In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1)
Encounters with God differ for everyone. Some engage Him in prayer, some through the Scriptures, while others do so through praises and singing. Revelations and visions were rare occurrences. God appeared unexpectedly to certain people to give them a special message for those whom He sought out. Most of the time, these revelations and vision were about God’s redemption, that is, saving people from their troubles or delivering them from their enemies or destructive circumstances.
God engaged Isaiah in such an occasion. One day, he entered God’s temple to worship the LORD. Suddenly, the LORD appeared to him. Isaiah saw the LORD sitting on His throne above him in a robe that filled the entire temple. He also saw certain heavenly creatures called seraphim, crying out to another,
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (6:3)
Just as God’s glory filled the temple, these creatures proclaimed that this same glory filled the entire earth. The power of this vision and the voice crying out caused the temple to shake. Stunned as he was, Isaiah could do nothing but cry out,
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 my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” (6:5).
One of he seraphim comes to Isaiah and touched his lips with a piece of coal, and pronounced him clean.
Immediately after the seraphim did this, the LORD Himself asked,
Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (6:8)
“Here am I! Send me” (6:8).
The LORD then gave Isaiah a commission and with it a message to give to the Jewish people,
“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed” (6:9-10)
Isaiah and the LORD continued in their conversation.
Many strange things exist in this incident between Isaiah and the LORD. Additionally, the message the LORD gave to Isaiah is highly enigmatic. Without delving deep into the passage, we can make a number of observations about Isaiah’s encounter with God. First, God is the LORD (Yahweh), the God of all and everyone. He is the sovereign and only God in all existence. He recognizes those who do not accept His position and pronouncements of Himself and His declarations. Second, He does not leave rebellious people without witness and revelation of Himself. During Isaiah’s time as well as during the eras of the other prophets, He revealed Himself to Israel and others through His declared word. Third, God’s word has immense power. When He speaks, His word can shake the entire earth and the hearts of individuals. We learn of such power elsewhere in the New Testament letter of Hebrews where the author declares,
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
This power engaged Isaiah’s heart to the point that he recognized his own sinful state before a holy God. Here he was in the temple of God preparing to worship God. Yet he recognized that his standing in the presence of the holy God who speaks holy words yielded a confession of his own destitute position. He declared himself “unclean” and one who lived among a rebellious people. He saw himself not in the position to be before this God.
Fourth, God’s word changes hearts. After Isaiah heard the words of the seraphim, he immediately confessed his sinful predicament and the predicament of his fellow countrymen.
Fifth, God’s word not only changes hearts, but it also motivates one to do God’s will. After the seraph touched Isaiah’s lips with a piece of burning coal, the LORD spoke to him in the form of a question. The LORD basically asked Isaiah who will accomplish His mission. Isaiah did not allow a moment to pass without a swift reply, “Me! I will!” God’s word so changed Isaiah that it redirected his focus to others.
The message the LORD gave to Isaiah seems rather strange, because it was a negative one. Close their ears and understanding so they will not turn to Him. Why did the LORD want Isaiah to give Israel a negative message so they reject Him? God had His purpose,
But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump” (Isaiah 6:13).
The LORD speaks about a “holy seed.” The word the LORD gave to Israel would come to a people who resists His will until the time of the “holy seed.” This “holy seed” is the promised Messiah who will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Much like the message Isaiah received from the LORD, the message of Messiah will also turn people away. However, like God’s word to Isaiah, its power will turn the hearts of people everywhere to Him, causing them to confess their sins and to seek His redemption. Isaiah is an example of the power of God’s word. It not only saves but it motivates toward a mission. This passage gives great encouragement for every Christian in every nation that God’s word will accomplish His purpose in and through those He saves so that the whole earth will eventually realize the glory of God and become His temple in which all will do His will.