Summary: Isaiah is broken by his vision of God’s holiness, but is then cleansed and now fit as God’s messenger
So, what is going on here in chapter 6? First of all, of course, Isaiah has this vision of God in the Temple. This is one of the pinnacles of the Old Testament, this description of the vision of God. It is a key in the preparation of Isaiah for his main work of prophecy. He had received visions, he had received words of God, but now something different is going on
This is the year that king Uzziah died. At the end of Uzziah’s reign, Isaiah has this vision of God. I thin what Barry Webb says in his commentary on Isaiah in The Bible Speaks Today series is quite helpful. He says that chapters 1 to 5 were very general in character, laying out the broad themes of judgment and salvation, without relating them to specific historical events. Chapters 7 to 12 show the judgment passed on by the Lord in chapter 6 began to be worked out in the specifics. We move from one stage of Isaiah’s ministry to another definitely called stage.
Isaiah was almost certainly a priest in the Temple, and in the year that Uzziah dies he has the vision where he sees the King. He sees the Lord seated on a throne and exalted, the train of his robe filling the Temple. Isaiah sees seraphs and their words to one another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory.
and here immediately we think of those words in Revelation describing John’s vision of the worship of heaven
Day and night they (the seraphs) never stopped saying, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God
Almighty, who was and is and is to come.
Isaiah is seeing God and the heavenly worship. He is seeing things given to very few to see. He sees the holiness of God. We generally associate the word ’holy’ either with a very moral quality of life (we call someone a ’holy Joe’, or we say someone is ’holier than thou’ if they’re trying to make themselves out to be better than the crowd. There’s that moral aspect of holiness. There’s a holiness which we associate with church worship, but when we speak about God’s holiness we use a rather different aspect- we concentrate on God’s uniqueness, his glory, his sovereignty, upon the fact that he is high and lifted up. Holiness has very much to do with God who is the very essence of moral goodness and moral purity- really with his difference Words of Faber’s hymn come to mind
How wonderful, how beautiful
the sight ot Thee must be.
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power
and awful purity
There is that orge theos- that awe and dread of the holy. We speak of theses things; we would perhaps better stand in awe and fear and trembling.
Consider Isaiah’s response, his feeling. He tells us:
The door posts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Isaiah experienced God’s holiness and his glory. Verse 3 says that the whole earth is full of his glory. When we come into the realm of holiness, the realm of glory we are speaking of things that language can’t properly express. There is that about God which defies our language, defies description. We so often try to fit God into a box. As J B Phillips put it in his classic half a century ago ’Your God is too small’. We try to shrink God down into human proportions, and that is one failure of modern Christianity. We try to contain him into human categories, we try to be too familiar with him. Yes, God through Jesus calls us ’friends’ but he is still Creator, the Sovereign One and the Holy One and the Glorious One. As we shrink God down, so too we shrink the Gospel.