“… my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
It was 29 April 1993 that Buckingham Palace was first opened to the public. One American tourist came out disappointed as he had expected for his £8 to see her Majesty! Isaiah had no such disappointment on the day he saw the splendour and majesty of God the King in His temple. It was a life changing encounter that transformed his life and ministry. It had a profound effect on his view of himself, others around him, God, the atoning sacrifice and his own call to serve. We always need a clear revelation of the God we worship, serve and share with others.
The timing of the event was crucial as it sets the context of time and place reminding us that God breaks into real history to speak into actual life situations. The earthly king Uzziah had died after a long, prosperous reign of 42 years. But the disobedience of his final act recorded in 2 Chronicles 26 was due to him becoming powerful and “…his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.” He took the place and ministry that only the priests were appointed to take. So the place where Isaiah would be reminded of an earthly, mortal, king failing in his sinfulness was the place where he now sees the Immortal King that always occupies the highest throne of glory.
The high, exalted throne of God is surrounded by the heavenly host “calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Such a view of God’s transcendent glory creates in Isaiah a sense of his sinful uncleanness. This is expressed by his cry of “Woe.” Six times in Chapter 5 he has proclaimed his prophetic “Woe” on the sins and disobedience of others in the nation. Now comes the recognition of his own personal sinfulness. Such conviction is necessary as we see our true nature before a Holy God. He also sees there is no hope or remedy around him as the people are sinful too. But then from the altar of sacrificial offering comes a hot coal to touch his lips. Why his lips? Perhaps he is convicted that what comes over his lips is so different to the angelic lips who cry “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Or is it that the angel senses his eloquent strength of prophetic words will be expressed by his lips, it is there he needs the cleansing power of atoning sacrifice. Our best righteousness is unclean and needs to be cleansed and purified. The gateway of my mouth, my lips need the purging sterilising remedy to remove my guilt and atone for my sin. What a great gospel that says Christ deals with the foulest sin of my nature and forgives me all my sin.
Now Isaiah can hear the commission to “…go for us.” Who will go and tell of the Holy God, the Lord Almighty? Who will preach and testify to the power of the atoning sacrifice? God sends those who know personally the touch of the power of His cleansing grace. Isaiah is willing to be sent. His obedience contrasts with the disobedience of Uzziah. His willingness to go even with a challenging message to the remnant is at the heart of God’s sending purpose. Are we as willing to tell and share the news that God has given us? “Here I am, send me Lord.”
John’s gospel tells us that Isaiah “saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (8:41). The ultimate and fullest expression of God’s glory is seen in Jesus and if we believe the gospel we have glimpsed that glory and hopefully desire to see more and more. As the kings of earth come and go and all their splendour fades let’s keep looking at the “High King of Heaven” on his throne and purpose to serve him all our days.
Meirion Thomas, Malpas Road