Isaiah 6 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
I.A.3.The Calling of Isaiah: The prophet cleansed and commissioned by God.
Although in the preceding chapters, we hear Isaiah speaking as a prophet of the Lord, this chapter describes Isaiah's call to ministry. Chronologically, this chapter comes before the others. In Isa 1:1, we are told that Isaiah's ministry began in the days of Uzziah {also called Azariah}. Here, we understand that his prophetic visions began during the year in which king Uzziah died (2Kin 15:7).
1. In the year that king Uzziah died
I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne,
high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
king Uzziah - cp. 2Kin 15:1-7 (where Uzziah is 'Azariah'); 2Chr 26:1-23 (where Azariah is a priest)
Uzziah had been a good king (except for his intrusion into the priestly office, near the end of his reign). He had reigned for 52 years, during which Israel's enemies (including the Philistines, the Arabians and the Ammonites) were brought into subjection under him. Uzziah's kingdom enjoyed a sound economy and a strong, well equipped military. He is regarded as the last great king in Jerusalem. With his passing, the glory of the nation also faded away rapidly. As depicted in the first five chapters of his book, Isaiah saw what was coming: ungodly, weak and wavering rulers... compromise and decline in every area... a nation ripe for judgment (eg., Isa 5:7,24,25)... judgment that had been delayed while the good king lived.
I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne...-
Confronted with the nation's fearful future under ungodly rulers, Isaiah had sought the Lord in His Temple. There he received this vision, and understood that the Lord was still on His throne (cp. Psa 11:3,4). Although the future looked dim, there was no cause for despair, for the true King remained in control.
high and lifted up... - This King is one whose glory never fades.
He is high {ie., exalted above all others} and lifted up {ie., even more exalted}. All who seek to exalt themselves will fall before Him (cp. Isa 2:12-14; 45:22,23).
his train {ie., skirt, hanging garment} filled the temple.- cp. Psa 93:1; 104:1
2 Above it stood the seraphims:
each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face,
and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said,
Holy, holy, holy, [is] the LORD of hosts:
the whole earth [is] full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried,
and the house was filled with smoke.
above it {ie., the throne}...- Above His majesty, power and glory, the Lord is seen in His Holiness.
He is unique, incomparable, and distinct from all created beings. There is none like Him. Ex 15:11; 1Sam 2:2; Isa 40:25
the seraphims {lit., the burners, or, 'the burning ones'} -
These are the Living Creatures of Rev 4:6-8, whose purpose is to guard and proclaim the Holiness of the Lord. The seraphim seem to be identical to the 'cherubim' {meaning 'captive ones'} who are captivated by the Holiness of God. In the earthly Tabernacle, two golden cherubim guarded the Mercy Seat in the Holy of Holies (Ex 25:18). In Ezekiel ch.10, four cherubim convey the LORD's chariot and instantly do His bidding, relative to His judgment upon the unholiness of Jerusalem. Cherubim are first mentioned at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, where consuming fire prevents the entrance of sin or sinner into the presence of God (cp. Gen 3:22-24).
     Yet, some mistakenly think that God's love will grant universal access to all.
Holy, Holy, Holy...- The word 'holy' means 'set apart' or 'other'.
God is set apart from all others in every aspect of His person, purposes, power, righteousness, wisdom, worth, etc. His nature is completely 'other' than ours. There is no trace of deceit or defilement in Him. Being perfectly pure and separate from sinners, He is the righteous Judge (eg., Isa 1:4; 5:16).
     The 'thrice Holy' (v.3; Rev 4:8) speaks of the Trinity. The glory which Isaiah saw was that of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. cp. Joh 1:14; 12:41; Heb 7:26; also 1Tim 3:16; 1Pet 4:14
...the whole earth is full of His glory.-
'Glory' refers to honor, worth, or value. The word can be applied to men and all kinds of created things (eg., Mat 6:2; 1Cor 15:40,41).
     The glory of God is the visible manifestation of His holiness. That is: He makes Himself known, as the unique Being above all others (v.1; Isa 55:8-11), through the expression and accomplishment of His purposes [eg., in His creation (Psa 19:1; 97:6; Rev 4:11), in the incarnation of His Son (Joh 1:14,18), in the salvation of sinners (Eph 3:21; Rev 5:6-14), and in the dispersion, preservation and final restoration Israel (Isa 46:13)].
the posts of the door moved {shook}...- The Temple structure trembles in anticipation
that the Lord's holiness must judge and root out all corruption hiding behind the framework of religion. cp. Amos 9:1-8
the house was filled with smoke.- Thus, covering His glory from the gaze of unholy eyes
and excluding all but the truly Holy from His Presence. cp. Ex 40:34,35; 1Kin 8:10,11; Rev 15:8
5. Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone;
because I [am] a man of unclean lips,
and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips:
for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me,
having a live coal in his hand,
[which] he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7 And he laid [it] upon my mouth, and said,
Lo, this hath touched thy lips;
and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
Then said I, Woe is me!... for mine eyes have seen...-
Once exposed to the light of God's Holiness, Isaiah saw the depth of his own sinful condition.
Compare the similar experiences of Job (Job 42:5,6), Daniel (Dan 10:8), and John (Rev 1:17).
...because I am a man of unclean lips...- Isaiah's confession was not merely for foul language
which he or his neighbors may have uttered. Nor, was he simply expressing his inadequacy to proclaim God's Word. Isaiah suddenly realized that he was a spiritual leper, entirely unclean and unfit for God's presence (cp. Isa 1:5,6).
    His vision began with a reference to King Uzziah's death (v.1; see 2Chr 26:16-21). Although King Uzziah had done what was right in the sight of the Lord in most matters, he had "transgressed against the Lord his God" by offering incense at the altar of incense in the Holy Place, which was forbidden for all but priests, and only after they were properly cleansed. When confronted with his sin, Uzziah continued in his proud rebellion, and the LORD afflicted him with leprosy. As a leper he was excluded from the congregation and from the Temple for the remainder of his life. He died a leper, in a "several {ie., separate} house."
    This background explains the significance of "unclean lips" (see Lev 13:45,46).
...for I am undone {ie., cut off, destroyed}...-
Even the sinless Seraphim covered their faces and feet in the presence of God's holiness.
But Isaiah, utterly condemned by what he had seen, had no covering for his sinfulness.
He was dreadfully aware that all was lost and in a state of ruin, apart from the LORD's merciful intervention. cp. Rom 7:24,25
then flew one of the seraphims unto me...-
The needed deliverance was not long in coming, to the convicted and repentant sinner.
It flew to him, spanning the gulf between the Holy God and a man in hopeless impurity.
having a live coal... from off the altar...- Salvation was applied to his condition,
in the form of a glowing ember taken from the altar... the evidence that the fire of God's judgment upon sin, had been exercised upon a substitutionary sacrifice. At the altar, the blood of the Lamb had been poured out. Upon the altar, sin (in the body of the sin-offering) was consumed away. The picture is unmistakably of the blood of Christ which cleanses from all sin. 1Joh 1:5-9
thine iniquity {ie., perversity, depravity, guilt} is taken away {ie., removed}, and thy sin {guilt} purged {atoned, propitiated}.-
By means of this single coal, applied to his lips (the mark of his spiritual leprosy), all of Isaiah's sin was completely taken away. (Again, indicating that "unclean lips" must refer to his total condition.) Thus, demonstrating the complete effectiveness of this salvation. Joh 1:29; Isa 53:6; 1Pet 1:18-21; Heb 1:3; 10:12-14
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,
Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?
Then said I, Here [am] I; send me.
also I heard...- Until he was fully cleansed, Isaiah could not receive the call of the Lord.
whom shall 'I' send, and who will go for 'us'?- The call issues from the Triune God.
Here am I, send me.- Here are two marks of true conversion:
(1) submission to the Lord (Note that, in v.8, 'Lord' is HB='Adonai, Master. cp. Luk 6:46).
(2) desire to serve Him (cp. Acts 9:6).
Sadly, there are many who run unsent. They think themselves to be God's spokesmen, but He cannot bless them because they have not submitted to His cleansing (cp. Joh 13:8), and/or they have not submitted to His leading (eg., Jer 14:14).
9. And he said, Go, and tell this people,
Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart,
and convert
{ie., repent, turn back}, and be healed.
Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not...-
Isaiah was commissioned to proclaim God's Word. But he was warned that his people would not receive it aright. Israel had been blessed with special revelation from God. Yet, they remained in unbelief and rebellion (Rom 3:1-4). From the beginning of Isaiah's prophetic ministry, he was to announce the judicial blindness of Israel. This blindness was a judgment from God upon the nation, for their obstinate refusal to hear His Word. (Observe the repetition of this judgment in Mat 13:14,15; Mark 4:12; Luk 8:10; Joh 12:39-41; Acts 28:25-27; Rom 11:8.)
     It is not that God would harden mens' hearts against His message, but that the willful blindness of unbelieving hearts would be exposed by His Word. The presence of light does not cause a man to be blind, but rather, his blindness is revealed by the light which enables others to see (eg., Rom 11:11). Because Israel did not want to receive God's message, He would allow their understanding to remain closed, judicially.
11 Then said I, Lord, how long?
And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant,
and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
12 And the LORD have removed men far away,
and [there be] a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
Lord, how long?...-
The Lord answers that Israel's blindness will remain until her judgment is completed.
His answer spans the ages, from the captivities under Assyria and Babylon, through their dispersion under Rome, and through the future Tribulation period. cp. Rom 11:25-27
13 But yet in it {ie., in the land} [shall be] a tenth,
and [it] shall return, and shall be eaten:
as a teil tree, and as an oak,
whose substance [is] in them,
when they cast [their leaves
{or, when they are felled}:
so] the holy seed [shall be] the substance thereof.
a tenth... shall return, and shall be eaten {ie., consumed, 'swept away' [GWms]}-
Following each of Israel's dispersions, a small portion of the nation would return to their land, only to be swept away again in judgment.
as an oak... the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.-
Yet, through it all, the Lord would preserve a righteous remnant, who are spiritually rooted in Him. Though the nation would be toppled and it's dead leaves would be blown away again and again (cp. Isa 1:30,31), there would remain "a hidden living root... cherished by Israel's faithful God;... the day will come when that root will spring up into a greater and fairer tree than ever it was in the past." [in quotes from GWms] cp. Isa 65:8,9; Rom 11:5; Gal 3:16-19

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