Isaiah’s Vision and its Effects

The Trihagia (cont’d). Qadosh! Qadosh! Qadosh! Holy! Holy! Holy! What is it which qualifies and motivates a man for the work of preaching the gospel and his going forth to that task as one divinely called and sent unto it? Nothing less than a sight of the holiness and glory of Jehovah! This is about the strongest impulse to impel a man to the highest calling. It is to see and know by faith that the Lord, the God of the universe, is not dethroned and displaced by would-be autonomous man, but He sits on the throne of His everlasting kingdom, power, and glory! Some do not know this; others deny it and blaspheme Him, but God is still God over all blessed forever. That the true preacher of the gospel feels to the depths of his soul. Isaiah, as all the prophets, did too.

Do you see the holy Jehovah God in all that glory? If you do, it not only humbles you to the dust, but it also fires you with a holy indignation against those who try to destroy the religion of Jehovah with idolatry and image-worship! It fills with a consecrated courage to will and to do anything to advance the cause of Christ’s gospel. It assures us, with the utmost confidence, of the ultimate success of that cause. 

“Above it (or, rather, from above with respect to Him) stood the seraphim.” They stood, stationary, above the great King, in mid-air, circularly, like a rainbow round about the throne, or like a body-guard surrounding the throne of majesty. There they waited, on the wing, adoring while they waited, for any directive from the King, instantly ready to execute His will. Hear them as they stand to chorus before the King their perpetual life song: Holy! Holy! Holy! We cannot conceive of God without His holiness. It would be worse to deny His purity of nature than to deny His very being. For the latter would make Him no god, but the former a deformed and detestable God. A devotee of a filthy idol is certainly worse than a complete atheist. This attribute is exalted above all others. What other attribute is trebled in its praise as this one? We do not read of the cry, Good! good! good is the Lord of hosts! nor love! love! love! No, God fills the mouths of angels forever with holy! holy! holy! When God swears an oath, He swears by His holiness. 

This is the most beautiful attribute of God, the beauty of holiness, the very image of God (Eph. 4:24), which makes Him lovely in Himself and to all who love Him. According to seraphic theology God’s holiness is His glory (Isaiah 6:3), the glory and sum of all His attributes, the glory of His Godhead. All God’s attributes are shot through with the pure sunlight of His holiness. His wisdom, therefore, is a holy wisdom, His power a holy power, His justice a holy justice, His name, which also sums up all His attributes, a holy name. His inscrutable nature has no darkness at all, but is pure inapproachable light.

There are signs of anger in God’s holiness, for anger is the reaction of His holiness against sin. For this reason, Isaiah is sent on a mission which includes both salvation (election) and judgment (reprobation). According to the latter, his mission will have the effect of making their “heart fat, their ears heavy and their eyes shut” (Isaiah 6:9-12). The seraphim, fiery spirits, applaud Him for His holiness and execute His wrath. When He consumes men in His fury, He does not dim His purity, but manifests it in blazing splendor. “Our God is a consuming fire.” God is holy by nature, and is therefore holy not merely because He will not be unholy, but because He cannot be unholy; it is against His nature to be so. As the third heaven is the heaven of heavens, so God, the Most High God is the Holy of holies. 

The Vision of the Shekinah. “Then the foundations of the thresholds trembled from the voice of the one crying, and the house was filled with smoke” (v. 4). The word shekinah is not of Old Testament, but of Talmudic origin, which may seem to be double reason, and so reason enough, for rejecting it. But we do legitimately use terms not found in the scripture (e.g., Trinity), yet it is not only natural but necessary to ask, What good thing can come out of the Talmud? It’s like asking, Can any good thing come out of the cess-pool? But the word comes from the biblical rootshachen, so that shekinah means dwelling orpresence of Jehovah. Hence, it is in itself, after all, a very good word. 

The first Shekinah, then, was at the tree of life in the garden of Eden, and in the cherubim (of Gen. 3:24) who are guardians of the divine presence. God’s presence was between the cherubim. Cain (Genesis 4:16) went out from the Shekinah. Later the Shekinah appeared in the cloud, which, in turn, resided between the cherubim on the mercy-seat of the ark of the covenant. In the New Testament, the Shekinah appears in human flesh (John 1:14). The ultimate revelation of the Shekinah we have in Rev. 7:15, where He that sits on the throne of God shall tabernacle among men—the tabernacle of God shall be with men. (Revelation 21:3). 

The cloud of smoke is from the fire on the altar (mercy-seat) of God (Lev. 16:12-13). In this connection, we should be very careful that we do not use such an expression as “holy smoke!” For that is both profane swearing and taking God’s thrice holy name in vain. The smoke on the mount Sinai (Ex. 19:18) was a holy smoke, and represented the presence of God. Such is also the case in Isaiah 4:5, “the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion . . . a cloud and smoke by day. . .” In the kingdom of glory, the whole of Zion will be the Holy of holies. There God shall tabernacle with men in His triune presence. Therefore, the use of the expletive just referred to, or the like, is an insolent affront on the presence and person of God. So also is the common “holy cow!”, which is a perverse, profane reference to the golden calf of Aaron’s which wasintended as a representation of God. So with “holy Toledo!”—a Romish expression in reference to a capital city in a Spanish province which was a walledcathedral city and so, superstitiously, regarded as “holy.” Let not our language imply that we believe grace is in places and things. These expletives are sins against the first and second commandments, sins which mock the evils of idolatry and image worship. 

But notice that the smoke does not conceal the Lord as did the smoke on the mount and the cloud on the mercy-seat. For Isaiah clearly saw the Lord (w. 1, 5). Also the foundations shook as the result of the cry of the seraphim, and smoke filling the house issued forth, impressing the prophet with the fact that he is in the presence of God, and that when He speaks as He does, even through His angelic servants, we may well tremble. 

The Effect of the Vision (5-13). His Conviction and Confession: “and I said, ‘Alas for me! (why?) because I am dumbstruck (and so every mouth must be stopped! Why?), because a man unclean of lips I (am), and in the midst of a people of unclean lips I dwell, (and finally and most terribly of all) because the King, Jehovah Tsebhaoth my eyes have seen” (v. 5). The LXX translation of this verse is interesting. “And I said, O wretch that I am! for I am pierced through (the Heb. root means perished, lostDan. 10:15, 17); because, being a man, and having unclean lips, I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; and I have seen with mine eyes the Lord of hosts!” 

At first overwhelmed by the sight of the most holy God, and the holy, heavenly beings at the command of His throne, he, but “a man” is now overwhelmed by the consciousness of his own unworthiness, unholiness, and the unholiness of his people and nation. He still senses and teaches the same awful reality toward the end of his ministry. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). Any mere creature, coming into contact with the infinite divine Being, will shrink before Him with a sense of the intolerable weight of absolute majesty. Isaiah felt this in the highest degree, for since Moses’ day, he saw the Lord clearer than man ever did. Also he saw he owed God the perfect worship and praise the seraphim give him, but being totally, morally, and spiritually impotent and depraved, he could not do this. Unclean lips imply an unclean heart which must be renewed that the defiled lips may be purified. For “the lips of all men are impure and polluted till the Lord has cleansed them” (Calvin). He will then know that in himself he is lost and undone, not fit to preach His gospel or utter His praise. For mere human talk is uncircumcised and unclean. Only the pure preaching of the gospel comes from God. 

Woe! He had denounced woe on others; now he subjects himself to the same condemnation. There is no woe to the righteous; all woe is to the wicked (Isaiah 3:10-11). Why then does Isaiah not only imply but clearly state that he and his people are wicked? Why does he not say, as David, “I am holy” (Ps. 86:2)? (David does not say this in naive pride, but as Isaiah himself would, on the basis of Isaiah 1:18. Also Isaiah certainly thinks of himself as belonging to “the holy seed,” Isaiah 6:13). But a holy, righteous man knows he has a deceitful heart (Jer. 17:9); knows his own corruptions, and the sinful flesh which always clings to him. To say, “I am lost,” is to say what a saved man cannot be. What Isaiah is saying is that he is lost in Adam. All men are perished in Adam. But that he is saved by Christ is clear from Isaiah 26:3, 9

“The King . . . I have seen!” He saw the indisputable, incontestable sovereignty of God! He saw the Lord, Adonai (v. 1), Christ the King, King of kings, Lord of lords, King of saints, King of nations, Ruler of the princes of the earth, Jehovah Tsebhaoth, King of the armies in heaven and of the inhabitants of the earth. By faith, a blessed sight to see a delightful, saving and glorious sight; an awesome, terrible, temporarily dreadful sight, wherein the beholder is terribly conscious of his own sinfulness and vileness. See what he calls sin here: uncleanness. For sin is any transgression of or lack of conformity to the nature of God. Lack of conformity to God’s infinite purity is filthiness. Isaiah taught the total, moral and spiritual corruption and pollution of the whole race of men, a race infected with a hereditary and universally epidemical disease. In personal grief he laments that he is of that race and shares its incurable malady! Earth’s only hope is in the great Physician and King himself! See Rev. 3:18-21.