I’ve made it a personal tradition each Independence Day the past several years to read David McCullough’s classic, 1776, which chronicles that famous year in America’s history. One of the opening paragraphs describes George III, the King of England, proceeding towards the English Parliament in a glorious parade:
“The King’s procession departed St. James’s … two Horse Grenadiers with swords drawn rode in the lead to clear the way, following by gleaming coaches filled with nobility, then a clattering of Horse Guards, the Yeoman of the Guard in red and gold … and a rank of footmen, also in red and gold. Finally came the King in his colossal golden chariot pulled by eight magnificent cream-colored horses (Hanoverian Creams) … and six footmen at the side.
No mortal on earth rode in such style as their King, the English knew. Twenty-four feet in length and thirteen feet high, the royal coach weighed nearly four tons, enough to make the ground tremble when under way. George III had it built years before, insisting that it be ‘superb.’ Three (golden) cherubs on top — symbols of England, Scotland, and Ireland — held high a (golden) crown, while over the heavy spoked wheels, front and back, loomed four (golden) sea gods, formidable reminders that Britannia ruled the waves. … It was as though the very grandeur, wealth, and weight of the (whole) British Empire were rolling past.” (McCullough, 1776, p. 4)
But as glorious as the King of England was, he was very mortal, and very fallible. He was on his way to address Parliament to encourage them NOT to give way to the impudent demands of their American colonies. But George would lose those colonies (which we will celebrate tomorrow!) One day, sadly, he would also lose his mind. And finally he would die, and lose his throne, his kingdom, and all his riches forever.
But you & I serve a King with a throne more glorious even than George’s. A king whose reign will never end. We read something of His glory in our passage for today in Isaiah 6. This is one of THE classic passages in all of scripture. And one of the reasons for it, is that it sets before us several foundational truths:
I. The Glory of the King
This chapter opens with Isaiah saying in the year King Uzziah died, he saw the Lord. And notice what all it says about God here:
— First of all, it says He was “sitting on a throne.” This means He is KING; He is sovereign; He is in charge; He is on the throne. It says “the train of His robe filled the temple.” He is absolutely glorious! Verse 4 says the whole temple filled with smoke at His presence. It is the picture of the glorious King on His throne.
— Verse 2 says “seraphim stood above Him.” “Seraphim” are angels. The word literally means “fiery ones” or “flashing ones.” Hebrews says God’s angels are like “flames of fire.” They are glorious, flashy, fiery beings around the throne of God. This is the only place in scripture where this word “seraphim” is used of angels. Other places they are called “cherubim.” Some believe these indicate different “types” or “ranks” of angels, but we don’t know that for sure. Here it just indicates that these “seraphim,” or “fiery ones” fly around the throne of God.
— Notice also Isaiah’s description of these seraphim, because it is significant. He says each had 6 wings: “with two he covered his face; with two he covered his feet; and with two he flew.” To me that is SO symbolic:
- with two he covered his face: they are anonymous. It doesn’t matter who we are; we are here to serve GOD! It’s all about HIM, not us. That’s the attitude we should each have!
- With two he covered his feet: this is humility. My feet are unworthy to be seen in the presence of God; He is holy. That’s another attitude we can imitate from these angels: showing reverence in the presence of God.
- With two he flew: with two he does what he is called to do. They are there to SERVE. Like we said a couple of weeks ago; DO what God called you to do.
So these angels are a good model for us: “cover you feet; cover your face; but FLY!” Anonymously, and reverently, DO what God has called you to do!
— and what was their great work? Praising God. Verse 3 says, “And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’” They were there to praise God.
— Revelation 4:8 gives us another picture of the throne in heaven. It says “day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.”
“They never cease.” “Day and night they never cease” to praise God: calling “Holy, holy, holy.” Have you ever been in such a thrilling worship service, or Christian concert, and it was so inspiring that you didn’t want it to end? Well, one day we are going to be at one that will never end! “Day and night we will not cease to say ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts”!
David McCullough said when George III’s chariot rumbled through the streets of London, the ground around it trembled. And Isaiah says when the angels in God’s temple called out “holy, holy, holy,” the very foundations of the Temple itself trembled at the voice of him who called out.
All of this is a picture of glory; glory unlike anything ever seen on the face of the earth, from any earthly monarch. It is a picture of the glory of God Himself.
If the Lord wills we may talk about this next week, when we come in our daily reading to the Book of II Thessalonians, which talks about how we as Christians are called to gain the GLORY of the Lord. We were created to love and worship this glorious God of Isaiah 6. When we see Him like we were meant to see Him, we will be like Mark Twain, who one day was anchored on a ship just outside of Honolulu, Hawaii, and the sun was going down. He said there was first a diffused haze of pink — and then what he called “a final explosion of fiery splendors” and all of it was reflected on the surface of the sea — and he said “it made one drunk with delight to look upon it”!
If we can be so transfixed, so enraptured, so “drunk with delight” like Twain was, at the glory of God’s CREATION; how much more will we be transfixed with the glory of GOD HIMSELF! And that is exactly what we were created for; to behold the glory of God forever.
See, I’m afraid many Christians just have no clue about this glory. To many of people, Christianity is just about rules and regulations and traditions and religiosity, when it’s really not about these things at all; it is about the glory of God — this God on the throne of Isaiah 6.
I think one of the biggest problems Christians have today, is that we don’t have this sense of the glory of God. Like one author has said, “Your God is too small.” The God we worship is more glorious than a thousand suns.
If we would see His glory how it would increase our faith!
If we would see His glory how it would impel us to holiness!
If we would see His glory how we would tell others of Him all the time!
What we need as God’s people, perhaps more than anything else, is to catch a glimpse of the glory the God of Isaiah 6. Don’t just read past this passage and “check it off your list.” Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Sing it: “Holy, holy, holy” to God! Worship Him through these words. By faith get a glimpse of who God really is, through this passage. It will change our lives, like it did Isaiah’s, if we will get a glimpse of this God of Glory!
And I also think there is also something to this statement that when “King Uzziah died,” Isaiah “saw the Lord.” As I mentioned a moment ago, Uzziah was a long-time king of Israel; he served for 52 years! We don’t know anything about that kind of long-term leadership in America. 52 years is THIRTEEN 4-year presidential terms! For thirteen of our presidential elections, Uzziah had reigned as king in Judah, the southern Kingdom. And he was a GOOD king. It had been a time of prosperity, and stability. For 52 years. But now, this king who had overseen all this prosperity and stability, was no more. “King Uzziah died.”
With Uzziah gone, where could they look now? Where could they turn? “In the year King Uzziah died” Isaiah saw what? “I saw the LORD”! When all other stability and strength leaves you, look to the Lord! This “holy, holy, holy” God was still “on a throne.” Uzziah had lost his throne, in death — BUT GOD HAD NOT LOST HIS! When men lose their throne; when men lose their power or prosperity; GOD IS STILL ON HIS THRONE. Look to Him! If you will look to this “holy, holy, holy” God, He will be the immovable anchor and the unchangeable foundation of your life.
II. The Sin That Is Revealed
So what was Isaiah’s response when he saw the Lord? It might surprise us, but it shouldn’t. We find it in :5, “Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
When Isaiah saw the incomparable glory of God, he did NOT just immediately rush up to Him and say, “Yeah, God ol’ pal; you and me are good buddies …”. Yet this is the attitude a lot of people project towards God: such a familiarity; such a flippant attitude. You wonder if they have ever read Isaiah 6, or if they have ever considered the majesty and glory and absolute purity of the holiness of God?
See, the Bible says God is “holy, holy, holy.” Holy means to be “pure, set apart, without sin.” And it says it three times. In Hebrew, they don’t have words for “holy, holier, holiest.” If you want to say someone is “holiest”, you repeat it three times: “holy, holy, holy.” It’s saying that God is ultimate in holiness. He is absolutely pure and perfect. Nothing compares with Him.
He is awesome in holiness.
A few years ago, a physicist who was studying black holes describe his work as “shuddering before the beautiful.” That physicist was not far from the glory of God. God is so glorious, so beautiful, so holy, we “shudder” before the purity and glory of His holiness.
If you look, you will see that this is the consistent response of people in scripture when they are made aware of the holy presence of God:
— Isaiah here says, “Woe is me, for I am undone …”. His sin was so stark compared to the holiness of the God he just saw.
— We read not long ago in Luke 5 where Peter was in the boat with Jesus and the nets became so full of fish they began to sink. And it says Peter fell down before Jesus’ feet and said “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” He saw how holy Jesus was; and he knew how sinful he was, and he couldn’t bear to be in His presence.
— Even JOHN, who was so close to Jesus that at the Last Supper he reclined on His chest, when Jesus appeared to him in His glory in Revelation 1, John said, “When I saw Him (His head and hair as white as snow; “His eyes a flame of fire; His voice like many waters;”) he says, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.”
This is the response we have when we truly see the glory and holiness of God: the first thing we will recognize is how unworthy and sinful we are.
So this is a good test for us: are you really meeting God in worship? If you are, you will have a sense of two things: first, you will have a sense of the glory of God. But secondly, you will also become very aware of your own sin.
— That’s how it will be in our worship services: if you are really meeting God here, you will come away with a sense of your sin. Several of you have shared with me recently that you came away from our services with a conviction of sin; I’m glad of that. Because that means you are truly encountering God here! When we encounter God, we will be convicted of sin.
— This is also a good test of your own personal morning worship times. Are you just “rushing through” that time — or are you really taking time to seek God in His word and prayer? If you are really meeting God in those times, you will be confronted like Isaiah was here, with a sense of your sin. But if you can read all three of our daily Bible reading segments, and aren’t convicted of any sin in your life, I can pretty much guarantee you: you were going too fast! You didn’t meet God. Because when you really meet God, like Isaiah, one thing you can’t miss, is a sense of your own sin.
III. The Sacrifice That Cleanses
But thank God that having our sin exposed before God is not the end of the story! That’s where is SHOULD end. That’s where it deserves to end for us. But purely out of the grace of God, He made a sacrifice that would cleanse us from our sins.
We see a picture of that here in Isaiah. Verse 6 says that after he was so downcast in his sin, one of the seraphim took a coal from the altar, and touched Isaiah’s lips with it, and said in :7, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven.”
That burning coal came off of the altar of sacrifice, which had been offered to the Lord. And that sacrifice is a picture, like all Old Testament sacrifices are, of the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us. Just as Hebrews 10:4 says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.” Those Old Testament sacrifices didn’t really ultimately save anyone. Rather all the time they were pointing us to Christ; they were teaching us that the ultimate sacrifice that would truly pay for our sin was Jesus, whose death on the cross would pay for the sins of everyone who would believe in Him. Hebrews 10:10 “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” In ONE sacrifice on the cross, Jesus paid for all of our sins, “one for all.” We don’t need all those sacrifices any longer. Jesus has paid for our sins, “once for all,” when He took our place on the cross!
In 1842, the Governor of South Carolina, General James Hamilton, purchased some land in what is now Lake Jackson and moved here to Texas. In 1857 he had to take a trip to Washington, D.C., to settle some debts owed to him, but on his return trip to Texas, his ship sank off the Florida coast, after being hit by another vessel. As the ship was sinking, they were giving out lifebelts, but there were not enough for everyone. Hamilton had been given one, but he saw a mother and her child who did not have one, and he gave his to them. The ship sank, and Hamilton went down with it, and died. He sacrificed his own life, that that woman and her child might live. (Marie Beth Jones, Tales From The Brazos, pp. 49-51)
Every sacrifice like the one that General Hamilton made that day, should remind us of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. All of us have sinned. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. We all stand before God like Isaiah and say, “Woe is me, for I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips” — and unclean deeds, and unclean thoughts, and unclean motives — we are all unclean and filthy and lost before the Holy, Holy, Holy God. But Jesus came to earth and died on the cross, taking our place, as a sacrifice that Hebrews says, paid for all of our sins, “once for all.” Now all we must do is be willing to repent of our sins, and put our faith in Jesus as our Lord & Savior, and we will be saved. This is what becoming a Christian is: admitting your sin, and asking Jesus to be your Savior. If you have never done that before, why don’t you do it right now? Just in your heart say something like: “God, I know I am sinful before you; save me because of Jesus’ death on the cross. Help me to follow you from this day forward.” If you will do that from your heart, the Bible says: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Thank God that He has provided a sacrifice through Jesus, that will cleanse us before a holy, holy, holy God, “once for all”! Make sure that you have received that sacrifice, so that one day you will stand before Him, cleansed from all your sin!
IV. The Commission That Follows
But one of the important aspects of this passage is that Isaiah’s cleansing from sin is not really the end of this story. And it’s not the end of ours either! After Isaiah is cleansed from his sin by the sacrifice from the altar, God says to him in :8, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” God had a mission to be done. And because of all that God had done for Isaiah, how could he refuse? So his response to God was: “Here am I. Send me.”
Isaiah saw the glorious God; he was convicted of his own sin; he was cleansed from his sin by the sacrifice that was made for him — and then he was called to go out on mission for the God who had saved him.
This is what God’s people, who have been graciously saved by Him, do. When Peter’s mother-in-law was healed by Jesus in Matthew 8, it says she got up and began serving Him. That’s what God called Isaiah to do — and that’s what He’s called US to do too. When we are saved and cleansed by the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we too are to hear the voice of God, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And like Isaiah, we are to say, “Lord, here am I; send me.”
— I’ve seen a glimpse of Your glory; and now I’ll go share that glory with others
— I’ve seen how my filthy sins were forgiven by the sacrifice if Jesus; now I’ll go tell others about His sacrifice.
— I hear Your voice asking, “Who will go for me?”, and I will go!
God’s people, saved and cleansed like Isaiah was, are called to be on mission, just like Isaiah was. We have a lot of opportunities to do that in the days here at First Baptist Angleton:
— We’re going to be reaching out to our Angleton Christian School this August. Do you know that almost 1/2 of the families at ACS do not attend church anywhere regularly. It is a mission field! It’s our “Jerusalem,” right there. So we’re going to prayer walk it, and then we’re going to be reaching to them when the kids and parents come up for “meet the teacher” in August, and have food, games, and information here at the church as an outreach to them. We’ll need a lot of folks to help with that — can we hear God say, “Who will go for Me?,” who will help reach ACS?
— We’re also going to reach out this September to all of the new neighborhoods that are being built in Angleton: we’ll prayer walk each new neighborhood, and then we’ll write each home a personal letter of invitation, and invite them to come get a meal at the church, and again we’ll have activities, and gospel tracts, and information about our church for them — can we hear God say, “Who will go for Me?”, as we reach out here in Angleton?
— Several of our people have volunteered to help with the Port Ministry; literally the WORLD comes to our doorstep at the port at Freeport; thousands of sailors from nations around the world, hundreds of truck drivers and port workers. Kyle is going up every Thursday; several of our men have volunteered to help; Billie and the ladies are preparing a meal for the workers where the gospel is shared. The Port Ministry will be at our church soon, to train everyone who is interested in helping there in the days ahead, with visits to the men on the ships, or to the truckers who come by. The voice of God is calling: “Who will go for me?” Will you? Will you sign up to learn how to minister there?
— We’ve been celebrating the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade; but there is much more work to be done. Now we need the Pregnancy Help Center more than ever before! There will be more mothers, and more babies, and more families, who need ministry. Now we need more people to give, and pray, and go to our PHC more than ever before. “Who will go there for Me?”
— We’ve heard the report from our first Bulgaria mission team; they’ve established a great foothold there for us in the school; but that’s just the beginning. There is an open door for us to go back, and build on those relationships, and share the gospel. Who will go on the next trips? “Who will go for Me?” — to Bulgaria?
— We’re reaching out to our nursing home, right here in Angleton, singing every Monday. I noticed last Monday; this is not just reaching the residents. People walking down the halls stop and listen; workers stop and listen. It is touching many different people. “Who will go for Me?”
— We’ve got the opportunity to reach out through the school supplies we’re taking up, to parents and children and teachers. “Who will go and od this for Me?”
— I saw a meme this week that said, “Go overseas on mission? You won’t even serve in your own church nursery!” There’s a lot of truth in that! “Who will go for Me to the nursery?” Is a question many of us should hear!
We have tons of ways to go and serve God. Now, as we’ve talked about before, NONE of us can do all of these things. But we can ALL do some of them. We need to hear the voice of God calling us: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Me?” And let the answer be, from every one of us who has truly seen a glimpse of God’s glory; from every one of us who have said “Woe is me,” but who have also been cleaned by His blood; let our answer be: “Lord, here am I; send me!”
I’ve seen a number of messages on Isaiah 6 end right here: with the call to mission. But that’s not really the end of the chapter, is it? God goes on to tell Isaiah the hard truth: that the people in his ministry aren’t going to listen to him. And Isaiah says in :11, “How long?” How long will I have to do this? And God says “Until cities are devastated …. Until houses are without people … until the Lord has removed men far away.” How’d you like to get called to THAT ministry? I think most guys would say: “I think I’ll go apply at another church …”. God’s called Isaiah to a difficult, discouraging ministry!
And the truth is, most ministry can be difficult, and discouraging. God’s very honest with Isaiah here, and He’s very honest with us. He never tells us it’s going to be easy to serve Him. I hope you never hear me say, it’s going to be easy to go to Bulgaria, or easy to reach our neighbors, or easy to serve in the nursery. We’re not doing it because it is easy; we’re doing it because the holy God of glory, who saved us when we deserve to be lost, has called us to do it.
So let’s keep our eyes on Him. And when things get hard for us in our service — and it will — let’s remember we’re doing it for the “Holy, holy, holy” God, who saved us from our sins, and whom we will one day see in His glory, just like Isaiah did, face to face!
— Some of us need to pray today: Lord, show me more of Your glory, in worship, in Your word, that I might be more in love with You, and purify my life, and share Your glory with others.
— Some of us need to ask God to show us our own SIN, to take it as seriously as we should …
— Maybe today you need to ask the Lord to cleanse you, through the sacrifice of Jesus, for the very first time …
— are you willing to ask God today: Lord, where would you send ME?