Rev. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
“In the year that Uzziah died I saw the Lord (Adonai) upon the throne, high and lifted up, and his train (skirts) filled the temple.”
It is of utmost importance for a correct interpretation of this beautiful chapter to notice that we are here dealing with a divine theophany, which Isaiah saw at a very critical point in the history of the coming of the Son of God to save all His people from their sins. God appeared here as the God of all glory at the close of the long reign of king Uzziah. This king reigned for 52 years in Jerusalem on David’s throne. He reigned in what is known as the Southern Kingdom, in distinction from the Northern Kingdom, the ten tribes. The capital city of this kingdom was Samaria. The country was therefore often simply called “Samaria.”
The kingdom of David stands here at the crossroads of her history under David’s royal scepter. We must bear this in mind. God had promised David that He would build him a house, and that his son would sit upon David’s throne forever (II Sam. 7:14, 15). But now, at the time of Uzziah’s death, God is sending His judgments upon the kings of Judah and Jerusalem, which seem to indicate that the Lords word of oath will need to fail.
It is after the death of Uzziah that this great decline in Judah will come to a speedy manifestation. The royal throne will be broken down, the temple will be burned, and Israel shall become the laughingstock among all the heathen nations.
However, it will only be such seemingly. Even in these darkest hours of Israel, the just will live by faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen!
Behold, a remnant shall be saved; there will be manifestation of greater things in the BRANCH, the very Son of God, born from a virgin. Such is the beautiful perspective symbolized here in the vision of the throne, whence is heard the TRIS HAGION from the lips of the Seraphim standing before the throne of the majesty on high. Jehovah Adonai sitteth on the throne in serene majesty even in the darkest hours of the seventy years of cruel captivity in Babylon!
Such is the beautiful prophetic perspective symbolized here!
We should notice that this revelation of Gods throne, high and lifted up, is in the temple where God meets His people at the mercy-seat, the Ark of the testimony. There mercy is proclaimed; justice and mercy kiss each other there. Hence, Jehovah will never forsake His people, whom He foreknew (Rom. 11:2-7). He will dwell in the midst of His people forever. Such is the clear message of the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God in Isaiah 6:1ff.! God will surely make, out of the remnant according to the election of grace, a holy people, a royal priesthood. He will purify their hearts. Emblazoned here in this theophanic vision is this: “I the LORD change not; therefore ye are not consumed.” I will bring greater things to pass only for my great NAME’S sake (Ez. 36:20-23; Ez. 39:7, 16, 25; Ez. 43:7, 8; Mal. 3:6).
The Seraphim beings about the throne symbolize in their very name and place the Holiness to the Lord, as this was written in letters of pure gold, in the engravings of a signet HOLINESS TO THE LORD. This was worn by the high priest in his priestly mitre. This Israel was accepted before the Lord (Ex. 26:36-38)! This is the theme of the eternal anthem of the Seraphim: HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS JEHOVAH OF HOSTS. The whole earth is full of God’s glory (vs. 3). Here is a visionary manifestation of the glory of the Son of Man, who through His death and resurrection will bring in the great tabernacle of God dwelling with man. Indeed, the whole earth will then be filled with the glory of God! There is prophecy in this vision of the Lord upon His throne as it shall be established in righteousness forever (John 12:31, 32).
What a sharp contrast is here symbolized between the sovereign manifestation of Jehovah and the vain gods of the reprobate kings, priests, and prophets in Israel! Yes, in this very temple they introduced all the idol gods of the nations; they perpetrated the great ABOMINATION (Deut. 7:26; Deut. 1:9-13; Ez. 8:6, 9, 13, 15, 17, etc.)! When we read the great apology of Stephen before the Jewish Council in Jerusalem, we hear him quote the sin-convicting words quoted from the prophet of Tekoa, Amos 5:25-27 (read this passage, by all means). One cannot read such passages from the lips of the prophets without trembling in awe before the song of the Seraphim before the great throne of God in Jesus Christ His Son!
We read here: “And the foundations of the threshold shook at the voice of him that cried, and the house (temple) was filled with smoke. Then said I, woe is me! for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the king: Jehovah of Hosts!”
Isaiah’s cry, “I am undone,” reminds us of the words of Moses which he uttered when the LORD appeared in the glory at Sinai. We read in Hebrews 12:21, “and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.” All that Peter had to see from out of his fishing boat was the great catch of fish, and he exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Let us then too take the shoes from off our feet at so great a manifestation of Jehovah’s glory. Nay, let us draw nigh and see this great sight in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord by the transforming power of a glory which changes us from glory unto glory as by the Spirit of the Lord (II Cor. 3:17, 18).
For the gospel-truth stands as spoken by the glorified Son of Man, which He spoke to John on the isle of Patmos: “Fear not, I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. I have the keys of hell and death.”
But only when a sinner’s conscience has been purified by redeeming grace can he be fearless before the great and glorious Christ. Isaiah needed such a pure heart and clean tongue. This Isaiah sought when the foundations of the threshold of the temple shook at the voice of the Lord from His holy throne, high and lifted up. He is himself a sinner and he dwells amongst a “people of unclean lips.” They all need cleansing. No, not merely the cleansings of many washings required by the Levitical ordinances, but the cleansing of the tongue, which proceeds from a pure heart (Ps. 19:14). God’s promise is that He will make Israel truly a holy nation, a royal people, who have their lips purified by the holy fire of the Spirit of sanctification. Thus there will be fruit of the lips (Heb. 13:15).
God in His pity from where He dwells between the Cherubim upon the mercy-seat causes Isaiah to obtain grace and to find mercy in his (Isaiah’s) great hour of need.
We read in verses 6 and 7, “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar” and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” These are very wonderful words which only the Christ on the throne could utter efficaciously. They are the equivalent of what Jesus spoke to the man sick of the palsy: “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:4b). Yes, the heavy burden of the poor sinner’s heart rolled away. Thus also Isaiah can now say, “I believe, therefore I speak.” The live coal was taken with a tong from off the great altar where the sacrifice was brought for the expiation of sin, and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat. It was the type of the blood of Jesus, which speaks better things than Abel. It was the witness of God that He will remove all our sins in the blood of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world. For this throne, high and lifted up, is the throne of God and of the Lamb (John 12:41; Rev. 5:6, 7, 8, 9, 13). These live coals are life-giving coals from the Christ who was to be slain and to live forever. In this light we can understand the beautiful words, “Lo, this hath touched thy lips, thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged”: you are both justified and sanctified in the LORD THY RIGHTEOUSNESS (Jer. 23:6; Jer. 33:16).
(to be continued)