Rev. Lubbers is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Verses 8, 9—”Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me. And he said, Go and tell this people, hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.”
You will remember that we have written two earlier essays in Isaiah 6:1-7. Two things we there noticed and underscored. (1) The time of the vision—that it was in the year the king Uzziah died. We noticed that this is very significant information. It sets this vision as being meaningful that, whereas no king of Judah might minister at the altar in the Old Testament Temple, in this temple we have a priest, who is also King. He is aking-priest, after the order of Melchisedec. For He who sitteth on the throne is Adonai. (2) We noticed that this temple in the vision is not at all like the tabernacle of Moses in the wilderness. In that tabernacle none could minister in it, when God came into the entire tabernacle and shrouded it with His glorious presence in the Cloud, the Shekinah of glory: Moses, who had seen the glory of God on the Mount from a place in the cleft of the rock, could not be in this tabernacle when God dedicated it with His presence. However, in the vision Isaiah sees another glory. It is the glory of the exalted Son of man, Who was lifted up on the Cross and entered into the glory of the Mediator of God and man, the man Jesus Christ.
In this essay we shall see that grace and glory of the Son of man, high and lifted up, the forerunner Who entered for us within the vail, so that we have an anchor, sure and steadfast within the holy place! (Heb. 6:19, 20).
There are a number of Old Testament Scripture passages which we ought to read from our Bible; they should be read carefully and compared. They are Isaiah 40:5, 60:1; Ezekiel 43:2-5; Haggai 2:3, 7, 9 (Heb. 12:26); and Zechariah 2:5, 8. Space forbids us to exegete these passages; however, we shall weave these passages into our exposition of Isaiah 6.
As we have already stated above, this is the glory of the Son of man (John 12:37-41). That this glory is really far more glorious than any glory of the Old Testament forms of God-appearances (Theophanies) we see from the two occasions in the history of the salvation (heilgeschiedenis) of Israel.
The first is at the time when the tabernacle is raised up for the first time, and the priesthood of Aaron will minister in the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-38). So great was that glory that Moses, Aaron, and the priests had to leave the tabernacle. For God symbolically came to dwell in the most holy place upon the mercy seat on the Ark of the Testimony. That was the glory of the letter of the law that kills, while here in Isaiah’s vision it is the glory which eclipsed all the Old Testament glory, in that it proclaimed a ministry of reconciliation, which changes the believers from glory unto glory as by the Spirit of the Lord (II Cor. 3:1 ff.).
It is noteworthy that, from the point of view of being a glory of grace, the beautiful temple of Solomon was no advancement. Here too the priests were virtually driven from this glory when the glory of God appeared. Beautiful as this temple was, it was not yet the real tabernacling of God with His people. This temple could not be the fit abode of the God of glory. That must wait till the Word (LOGOS) became flesh, the word who dwelt (tabernacled) amongst us, full of grace and glory.
The great guiding principle, which we must ever keep clearly in mind, is that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth became through Jesus Christ.” Such is the key of knowledge here properly to exegeteIsaiah 6 in its total scope. Only then will we understand that we are here dealing with what Peter called the more sure word of prophecy which casts its light across the ages until Christ shall come in His Parousia, ever to dwell with us, so that we may behold His glory (John 17:24). Then will the high-priestly prayer be fulfilled: Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory!
We should notice rather carefully that in this temple-vision we have projected the ideal, final glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It is the glory of Adonai, as sung by the ministering Seraphims: holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory. That the entire earth shall be full of the glory of the temple, and of the King on the throne, surely signifies that then all the nations shall be blessed in Abraham and in his Seed, the Christ. God will spread his tent, widen it, so that the gentile lands shall also share in its glory (Isaiah 54:1-3). For in this temple in the vision the middle wall of partition is lacking. The glory is not hid behind the veil in the temple, but the entire temple is now a holy of holies. It prefigures the time when it shall be manifested that the way into the most holy place is opened (Heb. 9:8).
Even though this temple can be the dwelling-place of all the believers, as a holy nation, a royal priesthood, yea they shall be the very spiritual temple itself (I Peter 2:4, 5), they can only dwell there as those who are cleansed from their sin, whose iniquity is pardoned. Of this we have a case-study in Isaiah, the prophet. When he sees this glory of the Son of man he becomes virtually “undone.” He says really, “Lord, I perish before a holy God, as a sinner of the deepest dye!” He stands here in utter helplessness, emptiness, full of a sinful heart, from which, as he is by nature, no good can come. But that is not all. Isaiah had also received a good heart. He is also a “good man” who out of a “good heart bringeth forth good things.” Out of the abundance of grace abounding, he confesses his own sins and the sins of the people. The deep cry is that of the publican in the parable, who went to the temple and who prayed, “God be merciful to me.” May the blood of propitiation sprinkled by the high-priest on the mercy-seat be my complete covering (Matt. 12:35a and Luke 18:13ff.).
What a beautiful, touching healing of grace. Live coals from the Altar of God in the temple, where the great glory of grace is manifested. Here is the world which echoes and m-echoes in our believing hearts and is as music to our ears: “Now where remission of these is there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. . .” (Hebrews 10:18-22)!
The great high priest which we have, Who was made higher than the heavens, sends one of His Seraphims to bring a live coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s mouth. Isaiah had confessed to be a man of unclean lips. This implied that back of these lips was a heart which needed to be purified by the Holy Spirit, Who sanctifies both the inward and the outward man. Here stands Isaiah in all his undoneness. And he is healed with the healing of the wings of Adonai, his Savior-God. What all the Old Testament sacrifices of every age could not achieve was miraculously realized. His iniquity was forgiven and his sins were blotted out. They are cast in the sea of God’s everlasting forgetfulness!
O blessed forgiveness!
All Isaiah’s sorrows are turned into joy, and his fears am removed. Now he can stand in the very presence of a glory which became his salvation!
Now he can serve his God in a pure conscience. When he speaks of forgiveness and the power of the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, he knows whereof he speaks. He has tasted that the LORD is good and full of kind compassion. He can “go home justified.” No power in earth or heaven can bring any charge against him. Now he can be truly obedient.
What an evidence of new obedience, of one who has the law written in his heart. Now he can say to all the wicked to whom he will need to preach: Who of you condemns me? There is one who judges me, even the Lord of glory in heaven, dwelling in the holy of holies as the high priest which becomes Him!
Isaiah does not yet know the full implication, the length and breadth, the height and depth, of the ministry which he must fulfill in Israel. He will be told shortly. He is now dedicated to the ministry, and he will be God’s faithful kerugg, His authorized minister. For he is as prophet, whose mouth has been sanctified to preach, come what may! He is in safe hands, in God’s hands!