Last Saturday thousands of Roman Catholic devotees went to Quiapo, Manila for the Feast of the Black Nazarene. They wanted to see and touch it. It is considered by many Filipino Roman Catholics to be miraculous; its mere touch is said to cure diseases and provide healing. But we do not want to settle for something that is made by man, a mere creation. Aside from the fact that is a form of idolatry. A violation of the Second Commandment, God is not like anything in this world. He cannot be represented by mere carved wood or stone. Today, let us witness the experience of a prophet who saw not an image or a carved idol but a vision of the Holy One of Israel.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Message: God’s exalted holy character must be the center of our devotion.
Chapter 6 functions as the climax to Isaiah 1-5 (confrontation of Judah’s sin, 6 woes) and the introduction to chapters 7-12 (the future of God’s people – prophecy on the virgin birth, the Righteous Branch, and the Emmanuel). This chapter is normally divided into vision (1-7) and commission (8-13) of the LORD.
Verse three is the focus of this chapter because the emphasis is placed on the threefold repetition of “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty”. This is the focal point of the chapter which urges Isaiah to respond, “And I said” (Isa. 6:5, 8, 11). This year I’ll begin a new series within the Book of Isaiah: God’s exaltation and how the prophet magnifies God’s holiness through his responses. Those who truly have a sight of God’s glorious holiness will have a positive response of obedience. For now, we will focus on the exaltation of God’s holiness. God’s holiness in Himself, God’s holiness for us.
It is my prayer that this sermon will lead us to a greater desire to see more of God exalted in our midst, in our lives, and in our hearts and minds.
The exaltation of God’s Holiness. How is God’s holiness exalted in the vision of Isaiah?
There are four ways:
- It is highlighted by an Earthly Crisis v. 1a
- It is unveiled in the Heavenly Temple v. 1b
- It is announced by the Heavenly Hosts v. 2-3
- It is displayed in His Cosmic Glory v.3b-4
Highlighted by an Earthly Crisis v. 1a
In the year that King Uzziah died...
Azariah/Uzziah’s reign (740 B.C – 52 years) is marked by prosperity (2 Chr. 26:5) and national security (26:7-9, 13, 15), until his heart became proud (16-23) and his death symbolized the nation’s alienation and separation from God (2 Kings 15:1-7).
There is a crisis, an unstable situation in political, social, economic, or military affairs. Now he was dead, and questions of possible instability and anxieties about the future may haunt the people of God. When the king of a nation died, there might be troubles, and loss of peace that cause worries and distress. We see that these happened after his death. When Uzziah died, his son succeeded him, but the people acted corruptly (2 Chr. 27:2).
Not so with the LORD, the eternal king of Israel. He never dies and His Kingdom has no end (Psalm 93:1-2). Unlike the reign of the earthly king that ceases, the LORD’s reign never ceases. The center of our devotion must not be earthly but heavenly.
So from the present earthly situation let us move our eyes to what Isaiah saw, a heavenly scene. From earthly crisis to heavenly bliss.
Unveiled in the Heavenly Temple v. 1b
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Here we see a glimpse of God’s glory. This is what we call in theology a theophany. We read from John 1:18 that ‘No-one has ever seen God’, for God, is spirit (John 4:24). J. Alec Motyer correctly observes that,
"...in condescension, he sometimes clothes himself with visibility for the good of his people, showing now this side and now that side of his character (e.g. Josh. 5:13–15). For Isaiah, the Lord became visible in exalted kingliness, with a throne, robes, and attendants, all speaking of sovereign majesty and dominion." (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Isaiah)
The words high and lifted are pair of words that Isaiah loves to use (see. 53:13; 57:15), and it conveys its exalted authority and unparalleled superiority. God’s robe as a symbol of His glorious presence or majesty filled the temple. The Old Testament use of the temple is not a ‘mere’ symbol. It is the heavenly dwelling of the God of Israel (1 Kgs 8:10–13).
The point here is that nations and Kings rise and fall but God’s kingship is forever. The One seated on the throne alone is the central reality of the universe. In Him, we move and live and have our being, for God created the universe, He owns it, and actively rules over it. Isaiah had a vision of a throne that can never end. Do not think for a moment that you are the center of everything.
Announced by the Heavenly Hosts v. 2-3
Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Who announced it? Above him stood the seraphim.
The plural form is only mentioned in Isaiah 6 in the Bible which literally means “to burn”, they are the burning ones. They are holy in themselves, and never committed sin. Think for a moment about the sinless creatures who have seen God’s holiness, and their singular response is to worship Him. Nowadays, claiming to be in the presence of God, people are given to worship by mere entertainment, not by sight and sense of God’s holiness.
But the Lord is Holy because he is separate not only from evil but from them and from every other created being.
We, along with other animals, insects, cockroach have one thing in common with the angels, we are creatures, but God is the Creator. There is an infinite distance between God and all of us. They have six wings as the posture of humility & reverence before God, devoted to covering themselves because of the unapproachable glory of the one they were flying to serve. But again, they are not the center but the One they are flying to serve.
How did they announce it? …they cry out to one another…
This is the picture of heavenly worship. They have only one response to what they were seeing. In Revelations 4:8-9 we see the same creatures who cry the same cry and day and night they never cease. We can imagine they have a single song to sing and they are singing it 24/7.
What is the content of their announcement? Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…
The word holy in Hebrew is Qadosh which literally means to separate. It is God’s ‘separatedness’, or in the words of R.C Sproul, the otherness of God. We know that holiness means moral purity, but the primary meaning of the word holy is being separate from anything (Ezekiel 22:26). There is none like the LORD, He is without equal (Deuteronomy 4:35). According to Pastor Noel Espinosa, it is the defining character of God. It is the quality which marks off the divine nature, setting God apart from all else, making him the Being that He is. (Alec Motyer, TOTC)
Hebrew uses repetition to express a superlative, as when ‘pure gold’ in 2 Kings 25:15 translates ‘gold gold’ (see also Ezekiel 21:27). But here for the only time in the Hebrew Bible, a quality is ‘raised to the power of three’, as if to say that the divine holiness is so far beyond anything the human mind can grasp that a ‘super-superlative’ has to be invented to express it and, furthermore, that this transcendent holiness is the total truth about God.”
This vision of God was impressed upon Isaiah’s heart and mind and it led him throughout his book to keep referring to God as the Holy One of Israel (29 times) more than any other book combined (7 times only in the rest of the OT).
Displayed in His Cosmic Glory v.3b-4
"...the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke."
Holiness is the Lord’s hidden glory; glory is the Lord’s omnipresent holiness. A. Motyer
The normal reaction of God’s creation to His presence is one of trembling (e.g. Exod. 19:18; Ps. 18:7–9). The impact of God’s presence makes all of His creation shake in reverence. This is the same picture that we see when the LORD descended on Mt. Sinai and it was filled with smoke (Exodus 19:18). Walter Kaiser captures in when he says, “In any case, all of this simply added to the effect as sight, sound, smell, and the prophet’s entire sensory faculties were raised to their peak level in this meeting with the holy King of glory.” (Walter Kaiser, The Majesty of God in the Old Testament)
This is the reaction of the created order how about you. Do you tremble before His presence? Isaiah 66:1-2
God’s holiness is not only about his moral purity but also about his unequal majesty. Is this the God that you know? Or the God that you worship is very much just like you?
Get a daily sight of God’s majestic holiness in His word daily. Not like the Prophet Isaiah, we will not wait to have a vision of God. Steven Lawson said, Get into the word and get the word into you. Master the word and be mastered by the word. Learn it, love it, live it.
Some of us may have started a new bible reading plan this year. May we all be faithful readers of the Word of God, earnestly seeking to see more of God. And only through the Scriptures with the illumination of the Spirit can our minds be filled with the sense of God’s holiness in order to reorient us to praise Him, to trust, and hope in Him for our future.
Lastly, Christ is now seated at the right hand of God (Ephesians 1:20). We will see in our next studies that it is Jesus Christ that Isaiah saw in His vision. But do you know Him who is seated upon the throne? Let us start this year with glorious hope, not in any king, ruler, luck, chances, and not in what we can do, but in the Holy God who reigns forever. He alone must be the center of our devotion! We are not the center of our lives, Christ is!
SOLI DEO GLORIA
4 thoughts on “A Vision that Promotes True Devotion”
Did you preach this sermon?
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Yes brother. Last Sunday.
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