Summary: See God As He Is 1) Awesomely Holy 2) Totally Forgiving; 3) Mightily Motivating
Do you know what an ultra violet camera does? A UV camera can record the spectrum of light that we can’t see with our naked eyes. Inspectors use UV cameras to look for gas leaks at refineries lest the gasses escape unnoticed and harm the surrounding environment.
It’s not just refinery gas leaks that are normally invisible, God is invisible too. But even UV cameras can’t help us see God. From time to time though God did reveal himself. One such person that saw God was the prophet Isaiah. Through Isaiah’s eyes today we’ll get to see God as he is. We’ll learn that he is awesomely holy, totally forgiving, and mightily motivating.
Our sermon text begins with the words: “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord…” (Isaiah 6:1a). Notice Isaiah did not say, “Once upon a time,” or “In a galaxy far, far away…” Isaiah ties his vision of the Lord to a real event in history: the death of one of the kings of Judah. In other words the details that I am about to relate to you are fact not fiction.
Well let’s get to it then. Isaiah said he saw the Lord. What did God look like? I don’t know. Isaiah doesn’t tell us. The most he said about God was that he was seated on a throne that was high and exalted and that the train or hem of his robe filled the temple. Isaiah did see angels whom he describes as seraphs, which means something like “burning ones.” These seraphs each had six wings. With two they covered their eyes, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. As they did so they called out to one another with words of praise for God, their voices shaking the whole temple as the sanctuary filled with smoke. At times our choir’s singing has shaken our director but never the walls of this church. That would be something to experience wouldn’t it – a choir that could literally rock this place with its eight-inch concrete walls?
Although Isaiah doesn’t really describe God he doesn’t have to for us to form an accurate impression. The lofty throne, the booming seraphs, and the pungent smoke all tell us that he is awesome. It might be what you think when you see a limo drive by. You may not be able to see the person riding inside but you know that it must be someone of importance – especially if there is a police escort with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
But God is not just awesome; he’s awesomely holy. The seraphs said or sang about God: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). What does it mean that God is holy? It means that he is totally set apart, or as we might say today, in a different league than us when it comes to power, wisdom, AND morality. What’s more the seraphs said that God’s glory wasn’t just hovering above Jerusalem; it fills the whole earth including Alberta, Edmonton, St. Albert, your house, your bedroom… God’s holiness is everywhere…even if you can’t see it.
How does that make you feel? I’ll tell you how Isaiah felt. “Woe!” he cried out. Not as in “Whoa, this is awesome,” but “Woe to me! 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” (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah was scared. His neighbors may have thought him a pretty good guy but the awesomely holy God wasn’t some neighbor with problems of his own. He is holy, holy, holy - the original triple threat. And now Isaiah was standing in the spotlight of this awesomely holy God with no one else to hide behind. Like an ant caught in a magnify-glass-concentrated beam of searing sunlight, Isaiah seemed doomed for destruction.
But I wonder why, of all the body parts, Isaiah confessed: “I am a man of unclean lips”? Would we readily make the same confession or do we think that our white lies, for example, are no more staining than a milk moustache? “So I didn’t tell my teacher or parents the truth about why I didn’t get that assignment finished. Sure, I stretched the truth about why I was late for work. Big deal.” Speaking the truth, the whole truth, is a big deal to the holy, holy, holy, Lord Almighty, for he is Truth. But the thing is we don’t even have to open our lips to make them impure. Just by smiling at a dirty joke, or selfishly frowning when someone asks for a minute of our time we show ourselves to be sinfully unclean as Isaiah confessed to be.