Saturday, July 8, 2017

Who, Me?

Print Passage: Isaiah 6:1-8
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 66:18-23

I am literally so tired of turning on the television or surfing the Internet to see news that vexes my spirit. If it vexes my spirit, I am sure God is not pleased. So I set out to see if I could locate a real good current event to put a smile on my face. In Frankfort, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed a bill allowing public schools to be able to study Bible courses in public schools. The sponsor of the bill said students need to understand how much the Bible plays in American history.1

Could there be another current event to make my heart smile just as great as that one? I found a little 11 year old African American boy (Bishop Curry) who was upset about the children who die because they were helplessly left in hot cars. So he invented a device which attaches to the head rest or the baby seat and blows cool air until help arrives, after calling the parents’ phones and 911.2 So all is not lost. Despite the multitude of sins today as it was in the days of Isaiah “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Is 1:18 NKJV) God is the same today as He was yesterday. A sincere repentance of your sins, even if they are many or grievous, will bring about a forgiveness from Him. But you must submit to the Almighty Judge who knows what is in your best interest.

We are in Unit II “Calling of Prophets” of the three units of the quarter. This is the second lesson of a five-lesson study. The first prophet we studied was Moses. Now we shall look at the prophet Isaiah. He too had a relationship with God. He was both a foreteller (able to accurately predict the future) and a forth-teller (able to declare God’s truth). Such relationship allowed God to use Isaiah as a willing vessel to speak and write many prophecies, some of which have not manifested as yet, as well as to declare the truth to the wickedness of Judah and Jerusalem as given by God. His name means the salvation of the LORD. In the book of Isaiah we find that God revealed much of the knowledge of the salvation to Isaiah who obediently provided it to the people in both written and oral form.

In Isaiah 1:1 we are informed that he had a vision (while awake) of the wickedness of Judah and the unfaithfulness of Jerusalem. The people of Judah and Jerusalem have hardened their hearts and rebelled against God. They pretend in their ritualistic sacrifices and God is not pleased. They must repent of their sins and learn to do justice to the poor and the widows. They were no longer righteous, so God was no longer accepting their sacrifices nor answering prayers. They were now His enemies. However, God did not totally reject them as hopeless (see Is 1:18 above). It is recorded at Is 1:19-20, If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword;” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (NKJV) A remnant would always be saved.

Isaiah saw this vision during the reign of four kings, namely Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. On the most part, he served under Judah’s most wicked kings (Ahaz) and one of Judah’s best (Hezekiah). Isaiah served God as a prophet for a very long time. Although there were some good kings, his services as a prophet was most needed by God because of the evil in the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom had already been captured by the Assyrians.

The vision when Isaiah was called is dated for certainty. Isaiah 6:1 takes us into his vision stating, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.” (NKJV) From this verse we know Isaiah is speaking. He is informing us that the time period of his vision is the year that King Uzziah died. King Uzziah had reigned for over fifty years (792-740 BC), and the kingdom had been prosperous. In general, he had been a godly king until he went into the temple to offer incense to God, a priestly duty. He disobeyed the rebuke of the chief priest, immediately became a leper, and remained a leper until death. His son Jotham came to rule as king after him, but there was some uncertainty in the kingdom. How good would Jotham be? Would he measure up to his dad?

The prophet Isaiah entered the temple and, in his vision, he saw the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. The real King was sitting on the throne with a long, flowing robe that filled the temple. Isaiah was honored to be able to see the glory of the LORD seated on His throne in all His majesty. Men have a period of time to be able to rule their smaller kingdoms. God’s rule of the world is from everlasting to everlasting. Only He is able to answer all of the prayers of the people to make them prosperous. That is why He sits high to be lifted up and exalted by all.

We are now introduced to creatures that are only mentioned in Isaiah 6 of the entire Bible. Verses 2-3 describe their appearance and characteristics, “Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (NKJV) I believe the seraphim are sitting above the LORD to proclaim the holiness of God. The LORD must be high and lifted up. We are not told how many of these heavenly creatures there are. We do know that each one of them had six (6) wings similar to the four living creatures in Rev 4:8. We also know the wings had a purpose. The seraphim had great humility and reverence when then attended God. Two wings covered their face. They did not look upon the divine glory of the LORD. Two wings covered their lower part, their feet. They were able to fly with the remaining two wings. The whole earth is full of God’s glory because His glory can’t be confined. David wrote in Ps 72:19, And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.

The Scripture tells us in Luke 19 that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees who wanted Him to quiet His disciples for blessing His Name during the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “…if these should keep silent, the stones (rocks) would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19:40 NKJV) Just think…in Isaiah’s vision the people of Judah and Jerusalem were crying out, but they were wicked and their insincere religious attempts were an abomination unto the LORD. God stated He would neither see nor hear from them unless they repent. However, Isaiah’s vision allowed us to go in the temple to witness these seraphim who were sincere in their worship. As they proclaimed the holiness of God Is 6:4 indicates, And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.” (NKJV) This had to be an overwhelming scene to Isaiah. The songs of praise are being sung so loudly and with such zeal of pleasure by these holy angels that the temple shakes. This causes the door posts and thresholds of the foundation of the temple to shake as it fills with smoke. The shaking and the presence of smoke reminds us of what the Israelites witnessed at Mt. Sinai (see Ex 19:17-18). They were terrified by God’s holy power.

Likewise Isaiah was terrified in the presence of the LORD to the point of confession. The prophet exclaimed in Is 6:5, So I said, 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 my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts.” (NKJV) What is a woe? A woe can be a judgment, a warning, or it can be used when we have an emotion of grief or distress that are beyond words that can be described. In all examples of woes we see there is no amount of self-righteousness that will ever be enough because God sees our good works as nothing more than filthy rags (Is 64:6) and God will not accept them.3 By the time we get to chapter 6, the LORD has pronounced eight (8) woes against Judah and Jerusalem. In chapter 3 verse 9 He pronounced a woe to the soul of the unrighteous who possessed no shame and had a problem with partiality. In Is 3:10-11 the LORD pronounced a woe against the wickedness, but allowed for a righteous remnant.

We also find a love story sung by Isaiah written in chapter 5. He sings of the LORD’s love for his vineyard (House of Israel) and the choicest vine (Judah). However, the people had allowed wild grapes to get in His vineyard and it was destroyed, despite all the best cultivation God had given it. When He looked for justice, there was none. So God withdrew His hedge of protection and pronounced these six (6) additional woes to those in chapter 3.

Is 5:8-10 is the First Woe. There were a number of landowners who tried to corner the real estate market, even taking property away from the widows and the poor illegally. They stayed in huge estates themselves never thinking they had enough riches. But when the Babylonian captivity would come, these estates would lay waste, there would be no tenants or rent, while the crop would yield only 1/10th of what was planted. Is 5:11-17 is the Second Woe. There were a number of alcoholics. As alcoholics they had their eyes on themselves only, lived with their minds in their bottles, and had total disrespect and/or knowledge of the LORD. Upon Babylonian captivity the sheep of strangers’ flocks would feed upon their land.

The Third Woe of Chapter 5 is found at Is 5:18-19. These sinners are hardened to iniquity and they challenge God to punish them with what He has threatened. They understand the opposition of the LORD and challenge their own conscience. They are scoffers. Closely aligned to them are those who received the Fourth Woe (Is 5:20) who believe evil to be good and good to be evil. These sinners condemn good. The Fifth Woe (Is 5:21) is against those conceited know-it-all sinners who believe they can’t be told anything. They are wise in their own eyes folks who never figured out that the LORD is an all-knowing God. The Sixth and last Woe of Chapter 5 (Is 5:22-23) is against those men who are heroes at drinking who, as judges, they pervert justice by accepting bribes. The guilty get off and the innocent remain in prison because of bribes received by judges. This doesn’t please God because it is unjust. For their rejection of Him, God has appointed a foreign army to defeat and capture those in His vineyard who remain.

Knowing these woes existed, the reasons why they existed, and his current experience in the shaking temple in the presence of the LORD with the worshiping holy seraphim, it is no wonder Isaiah would be terrified into a confession. He has a sense of awareness that he is not worthy to be in the presence of the LORD. He had seen God’s sovereignty to be incontestable. He is the King, not man. He doesn’t even know how to adequately praise Him in His presence after all he has witnessed. Remember it was Isaiah that sang the song with six (6) woes against the people in chapter 5. Does he believe this is what caused him to have unclean lips? He knew the outcome of judgment on the people. Did he simply believe he could never be holy enough to praise God like the seraphim because he lived in an unholy nation? Perhaps he feels the hand of the LORD will stretch out angrily against him as well?

Isaiah is so nervous. He had just confessed his distress beyond words, as he was in the presence of the LORD. I can’t imagine he was cool and calm. No, I see him more as temperature rising and sweating because he doesn’t know what will happen. Yet his spiritual heart will not allow him to leave. What will God do? Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” (Is 6:6-7 NKJV) God knew Isaiah was humbled in spiritual fear. One of the seraphim took action to calm his fears. In response to Isaiah’s confession of unclean lips, the seraphim picked up a hot coal with some tongs from the altar in the temple. Scripture does not tell us whether the temple is an earthly temple, perhaps Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem, or a heavenly temple. That fact is irrelevant. We simply need to know the seraphim used tongs from the altar which was present in the temple of this vision. Scripture also does not reveal whether Isaiah felt any pain from the hot coal. I assume the coal is hot because the Scripture does reveal it was live. By touching his mouth with the live coal, Isaiah would not have to experience the judgment of the woes. He would receive forgiveness. While God is indeed a consuming fire (Heb 12:29), what Isaiah experiences is a cleansing fire, a purging fire. Fire removes impurities from metals (1Pet 1:7) and Isaiah was not undone as he previously thought at Is 6:5.

Now that Isaiah has confessed his unworthiness and been cleansed, he is ready to receive his call and commit to the LORD. Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Is 6:8 NKJV) Finally the LORD is speaking to Isaiah. He wants to know who will go for Us. By using the pronoun Us it is unknown whether it references God and the seraphim or the Trinity. We do know that Isaiah references the Trinity many times in his writing. (Is 11:1-3; 32:15; 42:1; 44:3; 48:16; 52:13-53:12; 59:21 61:1-4; 63:10-14)

Unlike our lesson with Moses last week, God did not have to do a long introduction as to Who He Is. Isaiah knew the Lord was the King when he walked into the temple in Is 6:1, and God was sitting high on the throne. God was not burning in a bush causing Isaiah to wonder. There were an untold number of holy angels around in a temple worshiping Him. He was not on a mountain with no one to observe except the prophet. And yes, Moses initially responded “Here I am” in order to draw closer to the bush. But once he knew more as to why the LORD called him, Moses’ response changed to “Who am I?” He later had to be given a sign in order to carry out the Israelite deliverance mission. In contrast Isaiah responded to the LORD’s call in the temple, saying, “Here am I! Send me.” The prophet Isaiah did not require a sign from God. He wanted to be cleansed to serve the Holy One.



Written by Deborah C. Davis

No comments: