In the year that King Uzzi'ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 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. And one called 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 shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 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!" Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which 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 forgiven." And 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."
This week lesson manages to sum up some very important tenets of Christianity, and well needs examination. To begin with, the lesson gives us a specific time in history, the year King Uzziah died, roughly 736-732 B.C. Isaiah, probably during a worship service sees the Lord. He is high, and lifted up and his train fills the temple. My Bible gives, hem, and the indication is that the Lord’s deeds and presence fill the temple and creation. The Seraphim were flying about, with two wings to cover their faces, because they were not worthy to look upon the Lord, two to cover their feet, because they were not worthy to stand in the Lord’s presence (and I know others interpret this differently, but this is my reading of it) and two wings to fly. They call one to another, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts and the whole earth is full of his glory. The complete Jewish Bible renders this, “More holy than the holiest holiness,” while the scriptures gives us, “Set apart, set apart, set apart is YHWH of hosts.” The angels are crying, and Isaiah is given to understand that YHWH is wholly other, he is not man, nor anything that we could understand aside from his revelation to us. He is completely set apart from us, yet Isaiah sees him in his holiness.
Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me, for I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah has come to a realization. His worship, expressed primarily through his lips is totally inadequate for a holy God. Even worse, he lives among a people who are of unclean lips, that is a people who do not truly worship the Lord, that is they worship with their lips, but not with their lives (to take off from the General Thanksgiving of Anglican use). A Holy God requires worship that is Holy from people who are Holy. In other words Isaiah realizes that for his sin he (and the people) are completely unworthy to worship a Holy God, and can do nothing about it. God sends a Seraph to Isaiah, who takes a hot coal off of the altar of incense, and he touches it to Isaiah’s lips. In other words, only God can cleanse us of our sin, and that cleansing might not always be pleasant (a hot coal pressed against my lips sounds like no fun at all).
After Isaiah has been purified from his sin, the Lord asks, “Whom should I send, who will go for us,” and Isaiah answers the call, “here am I, send me.” When God cleanses us from our sins, it is to a purpose. We are sent as a result of our call. Remember when Peter’s mother-in-law is healed. She gets up and serves them. When Paul has his Damascus Road experience, he goes to preach the Gospel. Today we have a bunch of namby pamby Christians who do nothing. Every one of us has a call on his or her life. That call might be to preach the Gospel (of course we are all called to share the good news in one way or another.) It might be we are to change society, as Wilbur Wilberforce made it his life’s work to stop slavery and reform the manners of the British Empire. It might be just to say something nice to someone, or being a good influence.
So confess that sin to God, allow him to cleanse you from your sin and get to work.
Mar Michael Abportus, OSL