Summary: This sermon deals with the results of seeing God more clearly in our lives. It investigates Isaiah’s vision as it relates to our lives today.
This last two weeks has been wonderful, exciting and tiring. Rev. Mark Engel challenged our hearts with messages from the life of Jacob – If you missed camp meeting this year you missed one of the great blessings of life. From camp meeting it was off to Yearly meeting where Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil shared with us a challenge to face a mission impossible for God. I knew I was going to like this lady when she asked us to open our bibles to Isaiah 6. You see that has become my life’s chapter. Of all the scriptures this is the passage that God has given me – that touches the deepest chords of my heart and I identify as my own. Do you have a verse or chapter like that? As she spoke that night God brought new clarity to me on this passage and formed in my heart what I would like to share with you today.
Look at this passage with me – We assume that Isaiah was in the Temple at worship when this happens – standing there in the place of sacrifice – Isaiah lifts his eyes and there before Him this vision unfolds.
Isaiah see’s God! I know that sounds simple but it is really quite remarkable. Here he is in a place he has stood probably 100 times – worshipping as the sacrifices are burned before God. Surrounded by those things that comfort his soul the most. All the religious symbols of his day are present – the altar – the bronze lavers standing along the courtyard walls, the priests going about their tasks of preparing and burning the offerings, worshippers crying out to God for mercy and seeking His favor. These are familiar sights and sounds – the sights and sounds of religion that comforted his weary heart. But then something spectacular invaded his comfortable world. He lifts his eyes and there before him instead of an alter and the doors to the Holy place – is a throne – a throne that is seated upon the building holding the Holy of Holies, and on that throne God – so majestic and encompassing that the train of his robe is filling the Temple courtyard. In the majesty of that moment – he hears a cry – Holy, Holy, Holy – and he sees the Seraphim – angelic beings of God – around and around they flew – each crying out to the others – Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
Now let me stop here for just a minute to let you in on a little secret – The next time you think you’re doing God a favor by singing in worship – think about this picture. God has no need of your worship – angels are always doing it – You have need of worship. You need to fill your soul with the worship of God. In that place God resides.
Back to our story – the Seraphim calling out to one another in voices so loud that the thresholds of the temple shook with their voices. There is a unique thing here – Isaiah seems to be the only one aware of God’s presence here. Other worshipers, the priests, go on about business as usual. But Isaiah is experiencing a moment of life change.
Let me explain something to you – I believe that whenever we encounter God – we change. It is inevitable. There are two things that can happen in that encounter – we can change and become more like Him (conformed to the image of Christ) or we can be hardened and our souls die a little in the exchange. I challenge you to find in scripture a single incidence old or new testement where an encounter with God did not elicit one of those two responses. I am not talking about the casual brush with Jesus in the crowd (like so many expereince in worship today) – I am talking about an encounter with who He is. Remember the story of the woman with the issue of blood. Many bumped into Jesus – one touched the hem of His garment. Many never saw Christ – one saw a Savior. Isaiah has seen God – now the choice is His – what will happen to Isaiah – will he go away with a hardened heart or will he be conformed to the image of Christ? Look with me at the effects of seeing God on Isaiah.
1) Seeing God reveals his heart – Woe is me for I am ruined. I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips. What he says is – I have a heart problem. I look a lot like the people around me. In a moment of profound revelation – Isaiah figures out that he is not so different from the world around him as he once supposed. You see the truth is that we get so used to comparing ourselves to the world around us that we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re pretty much ok. The truth is that we can compare ourselves to others and come out on top most of the time – but when we compare ourselves to God we always come up short. It’s easy to walk around church in a self-righteous stupor being glad that we are not part of that dark world out there. The truth is that if you look inside the church we find that there is not as much difference between us and the world as we think there is – and certainly not as much as there should be. When we see God – we are reminded of what our hearts really look like – what our days are really filled with – what our souls are really made of. And most of us cry out with Isaiah – Woe is me for I am ruined – the word ruined is the Hebrew word “Damah” it means to be cut off, destroyed, or to perish. Isaiah realizes that his sin has caused a breach between himself and God. I am cut off – destroyed – I cannot get where I want to be – and that is with the one who is on the throne before me. But in His great mercy – here comes the answer - One of the serephs flies to the alter – pulls a burning coal from the fire right from under the noses of the priests – and flies over toward Isaiah. Now folks I like what Dr. McNeil said about this – the truth is we don’t want Hot Coal ministry from God – Hot coal ministry is what removes our iniquity – we want Cool Water ministry – that refreshes and gently cleanses. The truth is folks we’ve been in cool water ministry too long – and it’s time for some hot coal ministry around here. Some of the tough painful, curative medicine of God. The kind that takes away our sin – the kind that transforms life. The kind that makes Holy what is unholy, Sanctifies what is not sacred, and purifies that which is ruined. The beauty of this passage is that the hot coal touches his lips and his iniquity is taken away – the two Hebrew words are Sur and Kaphar – they mean to turn away and to Atone – your sins are turned away and atoned for – God has shown mercy.