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Friday, December 16, 2011

Spiritual Insight from Isaiah's Vision of God

Below is an excerpt from an article by Rev. Ian Hamilton, pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, UK, reflecting on Isaiah's vision in Isaiah 6:1-8. [The article may be found in its entirety here.]
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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."  [Isaiah 6:1-8]
The Insight Isaiah Gained by Seeing God...

It brought to Isaiah first a deep felt awareness of his sinfulness – “woe to me… I am ruined…”!! When Isaiah ‘saw’ God as he is, he was not left standing – he was not left proud and dispassionate – he was deeply humbled! There is little doubt that Isaiah already was a believing servant – but a stranger to the pulse-quickened sense of God’s ineffable greatness – Isaiah was seeing himself as God saw him.

Second, it brought Isaiah a new sense of Israel’s corruption (v.5) – his encounters with “the King” caused him to see through the fa├žade of Israel’s religion (cf. 1:10ff). – onlookers would have complimented Israel on the ‘healthy state’ of its religion – but when a man has had a sight of the majesty of God, he sees not only his own sinfulness, but the sinful state of his own generation.

Third, it brought to Isaiah a deep, personal awareness of God’s forgiving grace – as he is overwhelmed by his sinful uncleanness and un-doneness, God mercifully sends an angel to bring him God’s forgiving grace – a live coal from the altar of sacrifice – a coal which becomes the symbol of the basis on which God forgives sinners – touches Isaiah’s lips – inner pain, but “Behold… your guilt is taken away...”

To the forgiven sinner, ‘forgiveness’ is a humbling, overpowering, captivating word. Nowhere is this more highlighted in our Lord’s encounter with the “sinful woman” in Luke 7:47. The extravagance of her devotion to the Lord acutely embarrassed Simon the Pharisee, Jesus’ host. Jesus’ response is one that ought to humble all of us: “He who is forgiven little, loves little”. The depth of our love to the Savior is in proportion to the depth of our experience of and appreciation of his forgiving grace.

Fourth, it brought Isaiah to yield his life unreservedly to God! “Here am I…” – no cajoling, no pleading – the response of a man to whom inexplicable, sovereign grace has come. Grace costs us nothing, but it demands everything (Matthew 8:18-22; 10:37-39). Here is the reflex action of a man who has ‘seen’ the Lord and felt the power of his presence and grace.

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