In the Presence of a Holy God – Isaiah 6

It was a devastating blow.  Like all devoted citizens, Isaiah had venerated King Uzziah. For fifty-two years, King Uzziah had led Judah in an administration of peace and prosperity. It was an era of expansion and achievement. Now he was dead.  The throne sat empty.  It was unfortunate that the king had rebelled against the Word of God and died a leper (2 Kings 15:1–7; 2 Chron. 26). Isaiah realized that though the nation had prospered materially, it was in terrible condition spiritually.

In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. Isaiah 6:1.  Think of a time when one of your heroes passed on.   God’s purpose… Over and over again the Lord sometimes removes our friends and family in order to put Himself in their place, and that is where we faint and fail and get discouraged. Take it personally: In the year that the one who stood to me for all that God was, died—I gave up everything? I became ill? I got disheartened? or—I saw the Lord?

I. The Upward Gaze – In the presence of a holy God, we see the Lord for who He really is…the living, authoritative, omnipotent, resplendent, revered, holy, and glorious King whom all of heaven tirelessly serves and worships. The Christ we must perceive.  The one who is worthy of all worship.  To the discouraged prophet, as he knelt in prayer at the Temple at Jerusalem, the Lord granted a transforming vision of His glory.

He thus assured Isaiah that despite the apparent triumph of evil in the world,

The Lord still reigned omnipotent upon his heavenly throne (Isaiah 52:13 – same terms used for the servant of Lord).  On the throne – Sovereign Ruler.

 

See the sovereignty of the Eternal Monarch: he sits upon a thronea throne of glory, before which we must worship,—a throne of government, under which we must be subject, God’s dominion is total: he wills as he chooses and carries out all that he wills, and none can stay his hand or thwart his plans.[1]

—and a throne of grace, to which we may come boldly. This throne is high, and lifted up above all competition and contradiction.[2]

The heavenly attendants – adored by the mighty angels of heaven (symbolically represented by the six-winged seraphim). Even the foundations of the earthly Temple trembled at the thunder of the angelic choir, and the sanctuary was filled with the incense smoke of adoring prayer.  Serephs – “burning ones.”

Covering their eyes…In the presence of a holy God, even the dazzling and sinless are overwhelmed. They are fit neither to see him or be seen by him

Covering their feet – they disavowed any intention to choose their own path.

They flew – They are swift to serve (v.2) and tireless to praise (v.3).  Calling to one another.. the antiphonal song of God’s holiness.

God lifted Isaiah’s eyes from himself and his people to the throne of heaven. There might be confusion and unrest on earth, but there was perfect peace in heaven: God was seated in majestic power and glory.

John 12:38–41 informs us that Isaiah saw Jesus Christ in His glory. “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.”

He was on the throne of heaven being praised by the seraphim. His royal robe filled the heavenly temple, and the house was filled with the smoke of His anger against sin (Ps. 80:4). His angelic creatures, the seraphim (“fiery ones”), praised Him for His holiness and His glory. “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah did not see much glory that day, nor do we see it today. Rather, it seems that the whole earth is “filled with violence” (Gen. 6:11).

Holy – the word signifies everything about God that sets him apart from us and makes him an object of awe, adoration, and dread to us. It covers all aspects of his transcendent greatness and moral perfection and thus is an attribute of all his attributes, pointing to the “Godness” of God at every point.[3]

II. The Inward Gaze – In the presence of a holy God, we see ourselves for who we really are…sinners in need of cleansing. The Cleansing we must possess.

From where did the coal come?  Came from the place of sacrifice and spoke the language of atonement.  “The penalty of sin was paid for by a substitute offered in the sinners place.  The symbol applied to Isaiah’s lips (the point of most pressing need) assures him of personal forgiveness.

What was it that King Uzziah had to say after his sin and consequent affliction of leprosy?  Unclean, unclean…

A true vision of God and His holiness always makes us realize our own sinfulness and failure. Job saw God and repented (Job 42:6); Peter cried out, “I am a sinful man” when he saw Christ’s power (Luke 5:8). Self-righteous rabbi Saul saw that his own righteousness was but “garbage” next to the glory of Christ (Acts 9 and Phil. 3), and he believed and became the Apostle Paul. When believers have a true experience with the Lord, it does not make them proud; rather, it humbles and breaks them.

When Isaiah confessed his sins, he mentioned especially his unclean lips. Of course, unclean lips are the products of an unclean heart. The prophet knew that he could not faithfully preach for the Lord unless he was prepared and cleansed. How different from some Christians who rush out to serve Christ before taking time to meet the Lord and be cleansed. God met the prophet’s need: He sent a seraph to cleanse him with a coal from the altar.

How tragic it would be to have the throne without the altar! There would be conviction of sin, but no cleansing.

III. The Outward Gaze –  In the presence of a holy God, we see the need and receive our commission – our marching orders.  The commission we must pursue.  Note well that we are not called to serve until we are cleansed.  “Here I am, send me!” is truly a remarkable statement considering Isaiah’s previous despair in chapter 5.  Secondly, that a human voice is allowed to speak in the heavenly court.

The Call – “Here I am, all of me to go anywhere at any time at any cost.”  Total availability and accessibility.

The Cause – “Go and tell…”  Two verbs of Jesus Christ… “come and go.”  “Go and tell!” This is God’s commission to us today. “You shall be witnesses to me…to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, nkjv). It was not an easy commission God gave to the prophet, for the nation was in no mood to hear his messages of sin and judgment.

The Crown – (v.13c) A holy seed, a remnant, fruit from our efforts.

The cost – rejection and persecution

Conclusion:

Every time we gather for worship, we should experience the same thing that Isaiah did.

When Isaiah walked out of the temple that day, he was no longer a mourner—he was a missionary. He was not merely a spectator; he was a participant. God had equipped him to do the job: Isaiah had seen the Lord, he had seen himself, and he had seen the need. Knowing that God was on the throne, and that God had called and commissioned him, he was ready to fulfill his commission even unto death.

 

 

 

 

[1]Packer, J. I. (1995, c1993). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

[2]Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Is 6:1). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[3]Packer, J. I. (1995, c1993). Concise theology : A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House.

In the Midst of Trouble – Psalm 138

A Prayer Guide…

1 I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me;
my strength of soul you increased.

4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
for great is the glory of the Lord.
6 For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.

7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life;
stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
and your right hand delivers me.
8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.

What am I to do? 
Worship and call upon the Lord.  What does the text say?
Give thanks…sing His praise…bow down…

Who do I call upon? 

  • The LORD – the personal God who keeps covenant with His people.
  • The God who is steadfast/loyal in His love for his people (vv.2,8).
  • The God who is ever faithful to His people and who exalts His name and His word above all things.
  • The LORD who from His lofty and exalted position takes notice of those who are humble but distances himself from the proud and haughty.
  • The LORD who does not forsake the work of His hands.

How do I call upon Him?

  • With my whole heart…singing praise and offering thanks (vv.1,2,4).
  • With humility of heart – Verse 6 – “For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.”

Why do I call upon the LORD?

  • He answers me (v.3).
  • He preserves my life while I am in the midst of trouble by delivering me from my enemies (v.7).
  • He will fulfill His purpose for me (v.8).

A Prayer of Adoration – from Psalms 3-5

Who is like You O LORD?

You are a shield about Your people (3:3).

You answer the prayers of Your people when they cry aloud to You (3:4).

You sustain Your people when they sleep and when they rise (3:5).

You are the LORD to whom salvation belongs (3:8).

You are a God who gives relief to those who in distress (4:1).

You are the LORD who sets apart the godly for Yourself (4:3).

You are the LORD who “lifts up the light of Your face upon us” (4:6).

You are a God who puts joy into the hearts of Your people (4:7).

You are the LORD who causes Your people to “dwell in safety” and to rest peacefully (4:8).

You do not delight in wickedness (5:4).

You are abundant in “your steadfast love” for Your people which enables and invites us to worship You (5:7).

You lead Your people in Your righteousness and make our way straight (5:8).

You spread Your protection over Your people and cover them with Your favor (5:11,12).

Would you delight to show Yourself strong and mighty in these ways for all of your children today! AMEN.

Praying Psalm 2

Psalm 2 – The nations that rage will become the inheritance of the Messiah (vv. 1,8).

Father, you have given to Jesus the ends of the earth as His possession.
He declares, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.”
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Jesus Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!’ (Abraham Kuyper)

Since the ends of the earth are your possession, you have called us to be your witnesses “even to the ends (remotest parts) of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I pray that you would supernaturally cause a mass conversion of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, animists, atheists, and agnostics
to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have mercy upon them, open blind eyes like you did long ago,
pour the wine of your love and Word on calloused, stony hearts.
May a great in-gathering of souls take place in our lifetime
as people devotedly kiss Your Son as Savior (Psalm 2:11),
as young people throughout the world
“serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling” (v.11)
as they contemplate you as a loving Savior,
but also as a just judge
who will come with “a rod of iron”
and break those who have refused to kiss you
as the only Savior of sinners. AMEN.

Reflections on “The Poor in Spirit”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

The sermon on the Mount describes
what human life and human community
looks like when they come under
the gracious rule of King Jesus…

Still today the indispensable condition
of receiving the kingdom of God
is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty…

Thus, to be ‘poor in spirit’ is to acknowledge our spiritual poverty,
indeed our spiritual bankruptcy, before God…
Right at the beginning of his sermon,
Jesus contradicts all human judgments
and all nationalistic expectations of the kingdom of God.
The kingdom is given to the poor, not the rich;
the feeble, not the mighty;
to little children humble enough to accept it,
not to soldiers who boast
that they can obtain it by their own prowess.
– John Stott

We are beggars. This is true! – Martin Luther

The kingdom of God can only be received by empty hands.
Jesus warns against two things:
Worldly self-sufficiency which leads you
to trust yourself and your own resources
so that you don’t need God;
and religious self-sufficiency
where you trust your religious attitude and moral life
and don’t need Jesus.
– Michael Crosby

He only who is reduced to nothing in himself,
and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.
– John Calvin

Blessed are the spiritual zeros – the spiritually bankrupt,
deprived and deficient, the spiritual beggars,
those without a wisp of religion –
when the kingdom of heaven comes upon them.
– Dallas Willard

Praying through Psalm 1 to Start 2019

Psalm 1

Prayer of Preparation
In this new year O Lord, grant us a renewed hunger and delight in Your Word.
So move in our hearts that we delight to do what You command.
Free us from finding our happiness and well-being in created things so that we might find You our greatest treasure.

Adoration: Praise God for Who He Is

  1. We praise You, O Lord, that you are in the business of transforming hearts so that we can think, behave, and belong in a way that pleases You and brings us good.
  2. We praise you for your willingness to share with us your wisdom and your Word.
  3. We adore you for changing the desires of our hearts so that we might find you our greatest delight.

Confession: Acknowledge and Turn from Your Sin

  1. Forgive me for the ways that I have conformed to the world in departing from you by accepting the world’s advice, being party to its ways, and adopting its most fatal of its attitudes – scoffing.
  2. Pardon me for allowing worldly values and thinking to shape my life and decisions.
  3. Forgive me for all the ways that I have thought that true fulfillment and happiness could be found apart from you and your Word.

Thanksgiving: Express Gratitude to God for His Works and Ways

  1. Thank you Father that you have freed me from judgment, collapse and expulsion from your presence because of the Cross of Jesus.
  2. Thank you Father that Jesus is the only, truly blessed man who always delighted to obey you and never failed in delighting in your law. Thank you for his perfect obedience to your law for us.
  3. Thank you that you care about and identify with us, your people, and you call us the congregation of the righteous – acceptable in your sight because of what Jesus has done not us.
  4. Thank you for imputing to us the righteousness of Christ by faith alone, and now you grant us power to work out in our lives what you have worked in us.

Supplication: Ask God to Meet Your Spiritual and Physical Needs

  1. Lord, please give me a greater delight in you and your Word. May it be reflected in an established, guarded rhythm of spending time with you in your word.
  2. Grant that I might discern and reject unbiblical, worldly patterns of thinking and living so that you might receive greater glory from my life and ministry.
  3. Lord, would you be pleased to prosper our work for you in this new year?

Consecration: Commit to Obey God’s Will

  1. In 2019, I will regularly meditate on God’s Word using the Psalms and a Read through the Bible in a year plan.
  2. In my reading and studying, I will endeavor to focus more on what Christ has done in order to increase my delight in Him and His Word instead of focusing on what I must do.

Intercession: Asking God to Meet the Needs of Others
 Family

  1. So work by your Spirit in the lives of Scottie and the kids that they become discerning, fruitful, mature, stable, flourishing, and godly men and women.
  2. So work in their lives that they recognize and reject worldly thinking and living so that their lives might conform more to your character.

Church Leaders

  1. Grant your Spirit in full measure to the leaders of our church so that they might think deeply about your Word and will and become fruitful and effective in building your church and extending your kingdom in the world.
  2. Make them people of substance who are rooted deeply in your Word and useful in your kingdom service.

Governmental Leaders

  1. Free them from the curse of the counsel of the wicked, the path of sinners and the seat of scoffers.
  2. Grant all of them your wisdom to lead and serve well.
  3. Overwhelm them with their personal inadequacies for the task at hand so that they might seek and find you.
  4. Give them your wisdom from above that is peaceable (see James 4). Bring our divided country together O Lord, break down the walls of hostility.

All this we pray in the great name of our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.

AMEN.

Your Name in the Lamb’s Book of Life

Screen Shot 2018-12-31 at 9.03.42 AMIf you have turned from trusting yourself and placed your faith in Jesus alone for salvation, then you did this because the Father gave you to Jesus so that you would come in faith to Him (John 6:37). You came to believe on Jesus because the Father drew you to Jesus (John 6:44). All of this happened because of what God did.

I encountered again in in my Bible reading this morning a verse that reminds us of these wonderful truths of sovereign grace.

Revelation 13:8 reminds us that the only ones who are saved are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, and when did that happen? “Before the foundation of the world.”

Here are a couple of corollary passages: Revelation 21:27 teaches us that “only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter the celestial city.

Jesus tells his disciples to not rejoice that they have incredible spiritual powers, but to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

May our Lord fill your heart with renewed wonder and joy in this new year that your name was “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8).

Knowing this promotes humility, gratitude, and joy… not pride!

May it be so for all of us in 2019!