Summary: In this sermon, we look to one of the greatest texts in the Scripture and discover how Isaiah’s encounter with a holy God must become ours.
The Divine Fire of the Holy Lord
Introduction: The perils of idealistic youth.
When I was a young preaching student I was full of zeal for serving the Lord. The problem was is that I was also full of pride. I remember a particular song that I really identified with by Rebecca St. James called “Here I Am.” Here are the lyrics.
God asks the question, "Whom shall I send?"
Now what will we answer? Will we go and do as he says?
All that he wants is a heart, ready, willing and waiting
Here I am (chorus)
I surrender my life to the use of your plan
Here I am
I will do as you say I will go where you send
Here I am (end chorus)
Jesus commanded us "Go and tell the good news"
For the harvest is many but the workers are so few
All that he wants is a heart, believing, serving and loving him
Lord I give myself to you, my God I trust you
Lord, tell me your ways, show me how to live
Guide me in your truth and teach me my God, my Savior
chorus and repeat
You probably recognize that verse. Isaiah said “Here Am I; send me!” That was me! I was willing to go and do anything. The problem was I had not been where Isaiah had been to get to that point. It was all about me! Isaiah had a vision where he learned his total worthlessness before the Holy Lord. It was only after he came in contact with the divine fire of the Holy Lord that he was ready to say the words that I said in youthful pride. Today, we turn our eyes to the vision of Isaiah in 742 BC (read rext).
Move 1: I’ve seen the Lord!
1. Isaiah the prophet.
Isaiah was probably about 20 the year that King Uzziah died. Isaiah was apparently in the service of the temple, and so we have every reason to believe that he was filled with that idealistic fervor. He already served God. He was better than many of those immoral Judeans, and certainly better than those backsliding northern Israelites. God was surely pleased with him. It is safe to assume that Isaiah was a big fan of King Uzziah. We don’t know if he had the vision prior to his death or after, just that it was in the same year. But Isaiah would’ve known that his death was imminent. Though a righteous king most of his life, Uzziah became filled with pride and attempted to make sacrifices in the temple, though he was not a Levite. God struck Uzziah with leprosy, so began the slow demise of his 52 year reign. But it was an unforgettable reign! The borders were expanded. Commerce was flowing. The military was strong! As his death approached Isaiah and others surely wondered what would happen at the loss of their great king. So, this is the Isaiah that steps into the temple on that fateful day.
2. The vision.
It is hard to imagine what Isaiah saw. Ex. 33:20 tells us that no one can see God and live. That only makes the vision more horrifying. Yet at least in a vision, Isaiah is able to see God in some form. He sees his Adonai. His Lord and Master. The throne is likely the cherubim (angels with wings touching forming a seat to represent the throne of God) on top of the Ark of the Covenant. That he is “high and lofty (NIV exalted)” describes his majesty and his stature, as does the idea of the “hem of his robe filled the whole temple.” The picture this paints for us is a vision of an overwhelming glory and presence of God that fills the entire space of the temple. But that’s not all. The seraphim are literally “the burning ones.” We don’t know what they looked like, but they were blazing angelic attendants, and we don’t know how many. The glory of the Lord is so overwhelming that they not only cover their face, but their feet, and they flew with their other two wings. I don’t care how brave you think you are; there is no way you could witness this manifestation of God and not be absolutely frozen in holy terror. But there’s more!
3. The song.
There are few texts that have inspired more worship than this one. The seraphs are calling to one another; “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” God’s holiness means that he is above all. He is separate from creation. He is the wholly other. There is no other like him. There is no image (idol) that can represent him. He is the I Am. It also speaks to his perfect nature and righteousness. He is perfect and glorious in all ways, incomparable to anything in creation. And you could indicate all that by simply saying that God is holy. But the seraphim say it three times, over and over again! This is a Hebrew way of expressing infinitude! There is no beholding God’s holiness! Furthermore, he is “Yahweh of the hosts!” The angelic armies and the armies of the world are all in submission to him. But there’s more! “…the whole earth is full of his glory!” Do not even begin to think that the temple can contain me, Isaiah! Glory has the meaning of radiant presence. The earth is full of his glory! But there is more! Like Mt. Sinai, the tabernacle, and the dedication of the temple, God manifests his glory in smoke and a shaking of the temple to its very foundation. It was the last straw that forever changed Isaiah’s vision of God.