Those who have seen God are never the same. The children of Israel asked to see the Lord of Moses, but when they saw the Lord they were afraid and ask Moses never to allow them to see God like that again [see Daniel 10:7-10, Luke 2:10, Acts 9:3-4]. In Revelation 1:9-18, John saw the awesomeness of Christ and fell as a dead man. People who see God are left with an awesome, fearful, and unforgettable impression of who God is.
A response to seeing God is similar to one who is on fire. What is the normal trained response or actions for someone who is on fire? Stop, Drop and Roll. Just as that is a memorable way to deal with being on fire it is also a great way to respond to God.
STOP to take a long look at who you are and who God is.
And I said:“Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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!” (Isaiah 6:5)
Isaiah sees that his spirit is on fire. Hot! Isaiah is deeply impacted by seeing God. As he glimpses God’s holiness and glory he says, “Woe is me.” This is not “whoa!” but “woe!” In ancient times “Woe” was a pronouncement of judgment on those who dare disobey God’s Word (cf. 5:18-23). It was a shot to the heart, a punch in the kisser, and a kick to the spiritual stomach.
As Isaiah gets a glimpse of God and he’s devastated. He got a peak behind the curtain of the holy of holies and is found out. He’s caught. He’s ashamed. He’s afraid. He speaks a judgment upon himself as if to say, “I’m toast!” It’s not an understatement—Isaiah’s freaking out. He is no longer shocked by the sins of the king or Israel but by his own sin. Before he pointed one finger at Israel but now points three back at himself. He sees no ones sin but his own in the presence of God. Isaiah thinks he’s toast. He knows he deserves to be. That he is still alive is a wonderful thing.
This is a good thing for us to see. We are good at pointing of the sins in others, but bad dealing with our own. We play the comparison game with other Christians and pride ourselves on not being as sinful as the other Christian. Jesus said to the religious leaders who were shocked at the lifestyle of the prostitute, “Whoever is sinless throws the first stone.”
We are a people of “compare-ers.” We compare our actions to those of others to see whether we are acting right. And, quite honestly, compared to all the people in the world, Isaiah was probably one of the best people there was. But when he saw the glory of God there was no comparison. Although Isaiah was better than most people, he knew that he was filthy compared to God’s pure holiness. Isaiah admitted that he was a sinner. He had no excuses for his sinfulness. He had no one to blame. He had no where to run and hide.
I believe there is a great need to reintroduce the word “woe” to our devotional vocabulary. When you finally take a moment to look at who you really are and who God really is. Our “Woe!” can lead to “Whoa!” which leads us to the next response.
DROP to your knees and receive God’s forgiveness.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said:“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)
There is something very interesting and weird going on here that is being illustrated. In Isaiah’s day, their was a pagan practice called the “washing of the mouth.” Similar to washing ones mouth out with soap it was a ritual that took an inanimate idol and made it inhabited by a god. The image would be purified and cleansed to be ready for a god to dwell in it. The cleansing ceremony Isaiah experiences is quite similar, but ironically God chooses Isaiah to cleanse and be His spokesmen to the pagan idolaters.
So what could Isaiah do about his sinful condition? Absolutely nothing! What did God do? Everything. God’s messenger flew to Isaiah, took a burning coal from the altar, and touched his lips. Fire is used in the Bible to purify things (Malachi 3:2-3). This burning coal from God’s altar was a symbol that God was the One who made Isaiah pure. Only God can save someone from his sins (Revelation 7:10). God did not just cover up Isaiah’s sin. God took Isaiah’s sins away! Isaiah’s sins would not be remembered or talked about ever again because God took them away!
I am so glad the story doesn’t end in verse 5. Isaiah is not left feeling the heat of his sin. He feels the forgiveness and restoration of God. He is not left feeling afraid, guilty or shameful. He feels true freedom.
When Adam sinned in the garden there were three consequences of sin that happened. First, guilt. He broke one of God’s rules. Second, shame. He want to hide from God and cover his nakedness. Third, fear. Adam was afraid for his life as death was introduced into the world.
You might know firsthand the the affects of shame, guilt and fear. Maybe shame seeped into your life because of a hidden or naughty habit, a relationship crossed certain boundaries, or a detail about you if uncover you would haunt you forever. Maybe guilt got the upper hand because you felt like you’d never measure up to the standards of someone or you just can’t quite quit that nagging guilty pleasure. And guilt manifest itself in depression, self harm, eating disorder, or blame shifting. Maybe fear trapped you because of various unknowns, via threats breathed down upon you, or someone holding dirt on you that if leaked could tarnish your reputation and future.
We often look at guilt, shame, and fear as bad, which they are if used as tools against someone or yourself. However, God uses them for good as a tool to motivate you not to go there again and to seek rest in God’s forgiveness.
Notice how God’s pursues forgiveness in Isaiah. He he does this with you too. He pursues you through the work of Christ on the cross that shed His blood as your substitute so that you might be forgiven and free. Have you known the forgiveness of God?
Just as God took away all of Isaiah’s sins, God wants to take away your sin also. He sent His Son, Jesus, to become the holy sacrifice that takes away your sin. Just look at what the Bible says God does with your sin.
- God purifies your sins by the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7).
- God takes your sins from you as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
- Your sins can never be found (Jeremiah 50:20).
- God forgives you of your sin and cleans you from all wickedness (I John 1:9).
- God will trample on your sins under His foot. Just imagine God stomping His foot on your sin! And God throws all your sins into the deepest part of the sea (Micah 7:19).
- “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares 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” (Isaiah 55:6-9)
If you have not done so, it is time to drop your shame, guilt, and fear at the feet of Jesus who will forgive you today and forever.
ROLL up your sleeves and get going.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go…” (Isaiah 6:8)
Again, the verses do not end after 6-7. Isaiah is not immobilized or handicapped. He is not out of commission and sidelined because he has blown it or because he is a sinner. Interesting, after God took away Isaiah’s sin, he hears God speak! So often he is silent because our sin is like putting in earplugs.
What does God say? After God cleanses Isaiah He commissions him: see to it that My people know I am forgiving too. It is no irony that Isaiah’s commission is similar to Jesus commission to his followers in Matthew 28:19-20.
Commonly, commissioning follows cleansing. Cleaning is God’s path to making you ready, useful, and humble for the task he has you to do. One who is forgiven is forgiving and goes and tells of God’s great forgiveness. That’s the goodness—the gospel—in a nutshell.
God was looking for the person who would be His messenger. Isaiah didn’t hesitate. He wanted to be the one used by God. Isaiah sees who God is. He is wowed. He says WOE! And God wipes away the fear, guilt, and shame of his sin. Isaiah is pure and clean in God’s eyes. He is ready to be used by God.
Likewise, Jesus came into this world to rub shoulders with people harboring loads of shame, guilt, and fear. He came to free you from it. He died for the sinner so that the sin would no longer have any power. So that you could know the greater power of forgiveness and be used by God as an example of what God does through Jesus.
“So Jesus also suffered outside the gate (where atonement was made) in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured… Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:12-16)
Today you stand at the altar. Will you stop and humble yourself before God and see him as he is? Will you drop to your knees and enjoy his forgiveness? Will you roll up your sleeves and let others know who God is? How will you respond? Let God touch your lips that you might taste his goodness and sweet forgiveness.
Coming up next: the result of responding to God in obedience
Previously in this series: God is
In Isaiah 6:5. Isaiah responds to his vision of God. What does Isaiah immediately become aware of? In other words, when you see the holiness of God, what do you see in yourselves? Have you every experienced that before?
Why is it important to learn about who God is? Why is it important to see God not as you want to see Him, but as He truly is?
What does it mean to you STOP, DROP and ROLL as Isaiah explains it? Why is this important to remember as a follower of God?