150531 Isaiah 6:1-8

Last Updated on Monday, 01 June 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Isaiah 6:1-8
Theme: Sing The Song Of The Seraphs

We finally made it. We have come to the end of a long journey that began all the way back in December. It began when an angel announced to a young virgin named Mary that God had chosen her to give birth to the Messiah. That Advent announcement eventually took us to an out of the way village in the foothills of Judea. It was there, in a humble stable in Bethlehem, where God the Father demonstrated his amazing love. God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son to be our Savior.

We followed Jesus across Judea and Samaria and Galilee. We watched him grow in wisdom and stature. We marveled at his miracles. And we traveled with him along the winding path up to Jerusalem. It was there, on a hill called Calvary, where God's Son demonstrated his amazing love. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world and then rose victoriously from the grave on Easter morning.

More recently, we climbed the Mount of Olives and looked up to see Jesus ascend into heaven. But our Savior did not leave this earth without giving his disciples some final instructions. He told them to go back into the city and wait for the gift his Father had promised.

So we went back to Jerusalem with the disciples and waited. It was on Pentecost, ten days later, when the Holy Spirit demonstrated his amazing love. He gave the disciples the ability to speak in foreign tongues. He gave them the power to preach boldly. And on a single day, about three thousand people were baptized and brought to faith.

The festival half of the church year is now over, but that doesn't mean its time to take a vacation from worship until next December. On this Trinity Sunday it is our privilege to give thanks and praise to the Triune God, but we are not the only ones who bow down and worship today.

In our text for this morning, God's holy angels did the exact same thing. Through a vision, God allowed Isaiah to see and hear these six-winged creatures as they called out to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory" (3). The angels' song of praise is almost three thousand years old, and yet it lives on as a model for our worship today. And I pray that God will use these inspired words of Isaiah to inspire us to...

Sing the Song of the Seraphs

I. The Triune God is a holy God
II. The Triune God is a merciful God

What does God look like? When you try to picture God, are there certain images that come to mind? Some people probably think of the famous Warner Sallman painting of Jesus, the one where he has shoulder length hair parted down the middle with an almost angelic glow behind his head. Others picture God as a grandfatherly figure with a gray beard looking down from the clouds. Maybe you have decided to not even try to picture God in your mind because God is a spirit.

Most people will never catch a glimpse of God on this side of eternity. That is what makes this account so unique. Isaiah's vision was exceptional because in it he was allowed to see God, and this is how he remembers his encounter: "I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple" (1). In Isaiah's vision, God looks like a king. He is dressed in royal robes. He is seated on a royal throne. He displays the power of a royal ruler.

But God was not the only thing Isaiah saw in his vision: "Above (God) were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying" (2). We don't know how many of these angels there were: two or two hundred or two thousand. What we do know is that each of them had six wings and they were hovering around God's throne.

What Isaiah saw with his eyes is hard for us to imagine, but what he heard with his ears is just as incredible. The angels called to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory" (3). This triple refrain of "Holy" may not be a direct reference to the Trinity, but the repetition reminds us that our God has revealed himself to us as the Triune God.

In the Old Testament, God instructed Moses to tell his people: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). These words could not be more clear. There is only one God. All other gods are nothing compared to the one true God.

God also reveals himself as three persons. According to Christ's command, we baptize "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). These words could not be more clear either. The one true God reveals himself as three persons. That is why the God of the Bible is called the Triune God. Because he is three-in-one.

We call the different characteristics of God his attributes. For example, God is eternal. He always was, always is and always will be. God is omniscient. He knows everything. God is omnipotent. He can do anything.

Of all the attributes of God, the seraphs' song zeroed in on just one, God's holiness. God is holy. He is perfect. He is without sin. Holiness gets at the very essence, the very heart and core of who God is. This holy Triune God was the God Isaiah saw in his vision.

And Isaiah was...excited? ecstatic? eternally grateful? None of the above. Instead of thanking God for this amazing experience, Isaiah cried out: "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips" (5). Seeing God in all his holiness wasn't a blessing for Isaiah. The way he describes it, it sounds more like a curse.

Why? What was Isaiah so upset about? What did Isaiah have to worry about? Compared with the people around him, Isaiah probably looked pretty good. He was God's prophet. The Lord called him to warn the people about their wickedness, to threaten them with God's judgment.

But degrees of sin mean nothing when sinners stand before a holy and righteous God. The Lord demands perfection from his people, and Isaiah recognized that he fell short. He didn't deserve special treatment. He didn't deserve to see God's glory. He deserved to feel God's wrath.

Compared with the rest of the world, the people I am looking at right now look pretty good too. We are Christians. We are God's children. Jesus calls us the light of the world. We are the last line of defense for morality and decency and truth in the world.

But degrees of sin melt away in the presence of a just and holy God. No one can live up to God's perfect standard. Absolutely no one can meet God on his terms and live. If you aren't so sure about that, if you might want to disagree with that, then answer one question. If you were to stand before God right now, the God who knows everything you have ever done, the God who sees every thought and desire in your heart, would you be comfortable? Would you be confident? Or would you be afraid?

Isaiah knew the answer to that question. That is why he cried out: "Woe to me! I am ruined!" But instead of leaving his prophet to die in despair, God intervened. And the God who came to the aid of Isaiah is our source of comfort and strength. The second half of Isaiah's vision assures us that the Triune God is a merciful God.

Up to this point in his vision, Isaiah had seen only one side of God. He saw God's glory as the temple filled up with smoke. He saw God's power as the foundations of the temple shook. But what one of the angels did next showed Isaiah another side of God. "Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for'" (6-7).

As part of their Old Testament worship, God fearing Jews made the pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem at different times during the year to offer sacrifices. These sacrifices had no special power in and of themselves. The act of killing animals and sprinkling blood couldn't forgive a single sin. All these sacrifices were symbolic. They symbolized a greater sacrifice that was to come, a sacrifice that would pay for sins. In fact, that single sacrifice would take away the sins of the world.

When the angel took the hot burning coal from the altar and touched it to Isaiah's lips, he was making use of the same kind of imagery. The seraphs' song proclaimed: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty." The angel's actions proclaimed to Isaiah, "Loving, loving, loving, is the Lord all-merciful." What the angel did meant that God heard Isaiah's plea for mercy. And what the angel said next assured Isaiah that he was forgiven, that his guilt had been taken away.

God may not come to us via singing seraphs today, but we have the same assurance. We don't have to rely on symbols or visions because the reality is right in front of us. We can open up our Bibles and read about God's plan of salvation. We can see how God put that plan into action, how Jesus was born as a baby with a real body. He shed real tears. He shed real blood on the cross. His resurrection was not just a story, a myth, a legend, a fable. It really happened, and because it did we have real forgiveness, real life, real hope.

After the angel touched Isaiah, there was a noticeable change in the prophet's attitude. Before he cried out in despair. Now he spoke with boldness. Before he was frozen by his fear. Now he was eager to serve. His response to the seraphs' song was: "Woe is me!" His response to God's call was: "Here am I. Send me!"

What was the reason for the complete turnaround? God hadn't changed, but Isaiah's relationship with God had. God rescued Isaiah from certain death. God plucked Isaiah out of the pit of despair. God's mercy and love motivated Isaiah to say "thank you." "Lord, thank you for your undeserved love. Thank you for saving a sinner like me. Thank you for everything you have done for me, and now use me. Use me to serve you."

The same love transforms us, and it motivates us to respond. Even if you aren't a prophet like Isaiah, you can still say: "Send me!" Maybe you will never die a martyr's death like Stephen, but you can stand up for God's truth in difficult situations. Maybe you will never preach to thousands like Jesus, but you can share the love of God with a little child. Maybe you will never do mission work in a foreign country like Paul, but you can let the love of Christ shine through in everything you say and do.

Many different illustrations have been suggested to explain the Trinity. Perhaps the most common one is the triangle. A triangle has three sides, yet it remains a single shape. Another illustration uses water. Water is one substance, but it comes in three phases: solid, liquid and gas. These examples can be helpful, but they are incomplete. Our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite mysteries of the Trinity. We will never be able to understand how God exists as three distinct persons and as one undivided being.

That's why it is good for us on Trinity Sunday to not only talk about who the true God is, but also what he is. The Triune God is a holy God. The Triune God is a merciful God. Most importantly, the Triune God is our God, the God who has loved us from eternity and desires nothing more than our soul's salvation. His love inspires us to honor him, to worship him, to sing the seraphs' song of praise: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." Amen.

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