Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Isaiah 6: 1-3

Isaiah’s Vision

1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death  
I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, 
with the train of His robe filling the temple.
2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  
And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

Just as we all do not have the same spiritual gifts, we all do not receive the same callings in life. Not everyone can be a prophet. [Praise God!] Even though Isaiah has begun to share the word from God in the first 5 chapters of his book, the prophet now unfolds for us in Chapter 6 how God called him to become a prophet with his receiving of a vision and his commissioning.

"In the year of King Uzziah's death...." King Uzziah reigned in Judah for 52 years, from 813 B.C. to 739 B.C. He was a God-honoring king, and "as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him." (II Chronicles 26: 5b) But, Uzziah did not always honor God, as was evident when his pride on the battlefield filled his heart so that he thought he was worthy enough to burn incense on the altar of incense in the temple (which was the duty of the priest). As he stood with an incense censor in his hand, challenging the priests, leprosy broke out upon him and never left.

"So Uzziah slept with his fathers, and they buried him with his fathers in the field of the grave which belonged to the kings, for they said, 'He is a leper.' And Jotham his son became king in his place."
--II Chronicles 26:23

Such was the political and spiritual environment of Judah when Isaiah is called in by God to minister. I do like Matthew Henry's perspective on the time:

"From the mortality of great and good men we should take occasion to look up with an eye of faith to the King eternal, immortal. King Uzziah died under a cloud, for he was shut up as a leper till the day of his death. As the lives of princes have their periods, so their glory is often eclipsed; but, as God is everliving, so his glory is everlasting."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah tells us about his vision from God, as verse 1 continues. My study Bible describes this experience as Isaiah having an "inner eye." This was not a dream, but some kind of unconscious-to-reality experience. In Revelation, John would experience something similar, in that a new reality was being revealed in real time. Isaiah begins to describe the heavenly realms, with the Lord on His throne and His garment filling the sanctuary of Heaven to completion.

"Seraphim stood above Him...." There are divisions in the hierarchy of angels, and the Seraphim were very close to God. This is a Hebrew word probably meaning "burning ones." (Reformation Study Bible) Isaiah describes them in verse 2 by noting their six wings and what they do. Like Moses facing the burning bush, these angels were not worthy to look upon the face of the Lord either, so two wings cover their face. Two wings over the feet may represent a position of humility and reverence. Finally, two for flying!

And the Seraphim were definitely not standing still in the presence of the Lord. Isaiah received a glimpse of the heavenly choir, with the Seraphim in worship saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts." [In case you were wondering about the inspiration for the words of that hymn, and many others!] This same song will be referenced in Revelation--the angels, once again, praising the Lord and His holiness. Some commentary suggests one 'Holy' for each person of the Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--though others say that the Seraphim focused on holiness in Christ deliberately, and with wonder and joy. How often do we contemplate the true holiness of God?

"Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,
Open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see You. I want to see You.
To see You high and lifted up,
Shining in the light of Your glory.
Pour out Your power and love,
As we sing holy, holy, holy."
--Open the Eyes of My Heart, lyrics by Paul Baloche

"The whole earth is full of His glory"--More literally translated, this part of verse 3 says "the fullness of the whole earth is His glory." Back in the days of the wilderness, when the Glory would come before the Israelites in fire and cloud, it would be difficult to imagine glory filling the whole earth. Heaven is not earth, and earth--while a dear creation to God and our means of witnessing His holiness daily--is not Heaven!

What an incredible way to start a ministry! For Isaiah, the earthly picture is so depressing, as the longtime ruler fails to obey God and succumbs to leprosy. Isaiah is called in to offer up chapters of future judgment and a sentence to exile. Yet before this difficult task at hand, God gives him a view of eternity. Can there be anything more inspiring? Anything more encouraging? Fortifying? When we wonder how Isaiah can deliver the word as he does, lasting over the reigns of four kings, maybe we need only look back to this moment.

Isaiah's response to glimpsing Heaven.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 6: 4-7

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).