Have you ever made one or both of these statements? "I heard what I heard!" Or, "I saw what I saw!" Each statement affirms, "It happened! He said that! She did that! I am not speculating, I was there! I heard it with my own ears! I saw it with my own eyes! Believe it! It happened!"

Have you personally ever had this experience? You are with some other people who hear a speaker. After the speech is over, you listen as the others who heard the speech discuss what the person said. You listen carefully to their comments. The more they share their comments, the more you wonder if they heard the same speaker and the same speech. What they heard the person say and what you heard the person say are quite different. The meaning they assign to the speech is definitely different from your understanding. What it meant to you and what it meant to them is not at all the same thing.

Such experiences teach a powerful, important lesson. A person must be ready to see. A person must be ready to hear. What the person sees and hears is often powerfully influenced by his or her readiness to see and hear.

Read with me God's call to Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1-8.
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory." And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts." Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven." Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

  1. The context:
    1. Isaiah is likely a young man in his early 20's living in Jerusalem.
      1. Jewish tradition says Isaiah was a descendant of the royal family.
        1. He may or may not have been related to the royal family.
        2. However, evidence indicates that he had access to Jerusalem's highest social circles.
        3. In our terminology, Isaiah would have been a listing in Jerusalem's "Who's Who."
      2. For a number of reasons life was "really worth living" in Jerusalem when Isaiah was a young man.
        1. It was a very prosperous time.
        2. The upper level of society was primarily focused on living a physical life of luxury.
      3. However, as often the case, living luxuriously and living godly do not walk hand in hand.
        1. Two of the means that let the upper social level focus their lives on luxurious life styles was exploiting the poor and taking advantage of those who were powerless.
        2. Isaiah 1 begins by describing how sick the nation is.
        3. It continues by declaring that their worship offends God.
        4. It urges them to cleanse themselves, stop the evil behavior, and to be just in protecting the widow and orphan.
      4. The people who were living well thought it was a wonderful time, a wonderful life, and everything was great--and that may have included Isaiah.
    2. Then Isaiah had a life-altering experience.
      1. His experience occurred in the temple area in Jerusalem.
      2. After it occurred, everything about life was different.
      3. The experience changed the way he saw himself and the way he saw others.

  2. What was this experience? Isaiah saw God and realized that God was truly King.
    1. The first thing Isaiah realized in his experience was Who and What God is.
      1. I have no doubt that prior to his experience he was confident he knew Who God was.
      2. I am also confident that prior to his experience he was certain he knew God's position.
      3. When he was enabled to see a manifestation of God, Isaiah realized he knew nothing--God is King; no human was king in the sense that God is.
        1. It is very human to think that we can create the ideal physical life.
        2. It is very human to think that we are in control.
        3. It is very human to think life is good because of what we make happen.
        4. The first thing Isaiah realized is that none of that is true--God is the King of kings sitting on the throne as the Ruler of all rulers, the only true King.
      4. The enthroned God is attended and praised by seraphim.
        1. These seraphim declare two truths about God.
          1. God is holy--totally separated from any form of evil, totally superior and beyond anything that existed in Jerusalem.
          2. God's presence was not confined to Jerusalem or Israel--His presence filled the entire earth.
        2. These revelations were profound to Isaiah--Isaiah's seeing and hearing were overwhelmed, and he got the message; he saw and heard the point.
          1. Isaiah did not comprehend how horrible evil was until he saw the holiness of God.
          2. Isaiah realized as never before that God is God over the earth, not merely God over Israel

  3. However, Isaiah's new revelations do not end with seeing and hearing Who and What God is.
    1. When Isaiah realizes Who and What God is, he also realizes who he is.
      1. When he saw and heard about God's holiness, he immediately realized how full of evil he was.
        1. When he saw how holy God was, he knew immediately how evil he was.
        2. He was beyond hope. He was pitiful. There was nothing he was capable of doing that could recover himself.
        3. He could not ask for forgiveness and cleansing--his evil was beyond forgiveness and evil.
        4. There was no way to see the holiness of God and not see himself for who he was.
      2. He not only saw himself for who he was, but he also saw Israel for who they were as a nation.
        1. It was not just he that was evil and ruined.
        2. Israel was also evil and ruined.
        3. The man of unclean lips lived among the people of unclean lips.
        4. His eyes has seen the King, the Lord of hosts--Isaiah knew and understood the truth about God, the truth about himself, and the truth about Israel.
    2. Only when he sees God's holiness is he ready to be God's messenger.
      1. He is cleansed of his iniquity, forgiven of his sin.
      2. Then he wants God's message.
      3. Only then is he entrusted with God's message.

  4. Nothing exists in our nation or our experiences to begin to capture the ruin Isaiah felt when he saw God's holiness.
    1. Isaiah compared himself to a person who had leprosy.
      1. The condition of leprosy gave a person a pitiful existence.
        1. That person could not live at home, could not have contact with anyone who did not have leprosy, could not even have contact with his own family.
        2. Leviticus 13:45 stated the person with leprosy had to wear torn clothes, had to let his hair be unkempt, and had to cover his lips.
        3. If anyone seemed to be approaching, he had to cry out, "Unclean, unclean!"
    2. Seeing God's holiness made Isaiah realize just how spiritually filthy he was.
      1. Had we interviewed Isaiah before this experience, he likely would have declared how good life was.
        1. He was alive at a great, prosperous time in history.
        2. He knew all the right people and moved in all the right circles.
        3. He was a part of the chosen people of God who had God's temple.
        4. He was one of the good guys: "Look how God is blessing us!"
      2. An interview with Isaiah after the experience would have been totally different.
        1. Now he realized that he lived in an incredibly evil time.
        2. Now he realized that the only good association was association with God.
        3. Now he realized that Israel did not even know what it meant to be God's chosen people.
        4. Now he understood that their use of the temple insulted God instead of honoring God.
        5. Now he realized that their luxurious life styles were the result of self indulgence, not the result of properly using God's blessings.
    3. I call two things to your attention.
      1. Isaiah was not ready to be cleansed until he realized just how evil he was.
      2. Isaiah was not ready to be God's messenger until he realized how holy God is.

  5. A primary objective of our worship every Sunday morning when we assemble is to come into the presence of the holy God and see His holiness.
    1. Why?
      1. Only when we see God's holiness do we see our evil.
      2. Only when we see God's holiness do we see our need.
      3. Only when we see God's holiness do we see our unworthiness.
      4. Only when we see God's holiness do we realize the blessing of being justified and sanctified before God.
      5. Only then do we begin to appreciate the incredible things God does for us in Christ Jesus.
    2. Are we too much like Isaiah before he had his experience of seeing God?
      1. Before that experience there is no reason to believe that he did not regard himself as a godly Israelite who did the right things as he followed the right system.
      2. Do we say, "It is a great time to be alive! Just look at all the good things we have known!'
      3. "We live at the right place at the right time!"
      4. "Just look at how richly God has blessed us with the many things we enjoy!
      5. "Hey, we are the Lord's church and the Lord's people, and it has never been easier to be the Lord's church and the Lord's people."
    3. I want us to read two statements made by Jesus and reflect on some questions.
      1. The first is in Jesus' parable of the talents. It was the master's response to the slaves who devoted themselves to his purposes in his absence.
        Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master."
      2. The second is a statement Jesus made in his sermon on the mount.
        Matthew 7:22,23 Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."

Are you the Lord's slave dedicated to his purposes? Are you in his name doing the things you want to do? Do you see God in His holiness? Have you seen your sinfulness? Do you allow God to use Jesus Christ to cleanse you?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 February 2003

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