Summary: Epiphany 5: Our holy God makes us fit to be his servants through the forgiveness that Jesus won for us through his Cross and Resurrection.
Have you ever read about the homeless children that live in Russia, India and South America? There have been several stories and TV documentaries that have aired in which the plight of these children has been described. There are literally thousands of these children that live in the most pitiful conditions. In some of the larger cities, countless of these abandoned children literally live in the sewers.
Now I want you to imagine - just for a moment - that you are one of these children. Imagine that you are in their shoes. You are virtually blind because you’ve been underground. Living in the darkness of the sewers has caused you to lose the capacity to see clearly. You are filthy. The waste that drains from thousands of homes has become your adornment. And because the sewers have been your home for as long as you can remember, you don’t know that there is anything different. The filth and the stench have become a normal part of your life.
One day a kind person enters the sewers. He finds you and tells you that there are more beautiful places. He gives you the opportunity to leave the sewers. And so, believing that there is a lovelier world waiting, you jump at the opportunity to leave. But then something strange happens. As you approach the light - as your eyes become accustomed to it - you start to see the state that you are in. For the first time you see clearly the filth on your clothes and in your hair. As you recognize your condition, you realize that you must be repulsive to the kind man leading you out. And no matter how hard you try to brush off the stains and the filth, they will not go away. In fact, the harder you try, the more you rub the filth into your clothes and your hair. To your horror, you discover that as you get closer and closer to the light of day, filth and dirt become more obvious. You begin think to yourself, “I don’t belong in the light. Look at me – a filthy, miserable person. I can’t be in the light.” (Adapted from an illustration on SermonCentral.com; Contributed by: Mark Barnes)
Beloved, that revulsion that you would feel is a hint of what Isaiah felt when God ushered him into heaven through a vision. Listen to what Isaiah saw and what he felt as God revealed his beauty and holiness:
1. 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. 2. 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. 3. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4. And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5. 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!” (Isaiah 1:1-5)
Isaiah could not bear to be in the presence of a perfect, holy God. Indeed, how is it possible that any human being could approach God? God is perfect and holy and we are quite the opposite. To approach God in our sinful condition is to subject ourselves to a burning searing holy light. And in that holy light emanating from God, wouldn’t we, just like that child crawling out of the sewers, see our pitiful, sinful, repulsive condition, beloved?
The holiness of God is overwhelming. Listen to what Dr. Tony Evans writes in one of his books: “Holiness is the centerpiece of God’s attributes. Of all the things God is, at the center of His being, God is holy. Never in the Bible is God called, ‘love, love, love,’ or ‘eternal, eternal, eternal,’ or ‘truth, truth, truth…’ But God has stressed that He is holy, holy, holy.” (Adapted from an illustration on SermonCentral.com; Contributed by: Brian La Croix)
We see this clearly in the reading from Isaiah. Isaiah was privileged to see, seraphim – a special kind of angel. These stand at God’s throne and their purpose is to say: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And even these holy angels stand in God’s presence with their eyes and feet covered. Think of that beloved, even holy angels need to cover themselves because of God’s holiness.
The holiness of God is entirely more than anybody can bear. Isaiah was overwhelmed. When he felt the foundations shake; when he saw the smoke filling the house of God; when he recognized the holy perfection of God - he cried out in terror: “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!” (Isaiah 5:5)