It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:1-8 NLT)
We learn from Isaiah that seeing the “Holy, holy, holy” LORD is perilous. “It’s all over! I am doomed…” When you look up the Hebrew word for Isaiah’s condition, you find the following definition: to cease, cut off, destroy, perish and undone. Yeah, that sounds pretty perilous, if not, in fact, lethal. And this was just a vision. Here’s what the LORD said to Moses, and that may have been what Isaiah was thinking:
And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:17-20 ESV)
Isaiah knew he had no justification to stand before the Lord: “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.” He was a sinner, and he lived with a bunch of sinners. I wonder if the apostle Paul was thinking of this passage when he wrote: Do not be deceived: “Bad Company ruins good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33 ESV)
I suppose Isaiah could’ve fled, but how do you flee a vision? Yet he admitted his condition, and he had seen the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. After his confession, a seraphim — which I’m sure was a scary enough creature — took a burning coal from the altar and touched his lips. The result? “Your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” Then comes a call followed by Isaiah’s act of obedience.
What could have been perilous became a purpose, and resulted in a ministry that touches lives still today. Have you ever walked away from, or maybe even fled from, a decision or situation that the LORD wanted you to face? Wanted you to endure? That particular call may be lost, but like Isaiah, you can have your guilt removed and your sins forgiven. And then in these uncertain and perhaps perilous times, you too will be obedient, answer His call and stand for Christ. I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 NLT)