Isaiah: Glimpses of God
What is the most important thing in life? How about in your life? Are your life choices consistent with your answer? Sadly, we often allow the “urgent things” of daily life to take center stage in our consciousness, crowding out the important.
A corollary thought about important things is this: sometimes we become so focused on serving God that our relationship with God takes second place. We may not realize this has happened until one day we are aware of a loss of spiritual power or of a “distance” in our relationship. What then?
Paul’s stated goal was “That I may know Him…” (Philippians 3:10). Jeremiah said, “Let him who boasts boast about this, that he understands and knows me” (Jeremiah 9:24). Hosea said, “Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know Him!” (Hosea 6:3, NLT). Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). In Scripture, “knowing” goes beyond the intellectual to relational knowing. Isaiah “knew” God—he had been His servant for years. But one day he had a vision which gave him a deeper, truer knowledge of God than he had had before, and it changed his life and ministry. I want that. Do you?
I. DAY ONE: Isaiah’s Vision (Isaiah 6:1-4)
A. The setting:
- King Uzziah had been a good king as long as he sought the Lord, but when he became powerful he also became proud; this led to his downfall (II Chronicles 26:3-6, 16; Proverbs 16:18). His son, Jotham ruled as co-regent at this time.
- The year King Uzziah died brought much uncertainty regarding the future of Judah. With Jotham being a weaker king than his father, Assyria was increasingly becoming a threat. Judah was leaving a period of prosperity and was in decline spiritually and politically. Isaiah needed to know that while King Uzziah was leaving his throne on earth, God was still on His throne in heaven! Seeing the Lord was the most important event of Isaiah’s life.
- To personalize this, does remembering that God is still on the throne help you re-orient your thinking when the situation around you is out of your control?
B. The Lord:
- What does Exodus 33:18-20 and I Timothy 6:16 say about our ability to see God? Who does John 12:41 suggest that Isaiah saw? What does this prove about Jesus?
- God was pictured relationally as Father in Isaiah 1. What does this vision of God being seated on a throne indicate about His position, power, and authority?
- What do the words, “high and exalted” imply about God’s transcendence? Does any other authority compare? The presence of the seraphs implies that God’s sovereign rule extends over both the seen and unseen worlds. One senses that the greatness of the glory of God was so overwhelming that words could not describe it!
- In Isaiah’s vision, God was so great and majestic that the mere train or hem of His robe filled the temple! If the temple could not contain God, do you or I have the ability to contain or control the almighty, majestic God? What does I Kings 8:27 say about this?
- Think back to your first encounter with the living God. God’s holiness and righteous authority were frighteningly awesome to me. What aspect of His character stood out to you?
C. The seraphs:
- This is the only place in Scripture where seraphs are mentioned. The name comes from a word meaning “to burn” and may reflect their burning zeal in love for God, for His glory, and for their service to Him. The six wings are interesting. Perhaps the two covering their faces represent reverence, the two covering their feet stand for humility, and the two with which they were flying represent obedient service. How might you apply this symbolism to yourself?
- Pause and reflect on the message of the seraphs. What does it mean to you?
- Then ponder and join with the angels in Revelation 7:11-12 as they worship.
- Not only could the temple not contain the glory of God, even the whole earth was not enough! (Isaiah 6:3; Numbers 14:21)
- Some have suggested a reference to the Trinity in the three-fold “Holy, holy, holy”; however, it is more likely that this was an attempt to emphasize how holy God is—holy times holy times holy—supremely holy or having complete, absolute holiness in Himself!
- It is interesting that events in heaven (v. 3) affect the earth (v. 4). How often are we oblivious to what God is doing in the world? Why don’t you and I instead begin a habit of watching for, reflecting on, and cooperating with what He is doing around us?
- In the Old Testament the word “holy” in all its forms is used more than eight hundred times in describing God.1 We are wise to ponder its meaning and implications. Using your dictionary, define holiness, including several different aspects of it, and record your definition in your journal. Note that holiness is inherent to God’s nature.
- God is so holy that all of creation continually praises Him—except humans. Do you?
II. DAY TWO: Isaiah’s Response (Isaiah 6:5-7)
A. Isaiah’s unclean lips:
- Because we live in a sinful world, and because we have a sin nature, we have become desensitized to much that God would call sin. Much like a dingy white towel that looks clean until compared to a new one under bright light, so it is until the light of God’s holiness shines on us—we don’t recognize our true, dingy state. Unholy sinful man can’t survive in the presence of holy God. And unholy man can’t fully experience the loving kindness of the Lord until cleansed and sanctified.
- In Chapter five, Isaiah pronounced woes on Judah (who turned away). Now Isaiah pronounced a woe on himself (who bowed in repentance).
- What might unclean lips represent from Luke 6:45? Neither a person nor a nation can speak for God, unless they are first forgiven and cleansed.
- The people of Judah thought they were just fine the way they were, even in the face of Isaiah’s prophecies. We like to think we are “nice” people, too. We excuse our sins calling them “mistakes” or “just human nature” and assume God will overlook them, too. We reason that God is obligated to forgive us if we just fulfill the required ritual. If we are honest, you and I must say with Isaiah, “Woe is me!” Would you take a moment right now and ask God to show you anything He is not pleased with? Let’s be like Isaiah, not like Judah. God will be exalted in His holiness, whether it means bringing forgiveness and cleansing or punishment to you and me.
B. God’s atonement:
- Someone who has truly seen God and then has truly seen themselves recognizes that they are helpless and hopeless. No amount of good works or religious rituals is enough. Like Isaiah, the only rational response is to bow before God, repent, and trust in His mercy. When did that happen in your life?
- God, however, didn’t give Isaiah this vision to destroy him but to save him! God initiated and provided the solution for Isaiah’s uncleanness or sin. Describe the two results of submitting to the live coal.
- God’s grace, although free to the repentant person, is not cheap. Read the following verses, then in your own words write a description of the atonement God provided for us: Isaiah 53:5-6; John 3:16; Romans 3:22-26; Romans 5:8; II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 9:14, 28; I Peter 2:24
- The burning touch of atonement may have been painful, but it brought forgiveness, healing and a renewed relationship with God.
III. DAY THREE: Isaiah’s Call (Isaiah 6:8)
A. The call:
- “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” What does the Lord’s question imply about the Godhead?
- Although it sounds like a random call, it was not given until Isaiah had been cleansed and was in a position to hear! The question also allowed Isaiah to volunteer.
- What does Isaiah 6:5 reveal about the concern of Isaiah for his people? What would he now realize they needed? How would his personal humility and experience of God’s grace make him a credible candidate?
B. The answer:
- “Here am I. Send me!” It seems Isaiah couldn’t keep silent! His answer (not “Here I am” but “Here am I”) reflects his humility—his focus is not on himself but on the one sending him.
- From the following verses, list others who had a personal encounter with God and how they responded to His personal call to them:
- Genesis 12:1-5
- I Samuel 3
- II Samuel 7
- Job 40:1-5; 42:1-6, 8
- Luke 5:8-11
- II Corinthians 5:14-15, 20
- Journal an encounter you have had with God and how you have responded to His call.
IV. DAYS FOUR and FIVE: Isaiah’s Commission (Isaiah 6:9-13)
A. The message (Isaiah 6:9-10):
- Verses 9-10 are puzzling, but they are so important that they are quoted six times in the New Testament. The truth is a two-edged sword, it both saves and destroys. How does Mark 4:9-12 explain these enigmatic verses2
- By contrast, notice in Isaiah 6:8 that it was when Isaiah confessed his sin and accepted the atonement God provided for him that he was then able to hear and understand the voice of the Lord.
- What additional explanation does II Corinthians 3:14-16 give?
- What appeal does Lamentations 3:39-40 make?
- Is God fair? Does God want to destroy His people (Ezekiel 18:23)? God doesn’t want to make sinners blind, deaf, and hard-hearted, but the more God’s truth is resisted, the less one is able to receive it. For example, look up the following verses to see how many times Pharaoh hardened his heart before God hardened it. Exodus 5:1; 7:13; 7:22-23; 8:15; 8:19; 8:32; 9:7; 9:12; 9:34; 10:1; 10:27; 14:4-5. What warning do you take from this?
- Can you give a personal example where you have seen a progressive hardening of the heart?
- Was Isaiah accountable for Judah’s response to his message? If not, for what was he accountable to God?
- For what are you and I accountable to God?
B. The duration (Isaiah 6:11-13):
- Isaiah was willing to serve this way in spite of the lack of response, but for how long? Life-long! That kind of job description does not have broad appeal. Although you and I may retire from the “work” we are doing, there is no retirement from our service to the King. If we have truly had an encounter with God like Isaiah did, we begin to have a passion for others, and a desire to do what it takes for them to have a similar encounter. Read about Paul’s example in II Corinthians 11:23-12:10. With which of his experiences can you relate? Can you echo his testimony of II Corinthians 12:9-10?
- Isaiah 6:11-12 describes catastrophic judgment which came under the Babylonians.
- God always preserves a remnant. Although it would appear that Isaiah was a failure, yet there would be some who would believe and would safeguard his prophecies until a time when Judah was ready to hear. We can read this book today because God preserved a remnant.
- God would not revoke the judgment Isaiah previously announced, but He also provided hope. What encouragement does verse 13 provide?
- What was this stump? Some verses suggest it could be the Messiah (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 4:2), but others indicate a more likely interpretation that it may have been the believing remnant from which the Messiah would ultimately come (Isaiah 11:1). What do you think?
- It was when Isaiah looked “up” that he saw God for who He really is. This knowledge of God caused him to look “in” and see himself the way God saw him. Rather than stay there, he called on God’s mercy and was forgiven and cleansed. Now Isaiah was able to look “out” and see the people around him the way God saw them, and to care about them like God did. How does your experience with God compare to Isaiah’s?
- When our values become distorted, we need to get back to having the first things be first in our own lives. Do you and I have an accurate view of the majesty and holiness of God—or are we too casual with Him? Do you need to come back to God for cleansing in sincere repentance? Will you?
- Isaiah was given hope for the future. Isaiah needed a long-range perspective on his call or else he would feel that he was a failure in his service. Think back to your vision and call. Is that vision and call still in the forefront as you persevere in your service?
- In your journal, start a page about God’s holiness. Beginning with this chapter, as you find verses and descriptions of this attribute of God, record them on this page. If you can state them in your own words, they will be more meaningful to you and easier to explain.
1. John N. Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 126.
2. Some think that this parabolic way of speaking was designed to draw seekers to investigate the truth as in Mark 4:10.
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