Saturday, June 1, 2013

Beyond Description

Scriptural Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8
Devotional Reading: Joshua 24:14-24

On the way to church a song of praise by William Mcdowell was playing on the radio.“I give myself away, I give myself away, So You can use me…” I couldn’t stop singing the song. It raised my level of praise as I stepped in the doors of the church. “Here I am. Here I stand. Lord, my life is in your hands. Lord, I’m longing to see, Your desires revealed in me. I give myself away.” Yes, it was time to praise and worship the Almighty for all He has done, is doing, and has promised to do. It is beyond words what feeling overcomes me when I just think of the praise due the Lord. I just drink praises for the love I have for Him. And in confirmation of my feelings that morning, the youth choir sang this song seemingly just for me. They sounded so sweet and powerful when they sang to the Lord. “Take my heart. Take my life as a living sacrifice. All my dreams, all my plans, Lord I place them in your hands.” Joshua knew it was best to fear the Lord God and serve Him in sincerity and truth to receive blessings. As a leader he urged the Israelites to put away the gods of the Amorites and return to the one and Almighty God when he stated at Joshua 24:15b “…choose you this day whom ye will serve;…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (KJV) I agree with Joshua. God’s power is beyond our understanding. All we can do is express our love and awe of Him. “My life is not my own. To you I belong. I give myself, I give myself to You.” I shall always praise and serve the Lord and Father God Almighty.

The United States recently celebrated Memorial Day on May 27, 2013. The day is a federal holiday of recognition of the servicemen and women who died while serving in the various wars on behalf of this country. The President stated during a solemn ceremony at Arlington Cemetery that “…most Americans are not directly touched by war” and consequently “not all Americans may always fully see or grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name…” The same is even more true with those who provide service in the Name of the Lord. There are many who have yet to understand the reason and the depth of a believer’s sacrifice. The unbeliever’s eyes are closed to His magnificence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. Whereas a believer knows it is stated at Is 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (KJV) So, who are we to say we shall not sacrifice and serve such a God? That is enough for a praise party!

We are entering a new quarter of study entitled “God’s People Worship” which shall focus on worship. In our upcoming lessons be mindful of: (1) how Christian worship compares today both in its devoted and revered practices and its disrespectful practices and (2) what we can learn from God’s relationship with the worshipping ancient Israelites that will help us honor and worship Him today. There are three Units within this quarter, and we are beginning Unit I – “The Prophet and Praise”... This is the first lesson of a four-lesson study of worship in Jerusalem during the time of Isaiah.

Isaiah received a vision from the Lord and writes of it at Is 6:1, “In the year king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” (KJV) The first five chapters of Isaiah consist of warnings and woes that would befall Judah and Jerusalem due to their rejection of God’s will. Isaiah had vision(s) before he received the call from the Lord in the vision in chapter 6. It was marked at the same time that King Uzziah died. This was an important marker because King Uzziah was one of the most successful kings of the Southern Kingdom. While in mourning for King Uzziah, Isaiah went to the temple. Uzziah became King at age 16 and was so successful because he sought God in all that he did. Therefore, God blessed him to be victorious in all his military actions. However, King Uzziah lost consciousness that it was God who had lifted him up in victory. When God lifts you, He can also bring you down if He so chooses. This is what happened when Uzziah chose to go in the temple “…to burn incense upon the altar of the incense.” The priests warned him that he was overstepping his boundaries by doing the temple duty commanded by God to be done solely by the Levitical priests. Uzziah ignored them, continued to go forth in disobedience of God’s commands, and he immediately became leprous before their eyes. He died a leper and was buried in a field outside the city walls instead of with the Kings in the Sepulcher. (See 2 Chron 26 KJV) In this verse we see Isaiah entering the throne room of God in a vision. It was an awe-striking, memorable experience. Isaiah has blessed man ad infinitum by penning what he remembered of his divine vision. In the vision the Lord allowed the prophet to look into heaven and see Him sitting on His throne. The Lord, in all His majesty, was sitting high and lifted up above all other thrones. It was a majestic, indescribable sight in that no man has ever seen God and lived. He said at Exodus 33:20, “…Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (KJV) Therefore, God had to reveal Himself in vision to Isaiah to establish the call, confirm his faith in the truth, and cause him to reverence the Almighty. When Isaiah saw God in the vision sitting on the throne above all others, He was present everywhere. The large flowing, full, magnificent robe of God filled the entire temple. It was an overwhelming sight – a cause for humility.

He then saw in his vision that there were praising attendants around the throne of God. Isaiah noted in Is 6:2-4, “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.” (KJV) Around about God’s throne the ministering holy seraphs were attending to God. The number of ministering seraphs is unknown. They revered God and served His every need at His will. They did not hide when they covered their faces with two of their six wings and their feet with two of the other wings. This was their manner of reverence in the sight of God. If the holy and pure seraphs revered God to that level, why should man irreverently go to the throne room of grace to seek God’s face? With the remaining two wings the seraphs served the Lord. And they were so devoted and overcome with worshipping the Lord that they unanimously filled the temple as a heavenly choir singing passionately of His holiness. They specifically sing of the excellence of God’s holiness by stating it three times. This may refer to the Trinity (see vs. 8 below): the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit. Or it may simply be a subject they love to dwell on because God is infinitely and definitely holy and pure. And although the Jews thought the glory of God and His holiness should be confined to their land, the whole earth shall be full of His glory and His holiness when the last days arrive. Isaiah was yet speechless at this point in the divine vision. The temple house was shaken and the door posts which had been fixed now moved due to the sound of a voice. The seraphs sang/praised/cried with so much fervency the doorposts in the temple trembled and the room in the house was filled with smoke. The smoke may have been a reference to a cloud, an Old Testament visible symbol of the Divinity and Shechinah glory of God. 1 Kings 8:10-11 states, “And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord. So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord.” (KJV)

Isaiah was terrified for himself and his people as he excitedly exclaimed in Is 6:5, “Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (KJV) In godly fear, reverence and humility, Isaiah finally speaks regarding his vision. He believes God is sovereign, but he does not mention his happiness, thankfulness or praise for the vision. Isaiah states, "Woe is me…" because he was deeply convicted and confessed his unworthiness and the unworthiness of his people to serve such a holy God. He had witnessed the holiness of God and seen His holy ministering seraphs in the vision. No man could ever measure to their holiness. Isaiah later wrote in Is 64:4 “…we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (KJV) He felt they were unrighteous and unworthy in the sight of God. Isaiah specifically states he and his people have unclean lips. They are unable to praise God in the same manner as the seraphs because their lips are not circumcised. They are polluted with sin and are the gateway to the mouth, which is the gateway to the heart. The seraphs, on the other hand, had clean lips. The best we can do is “…confess our sins (unworthiness), he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (KJV)

Immediately following Isaiah’s confession, a seraph consecrated him at Is 6:6-7, “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” (KJV) God allowed one of the seraphs to leave the group of worshipping seraphs to perform this consecration service. Isaiah had confessed and repented while viewing their praise and worship of God. The seraph knows that taking away sin is necessary to speaking with confidence and comfort to God in prayer or from God as a prophet (preacher). The seraph used the tongs and picked up a live coal from the holy altar. The live coal could have been an actual hot coal taken from the altar. Or it could have been the word of prophecy to be used by the prophet in his ministry. The holy altar was kept continually burning. (Lev 6:12-13 KJV) The fire on this altar was first kindled by the Lord. (Lev 9:24 KJV). The seraph took the live coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips, not to hurt him but to consecrate him. Isaiah was forgiven and cleansed of unrighteousness for service.

Isaiah has been consecrated and the readers now witness his call as a prophet prior to the Babylonian exile in his conversation with God recorded at Is 6:8, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” (KJV) Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord. How could he ever be accepted as a prophet of the Lord if he never heard or communicated with the Lord? The Lord says “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” The Lord knew what He was going to do. And the number of pronouns changed from the singular “I” to the plural “us”. That would seem to indicate the Trinity approved the call. No one is allowed to preach the truth of God unless he has been sent. Paul advises the readers in Rom 10:15a, “And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (KJV) Isaiah responded to the call in zeal, “Here am I, send me.” He did not ask God about the job description. Isaiah was pleased to be chosen and was anxious to be sent in the Name of the Lord to do His service. He was committed because of his confidence in God. In the verses which follow (Is 6:9-13 KJV), however God more fully explained that Isaiah would be preaching and prophesying the truth to a people who would be corrupt and willingly blind to the Word due to their wickedness. The strength of the nation shall be taken to a foreign land, but a remnant shall be reserved to return as monuments of mercy. If at any time Isaiah was afraid to answer the call of God, it would have been immediately after receiving details of the call or soon thereafter. But Isaiah remained dedicated to the call of God despite all challenges of man. He never forgot his unusual call in a divine vision.

Have you ever praised God in a vision or dream? How about in the car or the bathroom, at the workplace or in the schools and church? Do you deny the Lord his praise because you feel you can’t sing? That is not the only method of praise. And if you do hum a tune off key, it’s between you and God. If someone hears you, as long as you are sincere, consider it your ministry. Remember…if we don’t cry out in praise to the God who is beyond description, the rocks will do so for us. I would prefer to praise God. I don’t need to see what the rocks can do in praise of the goodness and magnificence of the Lord.


Written by Deborah C Davis

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