what God asks of you

A good friend recently asked me, “If someone becomes a Christian can he hide it?”  That is a good question.  How would you answer that?

I paused for a long moment before answering.  At first I responded by answering, “Yeah, he can hide, but not for long if he really is a Christian.”  Then I followed up by sharing some of Christ’s words about shining the Light within a dark dark world,

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Jesus said many interesting and hard things, especially to those who followed him (see Luke 14:25-33; 9:57-62).  He knew if his followers really would follow him it won’t be easy.  In fact, he said if you follow me you will still face temptation and inevitably you will face fierce suffering.  For the light shines into hidden places that most people would rather fight to remain hidden.

The idea of a light shining in darkness is a theme in Scripture.  Israel was chosen to be a light to the nations.  God chose them from among all the nations of the world to show all people his purposes.  He just asked Israel to trust him, to walk with him, and not mingle with the gods of other nations.  It wasn’t easy for Israel.  And their story isn’t secret.  It’s recorded for you and I to read today.

When Isaiah was called to be prophet of Israel, they were already on a downward spiral away from God.  They forgot everything God had done for them.  They already adopted the gods of other nations and prided themselves on what they could do with their own hands and minds.  Their light was dimming.  And Isaiah’s task was to bring Israel back to God.  That was no easy task.

Are you starting to catch a theme here?  What God asks of us is not easy.  In the final verses of Isaiah 6, God gives Isaiah both a command (what he is to say) and a consequence (what will happen if the hearers don’t listen).  If you were in Isaiah’s shoes would you do what was asked of you?

The Command: “Go and Tell”

“And [God] said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive. ’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

Within God’s command he gives three imperatives that will characterize the Israelites: they 1) do not perceive, 2) do not understand, and 3) render hearts insensitive.  In other words, God says, “Tell my people that they will be just like the idols they love: blind, deaf and dumb.”

G.K. Beale in his book, A Biblical Theology of Idolatry says, “What you revere you resemble for your ruin or restoration.”  It’s true, you become like what you worship.  As kids you learn to mimic parents, actors, singers, or whoever we idol.  Children see. Children Do.  From Simon says to being a Copy Cat.   The question is what do you imitate and resemble?

In high school, I really wanted to have a Volkswagen Jetta. It was the hottest car for college students.  So I took one out for a test drive.  The sound system was thumping and the accelerator had some get up and go.  I not only wanted one, but the car dealer convinced me that I needed to have one.   I couldn’t afford one as a poor college student, but my desire to have a Jetta lingered.  That was until a family member offered to sell me their 10-year Jetta.  It was within my budget so I bought it.   As I drove away I though I was hot stuff.  But you know what?  In a matter of months the luster wore off, I had maintenance bills, and newer models of the Jetta rolled off the line.   My desire to drive a Jetta wasn’t sinful, but my identity tied to a Jetta was.  I became the Jetta guy.

Isn’t that how idols work?  They disguise themselves as needs, but when you have it they become yesterdays news, even nuisances.  You love idols, but thy never love you back.

John Calvin was in tune with the problem of idols.  He said,

“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.  Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.” Institutes, 1.11.8

The heart longs for what only God can completely fill (e.g. approval, control, success, pleasure, security, knowledge, relationship, comfort, entertainment, etc.).   Idolatry is whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, other than God.  Often idols are really good things, but they take the place of the greatest thing.  They seem tangible, when God is invisible.   Yet they rob us of a heart reserved for God.  In fact, they make us blind to God, deaf to God, and dumb to God.

Think about the command to go and tell.  God tells Isaiah to go to his people–his family, friends, neighbors, tribe–and tell them about their hearts that are like factories pumping out idols.  On top of that God let’s Isaiah know ahead of time that nobody will listen or respond.  Sure, they will recognize Isaiah as prophet from God, but for 40+ years Isaiah would preach without a response.  Talk about difficult and discouraging ministry.  Yet it isn’t that much different than the world you and I live in?  Isn’t the command God gave us to make disciples of all nations just as difficult and at times discouraging when people don’t see a need for God because they think that they are fine on their own?

Isaiah is no Debbie Downer.  Yes, his message is grim; if the Israel won’t turn back to God their judgment will be to become just like the idols they worship.

Many get in a huff when God dishes out judgment, but one must consider God’s character.  All his characteristics are balanced and he never ditches one to feed the other.  In Hebrews 6:1-3, it teaches how God’s grace and justice are in balance.  God is both gracious (slow to anger) and just (character demands consequences for sinfulness).  God never makes snap judgements.  He doesn’t go through middle school mood swings.  Rather he is slow to anger and patient.  However, Isaiah’s generation broke the last straw and His patience finally ran out.

  • Isaiah 1:29-31 “Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired, And you will be embarrassed at the gardens which you have chosen. For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away or as a garden that has no water. The strong man will become tinder, His work also a spark. Thus they shall both burn together And there will be none to quench them.”
  • Isaiah 2:12, 17-18 “For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning Against everyone who is proud and lofty And against everyone who is lifted up, That he may be abased….The pride of man will be humbled And the loftiness of men will be abased; And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day, But the idols will completely vanish.”
  • Isaiah 3:8-9 “Jerusalem is about to fall. And so is Judah. They say and do things against the Lord. They dare to disobey Him to His very face. The look on their faces is a witness against them. They show off their sin, just as the people of Sodom did. They don’t even try to hide it. How terrible it will be for them! They have brought trouble on themselves.”
  • Isaiah 5:13  “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge.”
  • Isaiah 43:8, 10 “Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, And the deaf, even though they have ears… “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.”
  • Isaiah 42:18-20  “Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see. Who is blind but My servant, Or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, Or so blind as the servant of the Lord? You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; Your ears are open, but none hears.
  • Psalm 135:14-18 (cf. 115:3-8) “For the Lord will judge His people And will have compassion on His servants. The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, Yes, everyone who trusts in them.”

When it comes to the the first and second commandments, God is serious: Don’t worship other gods or make imitations or substitutions of him.  If so, you will become just like them: deaf, dumb, and blind.  This is the message God commands Isaiah to go and tell Israel and if they don’t turn back to God there will be a consequence.

You might be thinking, “Wow, Isaiah doesn’t have an easy task.”   Yeah!  You’re right!  It would be as if you are a manager and you are given the task of turning around a failing company, but the company is bound for bankruptcy anyway.  Or you are a teenager and you given the task to stand against the flow of peer pressures even though you will be outcast.   Or you are a carpenter and you are given the task of fix a fixer upper, but the house is doomed for foreclosure.  Who wants a job like that?  What reward is there in that?  What is in it for Isaiah?  The benefit is that he is doing exactly what God asks of him and he does it willingly because he has seen who God is and he has come to know how sweet his forgiveness tastes.  Faithfulness to the command is what God asks of you, even when it is hard and no one around responds and everyone things you’re nuts.

The Consequence: Become “Stumps”

stumpsIsaiah thinks for a moment about what God is asking him to say to the people and he asks an honest question, “How Long?” (v.11a)  Could he be wondering if this is a short-term job assignment or a career?  How will he know when the job is done?   God’s response is grave, “until there is complete devastation.” (v.11b)  He goes onto say that Israel—His chosen people—will be like stumps.

What comes to your mind when you think of a stump?  Can you think of a so-called follower of God who is now stumps?  Why would God call them stumps?  Isn’t that a little harsh?  A stump is a memory of a tree.  It shows you where a tree once stood, but now it’s gone..  In essence what God is saying it that Israel will be an illustration to all nations of a ruined life because idolatry is wasted worship and God is jealous for his children to worship him.

shutterstock_205490491_stump_sapling_1920x1280_39percentDid you catch the glimmer of hope in the midst of the smoke from the chainsaw.  With God there is always hope.  There is hope of a remnant (v.13).  Although God judges, burns, purges, prunes, chops; the stump will sprout again.  God promises restoration.  In the chaos there is always Cosmos.  God is a Restorer.  He is a Redeemer.  See the glimmers of hope God gives Isaiah,

  • Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel [God with us].”
  • Isaiah 9:6  “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
  • Isaiah 11:1-2  “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 53:5  “But the servant was pierced because we had sinned. He was crushed because we had done what was evil. He was punished to make us whole again. His wounds have healed us.”
  • Isaiah 53:8  “He was arrested and sentenced to death. Then He was taken away. He was cut off from this life. He was punished for the sins of my people.”

Remember, as G.K. Beale said, “What you revere you resemble for your ruin or restoration.”  Idols ruin, but God restores.  Idols blind, deafen, and dumb, but God heals.  Idols enslave, God forgives.  Idols stump, but God sprouts growth.

The stump would sprout.  That young sprout would be none other than Jesus Christ.   He displays for the world what it looks like to be loyal to God.  He models what it looks like to love God and have no other God’s but God Himself.  He even came to heal the blind, deaf, and dumb and free you from the idols of our hearts.

Isaiah is a warning to us all: don’t become a stump, run to the sprout.

Today the same truth rings true.  While God may not send a prophet to warn you, you do have a community called the church.  Just as Israel was asked to be a light to the nations, God also asks you to shine the light and encourage one another to shine through the church,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest. ’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:7-13)

God is seeking followers to send into a dark world on a difficult task.  He doesn’t promise it will be easy.  But he does promise to go with you.  Will you go?  Will go and tell the nations to turn back to God?

Going back to my friends question, “If someone becomes a Christian can he hide?”  Yes, but not for long if you you follow the Light of the world.”  Stand in the light.  Shine the light.  Go and tell about the Light.  Warn others the darkness.  Encourage one another to be in the Light.  This is what God asks of you.

 

Previously in this series: God is and what is your response to who God is?

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS:

What did God ask Isaiah to say or do?  How did God say the people will respond?  Would you be up for this task if you were Isaiah?  How does Jesus ask Christians to do a similar task?

What is an idol?  How is the heart an idol factory?  How do people become like what they worship?  What examples of this have you seen?

As you read verses 8-13, how does it describe the spiritual climate of the people?   How is this same spiritual climate often seen in your community or church?  What hope is there to overcome this spiritual state?   How can you encourage or help your fellow brothers and sisters?

Cover photo from: http://signafire.com/

 

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What is your response to who God is?

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.

stop-drop-and-rollA 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.”  wash your mouth outSimilar 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

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS:

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?

God is…

We live in a culture—as others before—that are not easily wowed.  We pack arena’s chanting our favorite songs from our favorite band.  We wait in line to see the next biggest summer blockbuster.   We swarm sports stadiums to cheer our beloved team.

A few years ago, I had a bucket list item come true.  I went to my first ever Packers game at Lambeau Field.  Growing up in Wisconsin only a 50 miles from the Frozen Tundra is was my dream to see the Cheeseheads play live.  Before the game began I almost teared up as I walked from the concourse into the stadium seats.  It was cold and loud and the Packers blew out the Vikings.  I was wowed by the experience.

What are you wowed by?  Chances are what wows you is what you worship.

It is not easy to define worship in a culture that readily worships anyone or anything.  Yet worship is about what you live for.  Every day, all day, everywhere you go, you worship. It’s what you do.  It’s who you are.  You can’t stop it nor live without it.  Worship is a way of life.  It is a whole-life response.  You are a worshiper before you are a sister, brother, father, mother, student, employee or boss.  Worship is simply about value.  Worship is your response to what you value—what wows you most.

Isaiah was wowed.

“In the year that King Uzziah died” (Isaiah 6:1)

Uzziah is different than Isaiah.  Isaiah is Israel’s prophet, but Uzziah was Israel’s king.  He was revered because he brought peace and stability to his nation.  52 years he reigned, which is longer than most Israelites in his day lived (think Queen Elizabeth II; 63 years).   Imagine your entire lifetime one man was president or king, everything’s running smoothly, then you hear the news “the king is dead.”  Although he was king, he was still human.  Note the reason for his death (2 Chronicles 26:15-21; 27:2).  Uzziah grew proud in his old age.  He thought of himself as superhuman.  And God has a way of humbling monarchs with a god-complex.  God struck Uzziah with leprosy and he died.  And just days after his death the nation of Israel began to unravel.

So in the same year a human king dies, Isaiah gets a vision of the Great King who lives.  While Uzziah isn’t, God is.   And this is what Isaiah sees of God—the God who is.  What unveils are some spectacular truths about who God is.  Get ready, put your seat belt on, and be wowed (vs.1-4) by God as Isaiah sees him.

God is alive.

“I saw the Lord”

Uzziah may be dead, but God still lives.  It’s as David said, “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God” [Ps. 90:2].  God isn’t dead.  Isaiah sees him.  God doesn’t have to prove it, but he often does.  He was alive when the universe began.  He was alive when the Buddha and Muhammad walked the earth. He was alive in 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  He is alive today.  And He will be alive ten trillion ages from now when all the puny powers of the earth like the Kardashian’s and Donald Trump are long forgotten.  God always has been and always will be alive, even right now, He lives.

God is in control.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.”

You will never see a vision of God taking a nap or out of the office for vacation or scrambling to figure out what he’s going to do tomorrow or stressed out by all the work he has to do.  He sits.  And he sits on a throne.  He is in control and never out of control.  Heaven and earth are not falling apart.  He holds it together.  He keeps the rules and writes the rules.  Whether you like it or not.  Whether you allow him to or not.  He is sovereign.  Who are you and I to question his authority?  Uzziah is peanuts compared to God.  He’s a pawn in God’s hand.  It’s a humbling yet hopeful truth to know that God is in control.

God is incomparable.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.”

God’s throne highest, biggest, and better next to any other earthly throne.   God’s throne stands above all other thrones.  Other thrones are not even in the same stratosphere.  God is the supreme and he exercises supreme authority.  What God purposes, He accomplishes. Later God says to Isaiah, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” [Isaiah 46:10].  Many have tried, but no opposing authority or earthly king or powerful person can nullify the decrees of God.

God is majestic and most important. 

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his robe [train] filled the temple.”

Why do kings adorn themselves in robes and crowns and extravagant clothing?  It is because they want to separate themselves from the subjects they rule over.  It’s to stand out or to appear majestic and important.

When Queen Elizabeth II had her coronation at Westminster Abbey the train of her robe was carried by a dozen ladies in waiting, but God’s robe made the queen’s robe look like a baby blanket.  It’s like a bride on her wedding day dressed to impressed and her gown covers the aisle, the steps, the platform, the chairs, the lights and all.  That God’s robe fills every inch of the heavenly temple is to show us that his beauty and majesty and importance are incomparable.  God loves to wow us.  Just look at the stars, mountains, patterns of nature, and intricate details of the human body.  If the world God created is so majestic, then he—the Creator—is so much more so.

God is revered. 

“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.”

What earthly king or mortal man has these kinds of servants?  Say it?  “No one!”  chubby angelNo one knows what these strange six-winged creatures are (certainly not some chubby winged angel babies) nor do they appear again in the Bible.  When one of these angels speaks the foundations of the temple tremble (v.4).  If you caught a glimpse of these angels you’d be wowed, but notice, God wows them.  They cannot look at God.  They feel unworthy to be in his presence.  They revered God.  How much more so should we?

God is holy.

“And one called to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!”

God is in a separate category.  He is in a class by Himself.  No one is like him.  Nothing compares to him.  We would say, God is awesome, unbelievable, or unfathomable.  He is beyond words.  We are speechless trying to come up with a word to pin him down.  That is the essence of holiness.

  • “Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, They have despised the Holy One of Israel (27x in Isaiah), They have turned away from Him.” (Isaiah 1:4)
  • “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25) “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You.” (1 Samuel 2:2)
  • “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.”  (Hosea 11:9)
  • “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20)

God is glorious.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Glory is God’s holiness visualized.  One cannot put words on what holiness means, but you can put eyes on it.  God’s holiness goes public in His glory.  When God shows himself to be holy, what you see is His glory.  In Leviticus 10:3 God says, “I will show Myself holy among those who are near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

If you want to know was God’s glory looks like with skin on just look at Jesus.  “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” (Hebrews 1:3)  Jesus never turned down people worshiping or praising him, yet he often deflected glory to his Father.

The greatest barrier to being wowed by God is me.  I want to wow others.  I seek glory from my fellow man.  One day God will blow away and chase away every competing glory—the other things that wow you more than God.  The truth is as you live wowed by God you too reflect his holiness and glory to the world around you.

Like Isaiah, maybe you have been wowed by him.  But for many of you maybe you still need more glimpses of God.  Draw near to God.  Look upon him. Be in awe of him.  Let him wow you.  When you spend time with Him, He will point it out to you (Exodus 33:18-19). And when you do God’s will, you show God’s glory to others (John 17:4, 1 Peter 2:12).  And God promises, “You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me (go hard after me) with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12–13).

 

Coming up next:  Isaiah’s response to God and the result of obeying God.

 

DOWNLOAD QUESTIONS:

Before Isaiah’s vision, who died?  Why was that a big deal?   What emotions do you think Isaiah was feeling before the vision?

How did the vision refocus Isaiah?   How might the vision of God had calmed Isaiah’s fears or worries?  What does fear and worry usually show our hearts are trusting in?

Why is knowing about God so important?  How does knowing God  help you when making decisions?  When facing temptations?  Which truth about God in Isaiah 6:1-3 wows you most?

 

Image from the Science Blog.

you become what you worship

Part 3 of 3 Why Worship Matters

We are imitators [1 Cor. 11:1]. From the time we are little kids we mimic what our parents say and do, much to their cringing. We reflect [Gen. 1:26, image bearers]. It is a matter of what or who you imitate and reflect. G.K. Beale says in his book, “What you revere you resemble for your ruin or restoration.” You either become like the idols or like God, you either reflect or imitate the Creator or something in creation. We are at worship war every day [Psalm 135:14-18].

Idolatry blurs the line between the Creator and creation, damaging creation [me] and diminishing God’s glory. Isaiah both reveres and reflects God to the nation of Israel amidst the nations idolatry. Idolatry = whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, other than God [What is your security?]. Idolatry is wasted worship.

I remember in college I really wanted to have a new Volkswagen Jetta. It was the hottest car for college students to have. I took one out for a test drive and was enamored. The sound system was pumping and the accelerator had some get up and go. I needed to have one. Need is a very strong word. Three years ago a family member was selling their Jetta and it was in my price range. I bought it. As I drove away I though I was hot stuff. In a matter of months the luster wore off, maintenance became an issue and a new model of the Jetta rolled off the line. Isn’t that how idols works? Idols cover as needs, but when you have it, they wear out quickly.

In Isaiah 6 God gives both a command with consequence concerning what we worship:

Command: “go and tell” [Isaiah 6:8-10]

Within God’s command He gives 3 imperatives—do not perceive, do not understand, render hearts insensitive. He says to tell the people that they will be like the idols they love: dumb, deaf and blind.”

God is judging a nation for centuries of sinful rebellion and Isaiah is chosen to deliver the bad news. His generation was the last straw. God had enough. God is slow to anger, but His patience does run out. Like Hebrew 6:1-3, God’s grace and justice are in the balance. He is gracious [slow to anger] and just [character demands consequences for sinfulness]. Isaiah would see the fulfillment of His people being destroyed. His family, childhood friends, men who sat in the cubical next to him at work would all feel the wrath of God. Can you see the tears well up in Isaiah’s eyes? What if these were your neighbors, kin or co-workers?

Did Isaiah know he would be preaching repentance 50 years to a rebellious people who would ignore His God-given message? Yes. He knew from the beginning he would be speaking to people who would be incapable of accepting correction. He knew God is gracious because His doctrine of God was inspired by God’s forgiveness.

Consequence [vs.11-13]: spiritual stumps

Isaiah asks a heart-filled question, “How Long?” The response is grim, “until there is complete devastation.” The children of God—His chosen people—will be like stumps. In other words, they will be an illustration of a ruined life to the world. Can you think of some so-called followers of Christ who are pictures of a ruined life?

However, in the midst of the smoke and rubble a remnant remains [cf. v.10 “return and be healed”]. God promises restoration no matter how far gone or deep under water His people have become. In the midst of chaos there is always Cosmos. God is a Restorer [Note: in Isaiah 7-9, God promises a Restorer who will come to His people]. Jesus is the Seed that will sprout from the stump and Restore His people through His work on the cross [cf. Isaiah 7:14; 11:1-2; 53].

Making it real: Imagine next Sunday you go to church to attend the worship service and imagine yourself in the throne room of God because He is present. Since He is here how could that affect how the Word penetrates or what comes from your mouth? Who is on the throne in your life? Who rules and calls the shots? How can the characteristics of God give you hope in times of weakness or temptation? What idols are gripping your heart?

Worship is part of our God-given DNA. We are wired [pre-wired] to worship! We were made for God [cf. Roman 11:36]. Worship begins and ends with God. He is the center of our existence. Worship is what God is all about. Worship matters because it matters to God.

Worship matters because God is [alive, authoritative, omnipotent, majestic, revered, holy, and glorious], God is pursuing willing worshipers [STOP, DROP, and ROLL], and what you worship you will become for your ruin or restoration.

 

God is pursuing willing worshipers

Part 2 of 3 Why Worship Matters

Are you willing? Are you willing to do hard things? Are you willing to admit and acknowledge who God is and who you are? Being a willing worshiper is like knowing—what to do when you are on fire: Stop, Drop and Roll. When Isaiah gets a glimpse of God He not only sees God for who He is, but sees Isaiah for who He is. Isaiah responds to God. Isn’t that true when you see the God of the Bible He wows you?

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. 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 and unforgettable impression. A willing worship will:

STOP and take a long look at who you are and who God is [Isaiah 6:5]

Isaiah is deeply impacted by God as he watches this unfold before him. He feels unworthy to be in the presence of the GOD who IS. He says, “Woe is me.” In other words he is saying, “I’m dead, I’m done for, I am silenced.” It is as if you got to peak under the curtain of the holy of holiest and you were found out. I’m caught. I’ve offended the King. I’m ashamed. Now I’m toast.

In a sense Isaiah asks, “How can I speak on behalf of God? I am unclean and I live with people who are unclean.” Don’t ever think that you are some holy Joe or Jane! Sure compared to the person in the pew next to you maybe, but not compared to God. May God forgive us our pride and arrogance, and give us a holy sense of who we are and who He is.

DROP to your knees and receive God’s forgiveness [vs.6-7]

The natural response to gazing upon the greatness of God is to drop to our knees for forgiveness. There is something interesting at work here. In Isaiah’s day their was a pagan practice called the “washing of the mouth” 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 irony as the True God chooses Isaiah to cleanse and become His spokesmen to the pagan idolaters.

Have you felt the forgiveness of God? Guilt should not handicap you; rather motivate you not to go there anymore and rest in God’s forgiveness. I am so glad the passage does not end in verse 5. In God’s holiness we see our sinfulness. Yet God calls and commissions us to holiness too [1 Peter 1:14-19]. From guilt to grace, Isaiah is cleansed from His sinfulness and experiences God’s forgiveness. God’s holiness is unattainable, but His forgiveness is not. In the midst of chaos there is always Cosmos. God is a Restorer. God’s pursues forgiveness in Isaiah and 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.

ROLL up your sleeves and get to work [v.8]

Forgiveness is never passive, it is active. After the cleansing God calls Isaiah to a difficult task: see to it that My people know I am forgiving too. After forgiveness I am called to share the good news and warning to others. Can you hear God call you to serve Him? Will you respond? Commissioning follows cleansing. In God’s economy worship = serving. Worship = life.

Worship matters because GOD IS and His character demand my worship. GOD IS PURSUING WILLING WORSHIPERS and my presence is expected.

God Is

Part 1 of 3 Why Worship Matters

We live in a culture [as others before us] willing to worship anyone and anything. We will pack arena’s to sing our favorite songs from our favorite band. We will be first in line at the movie theatre to see the next biggest summer blockbuster. We will pack sports stadiums and worship teams and players with loud cheers and waving our banners. Last December Sarah and I went to our first fridged Packer game at Lambeau Field. There was some worship going on that day! Later we thought, as great as the game was, “Heaven is going to be awesome!”

We are about all worship. It is not easy to define real worship in a culture that readily worships anyone or anything. Worship is about what we live for [who we are]. Every day, all day, everywhere you go, you worship. It’s what you do. It’s who you are. You can’t stop it or live without it. Worship is a way of life. It is a whole-life response to God’s greatness and glory. You are a worshipper before you are a father, mother, sister, brother, boss, employee or student. Worship is simply about value. Worship is our response to what we value most.

Why does worship matter? Why must worship matter to me? Why is it so important? Worship matters because GOD IS and His character demands my worship [Isaiah 6:1-3].

God is alive.

Isaiah says, “I saw the Lord.” Uzziah is dead, but God still lives. “From everlasting to everlasting, You are God” [Psalm 90:2]. God has no beginning or end. He does not depend anything or anyone to exist. God was alive when this universe banged into existence. He was alive when the Buddha and Muhammad walked the earth. He was alive when JFK was shot. He was alive when a tsunami sweep away Indonesia, and earthquakes rocked Haiti and Chile. He will be alive ten trillion ages from now when all the puny people in power are long forgotten. But not God, He always has been and always will be alive.

God is authoritative.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” He is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. Heaven is not coming apart at the seams. He holds it together. He sits on a throne. He rules with peace and control. He has authority over our lives even though we may never acknowledge Him.

God is omnipotent.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up.” God’s throne is higher than every other throne signifies God’s superior power to exercise His authority. No opposing authority can nullify the decrees of God. What He purposes, He accomplishes. “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” [Isaiah 46:10].

God is majestic.

“I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and the train his robe filled the temple.” You have seen pictures of brides whose dresses are gathered around them covering the steps and the platform. What would the meaning be if the train filled the aisles and covered the seats and the stage, woven all of one piece? That God’s robe fills the entire heavenly temple means that he is a God of incomparable splendor and honor. His creative fullness spills over in excessive beauty. God loves to wow us.

God is revered.

“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.” No one knows what these strange six-winged creatures are [not some chubby winged angel babies], and they never appear again in the Bible. When one of them speaks, the foundations of the temple shake [v.4]. These are magnificent creature that most of us would be wowed by, but God wows them.

God is holy.

“And one called to another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” God is in a class by Himself. When asked for His name in Exodus 3:14, He said, “I am who I am.” What is God’s holiness? [Hebrew Qadesh, Greek Hagios, separate/different] 1 Samuel 2:2, “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides You.” Isaiah 40:25, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” Hosea 11:9, “I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst.” And repeated throughout the Scripture is the theme: “YHWH alone is God” [Ex.22:20; 34:14; 20:5].

God is incomparable, unfathomable. It determines all that He is and does and His ways are not determined by anyone. His holiness is what He is as God, which no one else is or ever will be. Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness will rock your world to the core. There is no way to scale mountain and heights of God’s holiness [not even in this message or our lifetime]. “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” [Habakkuk 2:20].

God is glorious.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” The glory of God is the seen of God’s holiness. God’s holiness has gone public in His glory. When God shows himself to be holy, what we see is glory. In Leviticus 10:3 God says, “I will show Myself holy among those who are near Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”

Worship matters because GOD IS. His character demands my worship.

you are a worshiper

What is worship? What is a worshiper? Worship is about God, to God and for God. Worship is about what you love. You love something or someone. What you love you give time, talents and treasures to without thinking. Worship comes natural to us because that is how God wired us. We are wired to worship.

The Bible is chalked full of men and women who followed God with an unquenchable thirst. Followers of Christ are worshipers. Followership is another word for worship. One such follower is Habakkuk. Even in bleak circumstances battered by extreme doubts he praises God [3:17-18]. Then there is the Paul who is imprisoned for his faith [Acts 16], but still finds a way to share the good news.

Over a hundred years ago there was a songwriter by the name of Fanny Crosby. As a baby she experience a traumatic life-altering situation. This is how she describes it,

“When I was six weeks old I was taken sick and my eyes grew very weak and those who had charge of me poulticed my eyes. Their lack of knowledge and skill destroyed my sight forever. As I grew older they told me I should never see the faces of my friends, the flowers of the field, the blue of the skies, or the golden beauty of the stars…Soon I learned what other children possessed, but I made up my mind to store away a little jewel in my heart which I called content.”[1]

When she was only 8 years old she penned this song:

O what a happy soul am I! Although I cannot see,

I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.

How many blessings I enjoy, that other people don’t.

To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot, and I wont.[2]

I wonder what my response would be like if I were in the same situation as these saints who have gone before? Would I have complained or become calloused? Or would I be content, compassionate and worshiping God? Though blind, Fanny could not wait to see Jesus’ face. She has an eye for worship. She didn’t see an end in blindness, but viewed endless opportunities to praise God.

Once you get a glimpse of God you are never the same, even in a world that does not acknowledge His presence or purposes [Isaiah 6:1-13; 29:13]. What we learn from Isaiah in the divine throne room is that God is full of wonder, awe and mystery. He is Qadesh [Holy]. His name is Holy One. There is nothing or anyone like Him ever. He is set apart, therefore, He is worthy of our fear, reverence and life. Once you have seen God you become a worshipful follower. On this side of heaven we have only get to see a drop of His glory in the ocean of His splendor.

Here is both a comforting and convicting fact of the Bible: You become like what you worship. What you follow you worship. Who you follow is who you worship. You will become like the object of your worship either for your ruin or restoration.[3] You will either be blind, deaf and lifeless like idols or full of life like God. Worship must be about God, to God and for God. Worship is about what you love. You love something or someone. What you love you give time, talents and treasures to without thinking. Worship comes natural to us because that is how God wired us. We are wired to worship.


[1] Fanny Crosby, quoted in S. Trevena Jackson, This is my story, This is my Song, Emerald House, n.p.

[2] Ibid.

[3] G.K Beale, We become what we Worship, IVP, 2008.