Saturday, April 05, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 6 (part 1)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

And 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.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts,and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Is. 6)

The passage of Is. 6 is one of the most fascinating passages of Scripture, and there is just so much to think about when we meditate on this one single passage. Here the prophet Isaiah came face to face with God, and is shaken to the very core of his being. Such an experience blows the mind to be sure, and transforms the very core of his being. And then fnally Isaiah was (re-) commissioned for service.

In verse 1 of Is. 6, we can see that it is written "In the year of King Uzziah died". King Uzziah was a good king spiritually excluding his pride and fall (2 Chron. 26). Not only was he strong as a spiritual leader of Israel (before his fall), he militaily strengthened Israel with strong fortifications and diverse weaponary, as well as with various war machines like probably ballistas and catupults (2 Chron. 26: 15), and furthermore defeated all of Israel's enemies. Under King Uzziah, Israel truly propspered. And when he died, it seems as if nobody could take his place. Isaiah no doubt was distressed over his passing, especially since this was the only godly king he has seen so far.

In that year when King Uzziah died, the LORD God Almighty revealed Himself to Isaiah to (re)-commision him as a prophet. Isaiah was not to put his trust in godly leaders (godly though they may be), but in the name and faithfulness of the eternal God whom he served. And God was going to show him that. Like those of us who have grown up with respected leaders over our lives, God will one day wean us off them somehow or another, showing us that only He will be ever present with us — God with us, Immanuel. Other Christians may let us down, or even if they don't, they wouldn't be with us all the time. Only God is eternal and ever present and totally trustworthy, and always 'not busy'.

So in the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah had a vision of the LORD Himself. Even though King Uzziah had died, here Isaiah saw another King sitting on the throne in total control. Man has and will always fail in the end, whether through weakness or through death. God is sovereign and is always sovereign, despite the turnoils of Man. In the shifting sands of time and cycles of good and evil, the constancy of the reign of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is absolute and unchanging. The gloriousness of this king was great; being high and lifted high and the train of His robe filled the temple, surely showing us how majestic He truly is. Words struggle to even describe how lofty and totally transcendent He truly is. The seraphim were said to have six wings, of which two covered their faces, two covered their feet and with two they were flying (v. 2). This is truly full of symbolism, and reflect the utter holiness of God. They cover their face with their wings, thus showing forth their unworthiness to behold the glory of God. The wings which were flying showed their readiness to obey the commands of God, while the wings that cover their feet could be said to be protecting them from the taint of sin upon this earth. And while they were so doing, they cried out to each other:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (v. 3)

From here, we can see the utter holiness of God. God is neither holy just because He is sinless, nor because He is morally perfect and loving. Rather, God is holy because He is God. Even the angels, sinless though they are, could not stand the full radiance of the glory of the holiness of God as they cover their faces. And they call out to each other to worship and praise the LORD, the thrice holy God, whose glory fills the whole earth.

Verse 4 recalls back to the time of Moses at Mount Sinai, and the power and majesty of this King of Kings resound within the temple, shaking its foundations, and smoke poured forth in allusion to God's power and judgments.

In response, Isaiah the prophet pronounces woe on himself. Though a righteous person in the eyes of Man, and most definitely not a religious hypocrite, yet in comparison to God, he knows his sin and his guilt. Faced with the absolute purity of the holiness of God, his own righteousness become as filthy rags (Is. 64:6) before the Lord of hosts, the King of glory, and thus he proclaims his lostness; that he is undone, dwelling among a people who are also sinners deserving the wrath of God. In response to this, a seraphim flew to him to remedy the problem. Using the imagery of a live coal, he flew to Isaiah carrying this coal from the fire of God at the altar and touch Isaiah's lips with it (verse 6), symbolizing the remission of guilt and the atoning of his sin (verse 7). Now, we know that the remission of sin and guilt and the atoning of sin can only be done by our Lord Jesus Christ, so this clearly is a sign symbolic of such a cleansing. The coal from the altar symbolized the Atonement event itself as in it, Christ sacrificed Himself as the perfect lamb slaughtered to atone for the deaths of His people. Therefore, the touching of the live coal from the alter symbolizes the aopplication of the Atonement to Isaiah in removing His guilt and sin, positionally speaking of course.

After that is Isaiah's (Re-)Commision as a prophet with more specific instructions as to the nature of his job, which we shall look at later. Let us now however look more into the topic of holiness, which is everywhere present in Is. 6.

(to be continued)

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