Summary: In the vision Isaiah received of the Lord upon his throne there is a model of how we can approach God and what the results could be.
TAKING UP THE ISAIAH PARADIGM
Towering like a majestic peak above the other great moments in Isaiah is this passage in Isaiah 6:1-13. It was this event that formalized Isaiah’s understanding of God and his mission. If this passage were missing from the book the impact of its message would be greatly diminished.
This was a defining moment in Isaiah’s life. From this point on nothing would ever be the same. Nor would anyone in Isaiah’s shoes ever want to go back to the way things were.
What happened to Isaiah? Look at the opening words: “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” (v. 1).
We have a specific time explained here. Uzziah, Isaiah’s cousin, had reigned for 52 years. He was a good king for the most part but faltered at the end when he presumed to take on priestly duties and go before the altar of the LORD. God gave him leprosy for this pride. Still, Israel had prospered under Uzziah and with his death came a period of uncertainty and anxiety. What did the future hold for Israel without good king Uzziah?
That’s when Isaiah was given the vision of God upon his throne. As one king dies the true King is revealed. We put our hope in human leaders and for a time all is well. But when they die or fail or disappoint us we are thrown into panic. Isaiah had said, “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” (2:22). Consider who truly sits on the throne and rules the world.
Isaiah saw the Holy King upon his throne. The description of God is indirect. We see through Isaiah’s eyes a throne, robes and attendants, but the Lord is not described. John the Evangelist wrote, “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18). And the LORD said to Moses, “…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). It is proper then that Isaiah only described what his eyes were allowed to take in – the robes, the throne – but God’s face he could not see. The radiance of God is too wonderful for human eyes to see…or even angel eyes.
“Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying” (v. 2). God was encircled by the highest of heavenly beings, the seraphim, the burning ones who were as bright as the sun. Even they were not as brilliant as the Lord; even they were forced to cover their eyes in the presence of God.
With two wings they covered their faces, a picture of reverence and the inability to behold the full glory of God. With two wings they covered their feet, the feet symbolizing activity and the covering of them the fact that their authority is from God. With the other two wings they flew, showing a ceaseless activity and speed in service. Note that they did not cover their ears as they were ready to hear God’s commands.
Then we hear their song. I tremble to say these words. What would this song sound like? “And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory’” (v. 3). This was a continuous song. You know how you get a song stuck in your head and it stays with you all day long. You get sick of that tune but you can’t shake it. This song never grows tiresome. And you want to know something? The angels are still singing it. John had his own vision and this is what he saw: “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come’” (Rev. 4:8). It gives me the shivers to think that we join in that angel chorus when we say those words.
Holy is the Lord. What do we mean by that? Holiness is supremely the truth about God and his holiness is so far beyond our thoughts that a “super-superlative” has to be used to express it. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. He is perfect, total and lacking nothing. He is exactly what he ought to be. Nothing is missing in God’s character. He is absolutely whole.
And the glory of God is everywhere. The whole earth is full of his glory. The glory of the Lord sits before me in these baptism candidates and their willingness to be transformed into the glory of God. His glory can be seen in all creation as well. Consider the extent of his glory.