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.

Acts 24-26 – Amidst the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

Statue of an archer at Mona Vale.

Vespers Guide – Amidst the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune Click on this link for the complete devotional guide.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:  Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer  The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,  Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?   – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1.

Important: What is happening in these three chapters is a partial fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (see Mark 13:9-11).

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune come into the lives of God’s faithful people. 

  • From where do they come? In Paul’s case, they come from conflict with the religious establishment and the movers and shakers in the kingdoms of this world.
  • What are some of “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” hurled at the Apostle Paul in these three chapters?
  • He was beaten within an inch of his life. He was continually in danger. He had to listen to vicious and unfair accusations and attacks. He had to stifle his active spirit in order to accept years of imprisonment.
  • On the whim of a dictator, the Apostle Paul is just left in prison in Caesarea.  Acts 24:27 says this: “When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.”
  • It appears on the surface that the worldly ambitious and morally corrupt who set themselves against the Lord and His servants have the upper hand in this life.

How are we to respond?  How do we tend to respond? How do you respond?

  • Frustration
  • Despair
  • Anger
  • Depression

How are we called to respond? What do we learn from the Apostle Paul?

  • Live blamelessly and fearlessly. Acts 24:16 – “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” Acts 25:11 – If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die.
  • Testify courageously to what Christ has done in our lives. Notice the absence of fear. The Apostle Paul was not the less bit intimidated before Felix (chap. 24), Festus (chap. 25) or Agrippa (chap. 26). It is right to speak boldly (26:26) and persuade others to become Christians. For most who remain unresponsive to the gospel, it is a moral problem rather than an intellectual problem (i.e. Felix and Drusilla/ Agrippa II/Bernice).

What empowers us to do this?

  • Remembering who we are. We too, like Paul, are God’s chosen instruments (9:15). This is the third account of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts (Acts 9, 22, and 26).
  • Remembering what we are called to do. “… to carry His name to the nations.” What is Paul’s commission from Jesus Christ according to 26:15-18? How is the Lord calling you to live as one whom He has sent (John 20:21 – “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”)?
  • Remembering that where God calls He equips. “To this day I have had the help that comes from God” (26:22).
  • Remembering God’s promise of divine protection. “I will deliver you from your people and the Gentiles – to whom I am sending you” (26:17).
  • Remembering the focus of our proclamation of God’s Word (Moses and the prophets point to Jesus Christ, especially His resurrection). “Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (26:23).

 

When God Pursues the Frustrated – A Sermon from Luke 5:1-11

Listen to a MP3 of this sermon

According to Luke 5:1-11, when God pursues the frustrated, four things occur…
Intro: Have you ever been hopelessly unproductive and unsuccessful at something? How frustrated did you get when all of your resources failed?
US: Some of you have gotten extremely frustrated playing the dating game or maybe not playing the dating game.
For others of you attempting to have children has proven stressful. For others having children has proven challenging.
Career/lost of a job… Some of you have had to stand up for your convictions and it has cost you.

The Story: Simon is frustrated, tired, and weary. A night of fishing has proven very unfruitful. He’s caught absolutely nothing. In the morning, Jesus finds Peter washing his nets. He tells him to launch the boat and let down the nets. Oh great… a rabbi telling a professional fisherman how to fish. Peter initially objects, but finally concedes. Let’s look at what happens when God pursues a frustrated fisherman…
I.  When God pursues the frustrated, He convinces us of His power. He is able to do in seconds what Peter was not able to accomplish all night!
The miraculous catch of fish produces in Peter a contrite spirit as he marvels at the power of Jesus. The catch is so amazing that the nets are breaking and the boats are sinking. In other words, the point is: this is an utterly unprecedented catch of fish in a location that seemed hopelessly unproductive the night before. And it was caught at the powerful and authoritative word of Jesus.
Isaiah vision of God’s glory and greatness (Isaiah 6:1-8). Endure…
Paul’s vision of the risen, glorified Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-11).
John’s vision of the exalted, risen Christ (Revelation 1:9-20).
These men received glimpses of the power of Jesus Christ.
This power is in the Word of Christ (drawing people to faith… drawing fish into a net). Romans 10:17 – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. At your word I will let down the nets (v.5). The call of Jesus for these men to follow him.
(This leads us to a profound awareness of our own sinfulness).

II.    He convicts us of our sin and unworthiness.

How does Peter respond to the miraculous catch of fish?
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter sinks to his knees in awe before this mysterious figure: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In other words: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinner. If you only knew to whom you were speaking! My spirit is dull and my heart is weary. Depart from me!”

Ask the Lord to give you a growing awareness of His presence as well as keener sense of the depth of your need of His pardon.
I departed and turned my face away from my own begotten son so that I would never depart from you. What does Jesus say to Peter and to all his disciples at the end: “Surely, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

How is it that Jesus would not depart from Peter? One day Jesus would die for Peter’s sins of betrayal, pride, ambition, and idolatry (Mark 10:45).
(Thankfully, our sin does not disqualify us for service. The same power that prompts Peter to fall at Jesus’ knees in contrition and humble worship now lifts him into God’s service. It is interesting in this story that Jesus gets into the boat to call Peter out of the boat!)

III. He commissions us to serve Him and participate fully in Jesus’ ministry.
What does Jesus ask Peter to do? What is He asking us to do? Catch men, women and boys and girls for Him.

In verse 10b “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’” Fishing for men…Gathering from among the nations a people for His name. Gathering those who are trusting in Christ alone for salvation.
Fishing and shepherding are two enduring metaphors and images of Christian ministry. Catching men who will be empowered to catch others (Acts 11:19-26).

Catching men for Christ is an endeavor that the church has struggled with in the past. In the early church, God used persecution to disperse the Christians throughout the Middle East for gospel expansion. Sometimes God brings adversity into the lives of his people so that they might live to prove that Jesus is more precious to them than even their physical lives.

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Ask the Lord to show you one person that you can pray for and befriend in order to share Christ with them. Charles Spurgeon: “Let all who trust in the merit of Messiah’s death be joyful at every remembrance of him, and let their holy gratitude lead them to the fullest consecration to his cause.”
IV.  He causes us to value Him above all else.
Peter and James and John respond with hearts overflowing with the value of knowing Jesus: “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” The text notes that Peter and his companions “forsook all and followed Him” (5:11).

This is what it means to follow Jesus: he is more valuable to us than everything. I count everything as loss compared to knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).

Ask the Lord to show you what it is that you value more than Jesus. Is He more valuable to you than your money? Your spouse? Your children? Your career? Prestige? Pleasure? For sure there is something that we must bring and lay down at the feet of Jesus.

What do you need to leave behind to follow the Lord more fully? The woman at the well. Broken cisterns that can hold no water… fountain of living water.

Conclusion
For one year I rode the ministry pine. I was sitting on the bench begging the Lord to put me back into the game. Our fourth child had just been born. One opportunity after another passed without an open door.  Out of this wilderness God brought me to a position that was perfectly tailored for me. It was three fruitful years of service at Intown Community Church.
The Lord doesn’t always bring our frustration to an end after one year, but if you have something in your life that you wish weren’t there that has caused you a measure of frustration, I can guarantee you this: The Lord is pursuing you in order to show you four things: How great is his power, how great is your need of His pardon, how vital it is to adopt His purpose, and how vital it is to value him above all else.

Personal/Family Worship Guides

We want to urge you to take some time during the week to worship God personally and with your family. These guides serve to develop further the themes of our corporate worship services.

Simple Church (Isaiah 40:1-11). This devotional guide delves into the mission of our church. Isaiah’s prophecy highlights four non-negotiables: There is a majestic God to worship. There is the eternal Word of God to know and believe. There is a flock to shepherd. There is good news to proclaim.

When God Pursues the Frustrated (Luke 5:1-11). Peter has experienced a very unfruitful night of fishing. He’s caught absolutely nothing. In the early morning, Jesus finds Peter washing his nets. He tells him to launch the boat and let down the nets. Peter objects, but finally concedes, and catches a huge haul of fish. The miraculous results produce in Peter a broken spirit as he marvels at the power of Jesus. Jesus tells Peter, “From now on you will catch men” (5:10).

When God pursues the frustrated… four things occur…

He convinces us of His power.

He convicts us of our sin and unworthiness.

He commissions us for a new work.

He causes us to value Jesus above all else. The text notes that Peter and his companions “forsook all and followed Him” (5:11).

Devoted to Becoming a Cruciform Community – During our last missions conference, our speaker, Skip Ryan, challenged us to become a cruciform community that is marked primarily by how it loves versus a Christian community that is marked by what it does. Luke 7:36-50 sets forth two distinguishing features of a cruciform community.This type of community is marked by the loving welcome we extend to sinners and the loving welcome we extend to our Savior.

Devoted to Generous Justice

Devoted to Our Priestly Vocation

Devoted to Loving Our Neighbors

The Great Hindrance to Friendship with God

Devoted to the Corporate Gathering

Devoted to Worship