I’ve been thinking about Isaiah lately and his encounter with God in chapter 6. More specifically I’ve been trying to see this chapter as he saw it… as if I were him.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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!”
– Isaiah 6:1-5 (ESV)
With a bit of imagination, here’s my take on Isaiah’s experience…
I had been a prophet for some time. The Lord chose me to warn His people. He had invested much time and energy into their wellbeing and looked to receive some benefit from them, but after many hundreds of years… nothing! (Isaiah 5)
God was so angry with them! Yes, He loved them like no other, and pleaded with them to return to Him, but they continually did the things that grieved Him. They were incorrigible rebels. He had repeatedly warned them they were going to suffer greatly for continuing on in this way. Indeed they were suffering now, yet they wouldn’t repent! Why couldn’t they see it? I had warned them myself, but they chose to ignore me. How could they be so stupid?!?
How could I be so stupid?
It was when God took me to His very throne room that my eyes were opened.
The place was beyond anything I could have imagined. All I could think of was this overwhelming sense of holiness pressing in on me on all sides! The holy angels were surrounding the holy throne upon which the Holy One Himself sat! The air reverberated continually with the sound of one word being repeated over and over again…
“Holy!” “Holy” “Holy!” “Holy” “Holy!” “Holy” …
And one thought kept going through my mind: What was I doing there?
I felt totally out of place. I realized I didn’t belong there. The things I had said to my people, and the way I had said it… lies… slander… self-righteous speech… oh, why couldn’t I see it before?
To think: all the time I was pronouncing woes upon my people, I was really pronouncing them on myself, for I now realized I was no different than they were.
I felt totally out of place… no, make that embarrassed! Mortified! I felt my unclean presence was polluting the very throne room of God! It was only a matter of time before…
“Woe is me!” … My life was over! I was doomed!
But then one of the angels that had shouted “Holy”, whose voice had shaken the very foundations of God’s throne room, came over to me. I expected him to take one look at me, and with a look of disgust end my miserable existence. But instead he took a coal from the altar, touched my sinful tongue with it, and said “See? This has touched your lips. Your guilt has been removed and your sin atoned for.”
Mercy! There are no words that can express the feelings, the sense of relief, the peace that came over me right then. I suddenly felt like I belonged there!
I now saw this holy God of ours as loving and merciful beyond measure. He is a God of perfect righteousness and justice, but He would rather show grace and mercy. He poured mercy on me! I am SO grateful!
This was too good to keep to myself. My people, my family, needed to experience this same forgiveness! They must know that destruction is not certain… there is hope! They could be forgiven too!
When God asked for a volunteer to go back to His people to act as His representative, I immediately blurted out “Here I am! Send me!” My people must know the holiness and the mercy of God! They will listen to me now! They’ve got to listen!
But imagine my horror when God gave the message to give to them…
“Go, and say to 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 blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
What? Was I to be the only one to whom mercy was shown? What about my friends? What about my wife and children? Were they doomed to wander about in darkness for the rest of their lives?
In tears, I asked, “How long, Lord?”
And He said “Until the cities be wasted and abandoned, and the land become completely desolated…”
To me this chapter has such extreme swings between highs and lows. And it seems to end on a depressingly low note: God hardens the hearts of those who have been resisting Him. But as I continue reading, I see that hope is not lost. By the end of the book, I see the final answer to Isaiah’s “How long?”. The time of blindness and deafness will come to an end. God will show mercy on a remnant of His people – He has not abandoned them. He will open their eyes and ears. He will restore them. He will bless them. In the meantime, He allows them to hit their bottom.
I see some parallels when it comes to praying for lost friends and relatives (especially my younger step-son). There is the continual pleading with them and with God for their salvation, but they continue to go their own way… and suffer the consequences for it. With no results in sight (for the most part), the question “How long, Lord?” arises. And I sometimes think God says “Let them stay deaf and blind until their lives are totally wasted… until they have nobody to turn to… until they hit their bottom.”
And yet there is hope. God still shows His grace and mercy, sometimes before hitting the bottom, and sometimes after. I know… I have seen it. That is why I do not give up.
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