Summary: Our text is one of the most famous in Scripture, certainly one of the most dramatic – Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple. What does this vision of God and Isaiah’s role in it signify?
Isaiah 6:1-7 Isaiah’s Atonement
10/12/00 D. Marion Clark
Our text is one of the most famous in Scripture, certainly one of the most dramatic – Isaiah’s vision of God in the temple. Such texts as this one is quite daunting for a minister to preach. With the previous texts, you can pleasantly surprise your hearers with insights that makes the text more interesting and positive than they had expected. With such a text as this, the best you can hope for is to do it enough justice so as to come close to expectation. It is so dramatic and inspiring that commentary tends to lessen its impact, rather than aid its force.
My intent this evening is to simply help us understand what is actually taking place. What does this vision of God and Isaiah’s role in it signify?
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. This is one of the few places in Isaiah where we can date, if not the actual writing, then at least the time of the event. King Uzziah died in around 740 B.C. He had reigned in Judah for 52 years and had reigned well. He had restored Judah to both a prosperous and righteous era, in which he reclaimed land and encouraged the true worship of God. And yet, in his older years when he had reached his full measure of power, he fell. As the chronicler records: 16 But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. 17 Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. 18 They confronted him and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.”
19 Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. 20 When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him (2 Chronicles 26:16-20).
Now, let’s consider the actual vision. I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Note, that though Isaiah speaks of seeing the Lord, he actually does not describe God himself; rather, he speaks of elements connected to the Lord. Note what they are: he sits on a throne; he is high and exalted, i.e. he sits above all others; and he wears a robe whose train fills the temple. This is the image of a majestic king; indeed, of the Sovereign King. The Hebrew term for “Lord” is Adonai, the term often translated “sovereign,” or “master.” Isaiah beholds the King of the universe; the Sovereign Lord who reigns over all creation.
The Lord is the only king. The train of his robe fills the temple. There is no room for anyone else. As God would say elsewhere in Isaiah:
6 “This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let him foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one” (Isaiah 44:6-8).
Now, Isaiah speaks of the temple. For this reason, most commentators have assumed that Isaiah was worshipping in the temple when he received the vision. But this is not necessary. Isaiah is reporting a vision which could have taken place anywhere. What matters is not where Isaiah was, but the place God is said to be. The temple is God’s dwelling place. Though the earth and the heavens cannot contain God, yet the temple represents his fullness.
I’m not sure, by the way, if by the temple Isaiah means the one in Jerusalem. We are told in Hebrews 9 that the Jerusalem temple is but a copy of the heavenly one. I would think that is the more likely location for this vision, especially with the description of God being high and exalted.