and see His holiness, we have to, at the same time, see our unholiness. John Calvin said, “men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”
What this means is that we are in deep trouble. How can we dare to stand before God? Here is the High and Almighty God, in all His splendour and majesty, and here we are, low and dirty and weak.
If our second reading today from Romans 1 had you squirming in your seat, then it has had the desired effect.
We are hopeless, and we’re not worthy of God.
He is holy and high, and we are nothing.
We have no way of justifying ourselves before Him. We are unclean, and when we dare to stand in His presence, our sin is magnified.
The holiness of God reveals our sin. It exposes us, and enables us to see ourselves the way God sees us. We are stained and marred by sin.
It’s frightening and revealing, but we have to see where we are, because we don’t take our sin anywhere nearly as seriously as we should.
We don’t take our sin as seriously as God does.
Someone once said that in order for you to be saved, you’ve first got to get lost. And this is the problem with sinful man – generally speaking we think we’re not that bad.
Yes, we’re prepared to accept that we’re not perfect, but miserable, hopeless sinners doomed to eternal destruction? I mean, that’s a bit much don’t you think?
As Del Tackett says in the Truth Project, “Can you hear the hiss of the snake?” Genesis 3:4 – “You will not surely die.”
There’s the hiss. There’s the lie, and we’ve fallen for it.
So – having painted this awful, bleak picture, what are we to do?
We have to do what Isaiah did. “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”
We have to agree with God about our sinfulness. That is essentially what confessing means. It is turning to God, and saying, “You were right, and I was wrong.”
We have to agree with the truth we find in Romans 3:23. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We have to acknowledge our own helplessness before God, and confess and agree with Him that we are sinners. And we have to confess our need for a Saviour. And that is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The wonderful news is that even though we are ‘miserable, hopeless sinners doomed to eternal destruction,’ there is hope. There is Jesus.
We have to accept Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone as Saviour.
Salvation comes through Him, and Him alone.
Doing good and helping others, as noble as they might be, will not help us. We can never ‘earn our way’ into Heaven, because even the good things we do are tainted by sin, so God will not accept them.
Isaiah 64:6 says “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
This reinforces the truth that our sin will not stand when compared to the perfect holiness of God. Regardless of how wonderful and well-meaning your good works are, they will always carry the stain of your sin, because your sin has defined you.
That is why God rejects our good works. No matter how honourable our intentions are, and no matter how wonderful a difference we might make in someone’s life, if the intention is to earn favour with God, He will reject it, and He will reject it completely. And for only one reason – our sin.
There is only one good deed which stands the test of His perfect holiness – the death of Jesus. Jesus was not tainted by sin, so His act of dying for us was acceptable to God.
That is why we can say with confidence, and we can agree with the words of Jesus in John 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
You need to know that you will face a lot of criticism and hostility if you go around proclaiming those words.
But instead of apologising for them, we should thank God for His mercy!
If it were not for Jesus we would remain lost for all of eternity.
In the words of 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”
We have salvation only through Jesus Christ. It is only He who can deal with the problem of our sin. The only thing that can wash us clean is the blood of Christ. Next Sunday we will be reminded once more of this wonderful truth through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Do you want God to change your life?
Then you have to see Him for who He really is – perfect in His majesty and holiness.
You have to see yourself for who you really are – lost and condemned by your sin.
Once you have done that, you need to agree with God about what your sin has done to you. Confess, repent, and turn to Christ.
God in His mercy changed the life of Isaiah, and He has done the same for countless others. And He can do it for you too.
God called Isaiah to be a prophet, to go and tell others about Him. But this only happened after his life was changed.
It was only once he had turned to God, that He could answer the question “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And this is the key to the next step of this new life.
When it dawned on Isaiah just what God had done for him, he gave the throne of his heart to God.
We have to let the King of Kings rule our life. When we accept the forgiveness that comes through Jesus, we owe Him our lives. We give Him full control and we live for Him.
And that is why we do good deeds, and why we get involved in Christian service. Not in order to be saved, but because we are saved.
Remember that the death of Jesus is the only good work which God accepts. The good works we do now that the blood of Christ has cleansed us, are not an attempt to gain salvation – that’s already been done. Now it is about worship and expressing our gratitude to God in our words and our actions.
Once you take the step of surrendering the lordship of your life to Him, God will reveal His will for you, and we give back to Him, by testifying what He has done for us.
This is the message in our third reading today.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.”
That’s what He has done for us through His mercy, but then comes the call to us, the commission given to every Christian: “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
That’s what we do when we testify to God’s grace in our lives.
When you say to someone, “let me tell you what God has done for me,” you are imploring on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.’
And this is what Christian service is all about. It is about having the same heart for people that God has.
We forget too often about the holiness of God. Isaiah finally saw it, and his life was changed completely.
Have you gazed on the awesome holiness of God yet?
Psalm 51 contains these words:
“Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognise my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.”
Encounter His holiness. Admit your sin and turn to Christ.
Your life will never be the same again.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Isaiah 6:1-8
There are three key elements in this reading which we looked at on Sunday.
Discuss each of them in your group.
1) The holiness of God
2) The sinful state of Isaiah
3) The call of Isaiah once he had been purified by God.
How do you see yourself in this story?
What does the holiness or ‘otherness’ of God mean to you?
We all accept that we are not perfect, and the effect of sin on the world in general and our own lives in particular is clearly obvious.
However, the Bible tells us that our sin has condemned us, and that as a result we are lost. A term used on Sunday was that without Jesus we are “miserable, hopeless sinners doomed to eternal destruction.’
Do you agree with this statement? Why, or why not?
What about all the good which is done by so many people, regardless of whether they are Christians or not?
Do you feel that these good works should at least count for something, and why?
Another point made on Sunday was that we do good works not in order to be saved, but rather because we are saved.
Discuss the fundamental differences between these two principles.
Close by praying for each other.
Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your hearts in order to not only see the awful effect of sin on our lives, but also that we might see His glory and holiness, and the hope which is found in Jesus.