Have you met this God? - Applying the Glory of God
Isaiah 6 is one of my favorite chapters in Scripture. This passage was the one from which I preached my first and last sermons at Rock Hill BaptistChurch. It is one of the clearest places where we see God in His glory, in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His sovereignty.
This passage paints a picture of God that has had such a profound effect on me as a pastor, as man, as a sinner saved by grace. His Holiness devastates me, His righteousness convicts me, His sacrifice has redeemed me, His grace has saved me, His glory motivates me, His majesty subjects me, His sovereignty encourages me, His kingship bends my knee. I have met this God, though not face to face as Isaiah or Moses, but clearly in His Word- and I am undone, I am wrecked, and I redeemed by Him. I have just one question for you: Have you met this God?
For those who haven’t met Him, my hope is to introduce Him to you- For those of you who think you know Him, but are just playing at religion, my prayer is that you be convicted - For those of you who truly know Him, my desire is for you to be encouraged in who He is. And all of this not by some persuasive speech, but by the glory of God, in the reality of who He is.
Isaiah 6:1 says, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” Uzziah was a good king, until he thumbed his nose at God’s holiness. 2 Chronicles 26 tells of king Uzziah becoming arrogant and proud. He enters into the temple to burn incense, something only a priest, someone who had been cleansed and set apart, sanctified was allowed to do- And for this arrogance God whacks him. God takes him out because he flouted his unholiness before a holy God.
This is why I say God’s holiness devastates me- The picture of God is one of infinite holiness. Uzziah walks into the temple to do something that he was forbidden to do. He wanted to add to his kingship something the pagan kings told their people they had- divinity. And here is a reality about God that separates Him from the false Gods. Our God is glorious and He does not share His glory with those who seek to take it from Him. God is sovereign in everything, and we are nothing before Him- though He regards us as of worth to Him, even desiring to tabernacle with them (Ephesians 2:22).
He goes on to say, “and the train of his robe filled the temple.” The robe was a sign of majesty and royalty. Near Eastern kings wore robes that symbolized their dominion and majesty. The larger the train, the more the glory, the more majesty, the more power they possessed.
This robe that Isaiah sees fills the entirety of the temple- It completely fills God’s throne room. The picture that Isaiah paints is one of awe, of reverence, but also of terror for those who might take Him too lightly. This is a picture of a God whose control over this world is absolute- He is the God whose Word controls the universe. The entirety of creation submits to God’s Word- Do you?
God sovereignty should strike us. Are you striving for human things? Are you depending on yourself for success? This is something God has convicted me of through this passage. We rise or fall not on our own strength, not on our own abilities, but on the decisions and declarations of sovereign God. If we are not careful, we can fall into the trap of Uzziah- to believe that we make our own destiny, that we are masters of our own fate, that we succeed or fail by our own strength.
That’s the cultural narrative today- It’s in all the movies, the music, the TV, the books that we love today- a hero changes his own fate by pulling himself up by the boot straps, by their own power, by their own strength. Whereas God says something completely different about the child of God. ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ (2Corinthians 12:9)
Isaiah 6:2 says, “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.” Here we start to see the picture of God’s devastating holiness. Here are creatures specifically made to give praise to God. They are sanctified, they are without sin as they are directly in the presence of God. They are not fallen like us, they are not rebels against a holy and perfect God, but faithful sinless servants. And even they cover their faces before the all-holy God. Even these superhuman creatures humble themselves and cover their feet because of the overwhelming holiness of God.
The picture of His holiness and glory gets even greater when he says, ‘And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”’ This along with Revelation 4:8 are unique places in Scripture. In Hebrew, if you repeat something it means it’s really important- if you repeat it three times, it is supremely important.
There are many attributes and characteristics of God- God is love, God is just, God is merciful, God is gracious. But the only attribute of God that is repeated three times in a row is holiness, meaning God’s holiness is beyond comprehension. The holiness of God is absolute moral purity!
This is why we are called to a life of holiness if we are in Christ Jesus- because God is Holy. Not to earn our place in Him, but because we are in Him and because God is holy. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
Folks, if you don’t have a desire to live lives of holiness, to turn from sin and to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, I must ask you, “Have you met this God?” This is the God whose glory is so overwhelming that it fills the earth. No king is equal, no false god is comparable, and there is no salvation from the wrath of this holy and perfect God apart from in Christ Jesus. Have you met this God?
Let me tell you how holy and glorious this God is- the entirety of throne room shakes. “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” Can you picture this? The praise of God in His holiness and majesty literally shaking the foundations of the place you are standing. Just reading about Isaiah’s experience in the throne room strikes wonder, reverence, terror, thanksgiving, and praise in the hearts of the believer.
It leads to examining yourself, to repenting of sins, to turning towards God in His holiness and striving to live lives pleasing and acceptable to Him – Have you met this God?
What does it mean that the house was filled with smoke? Throughout the Old Testament, smoke being seen in the temple or among God’s people represented God’s present with His people. Do you see this- God’s presence is visible, its clear. The Glory of God is present with His people. And what happens as a result of seeing this?
Isaiah responds by saying, ‘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 6:5 ESV) Isaiah cries out woes- He literally calls down curses on himself. He confesses His sins before God. You have to remember, Isaiah was probably one of the best his generation had to offer- and he is wretch before this God. He so convicted of his sins, burdened by the weight of God’s glory that he openly confesses his sin and recognizes that the consequences of his sinfulness will be his own destruction
He says I am undone or lost- literally it means “cut off.” Isaiah is publically recognizing that his sins have literally cut him off from this perfect God. And he mourns his sin. Do you mourn your sins? If you don’t, have you really met this God? Because you can’t meet this God, in all His holiness in His perfection and not mourn your sins.
There is a wonderful example of this in John’s Gospel with the woman at the well. Jesus engages a Samaritan woman, gives her what she needs to understand regarding Christ and living water. The woman responds, asking for this water- begging for it so that she can rid of herself of social and physical burden. But Jesus changes the subject and directly addresses her sin. He tells her to go get her husband, knowing that she isn’t married and that she is living in adultery.
The evangelism experts would say “Jesus, you’ve got it all wrong! You can’t point out her sin! That’s a downer! Why address sin when she’s already interested in what you have to say?” Because there is no salvation apart from repentance. There is no grace without understanding the reality of ones sins. You don’t realize your depravity, your sin, your helplessness, until you realize the holiness, the majesty, the glory of God!
Isaiah can’t be sent on mission, he can’t be in the presence of God until his sins are atoned for. ‘Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”’(Isaiah 6:6-7 ESV) This is the heart of this passage. God sends an angel to the alter, pulls an ember, and atones for Isaiah’s sin
Here’s what we need to see- Isaiah does nothing but confess his sins before a holy God. He is hopeless, he is helpless, he is utterly immersed in sin. Yet he repents and God takes away his sins. God does the hard work. Do you see what’s going on? God in His holiness is the center of this passage. God is clothed in glory, majesty, honor. Signs of His holiness surround Isaiah and he is crushed by the weight of this reality, repents, and is saved. Have you met this God? The God who just by the weight of who He is causes a man to repent, to rest in the truth of who He is; The God who causes a man’s life to be radically altered just by His glory.
In verse 8, he says ‘And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”’ Isaiah’s life is fundamentally altered by the atonement of God, by his glory and holiness. His Glory, His holiness, His, majesty, His graciousness, His love change him to the core. He is devastated by God’s glory, He is convicted by His righteousness, he is redeemed by his sacrifice, he is saved by God’s grace, he is motivated by God’s glory, he is subjected by God’s majesty, he is encouraged by God’s sovereignty. Isaiah is radically altered.
This holiness, this glory, this love, this grace radically alters him ways we can hardly imagine. Look at what happens in verse 9-13. “And he said, “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.”
Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Do you hear what God tells him? He is going to preach and they won’t hear. In fact, the more he preaches the more hardened they become. God will use him to enact judgment and he will see very little fruit in his ministry. Can you imagine this? God tells him your ministry will not be a success in human standards, in fact it will be in human measurements a failure. No megachurch pastorate, no book deals, no celebrity status- Isaiah will be hated for His Word. Yet he persists because of the glory of God, because of the holiness of God, because he has met this wonderful God.
Have you met this God? This God that motivates the martyrs to suffer well, to lay down their lives? This God whose holiness moves the saints to live lives pleasing and acceptable to Him? This God whose majesty motivates the persecuted to continue sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? This God whose perfection brings the sinner into repentance? This God who’s Glory compels the missionary to deny himself and run into the darkness with the glorious light of Christ and His Gospel? Have you met this God and has your life been changed by the truth of who His is?