Summary: 1st Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.
CHRISTIAN REFLECTION ON THE TRINITY.
(A) Isaiah 6:1-8
1. THE AWESOMENESS AND MAJESTY OF GOD (Isaiah 6:1-4).
It was the year that King Uzziah, king of Judah, died (Isaiah 6:1).
In Jerusalem, the prophet Isaiah was in the Temple, the place where the LORD God had set His tabernacle amongst His people (Leviticus 26:11-12). Here heaven and earth met, and the Temple below merged with the Temple above - of which it was a type and symbol. It was an awesome event.
Isaiah saw the LORD, enthroned in heaven, “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1), and His train filled the Temple. Here the LORD was seen to be above the manipulation that hypocritical worshippers were offering (Isaiah 1:12-17; Isaiah 2:22). “The King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5) is set in stark contrast to the presumptuousness of King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16).
The word “seraph” (Isaiah 6:2) comes from the Hebrew verb for burning. Burning was a sign of divine holiness, as had been seen at Mount Sinai (Exodus 3:2; Deuteronomy 5:23-24). The same word is used of the serpents which bit the Israelites in the wilderness (Numbers 21:6), and is echoed in Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 30:6.
“Glory” speaks of heaviness: He ‘carries weight’ in the world. “The earth is full of His glory” - and at the cry of the voice the posts of the door moved, and the house filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:4). Manifestations of God’s ‘glory’ is evidence of His presence (Ezekiel 10:18; Ezekiel 43:4-5).
2. A SENSE OF INADEQUACY (Isaiah 6:5).
Isaiah’s awareness of his own sin, and that of his nation, set him apart from his unrepentant contemporaries. Against a background of ‘woes’ (Isaiah 5:8; Isaiah 5:11; Isaiah 5:18; Isaiah 5:20-22), his “Woe!” is a confession of being “undone” - lost, utterly ruined. Isaiah sees two reasons for his ruin:
(a) “Unclean lips.” The ‘lips’ stands for the whole person, but ‘unclean’ lips is set against the background of King Uzziah’s leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:21; Leviticus 13:45). Isaiah stands as a representative of his people.
(b) Isaiah has seen the LORD. The LORD had told Moses, ‘there shall no man see me, and live’ (Exodus 33:20). The children of Israel also perceived this to be true (Deuteronomy 5:25). This was what was in the mind of Samson’s father when he said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, because we have seen God’ (Judges 13:22).
Now Isaiah pronounces “woe” upon himself, because he has “seen God” (Isaiah 6:5). Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50) - yet faith can (Job 19:25-27). Amazingly, we are told in the last book of the Bible that the servants of ‘God and the Lamb’ - ‘shall see His (singular) face; and His name is upon their foreheads’ (Revelation 22:4).
3. EQUIPPED BY GRACE (Isaiah 6:6-7).
No sooner had Isaiah confessed his sin and sinfulness, than one of the seraphim took a “live coal” from the altar with a pair of tongs. A coal too hot for even a fiery seraph to handle! The “live coal” had the effect of:
(a) Cleansing Isaiah. No mere man, no angel, no seraph could hope to cleanse a man of the leprosy of sin. This was from beginning to end an act of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8).
(b) Preparing his “lips” to speak for God.
4. AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE (Isaiah 6:8).
- gives rise to a willingness to serve.
Isaiah recognised the gift in him, and responded to God’s call.
In the temple of our experience, where the LORD makes His dwelling amongst men, the cry still goes forth:
“Whom shall I send?”
What will be the response of our hearts to the call of God?
(B) Psalm 29 - “The voice of the LORD”.
1. The thunderstorm.
Storm clouds gather over the Mediterranean. The thunder rolls inland over the cedars of Lebanon, and lightning strikes strip the cedars bare. Even the mountains of the North seem to be shaken to their very foundations. The storm turns, travelling the whole length of Israel, and seems to shake the wilderness. The sand cannot remain still, and anything loose is driven like tumbleweed across the plain. The red deer calves early, and all creation stands in awe at the might of the storm.
The claps of thunder are not the sound of the mighty Thor of Norse mythology, who was said to be riding his chariot across the sky. Nor are they the voice of the Canaanites’ storm god Baal, who allegedly dwelt ‘in’ the storm (and if he was not there, he was on vacation - or maybe sleeping - cf. 1 Kings 18:27). Nor is this the beginning of yet another disaster movie, but a metaphor of the awesome might of the LORD, who sits “above” the storms of life (Psalm 29:10).