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.

The Physical Presence of Other Christians

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1932)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1932) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How easy it is in our country where we tend to take our freedom for granted to view the physical presence of other Christians as an assumed privilege. In other cases, we can grow bitterly disappointed with other Christians and shun contact with them like the plague.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenges us to view the physical presence of other Christians as “a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” We may see, he says, “in the companionship of our fellow Christians a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God. It is grace,” he says, “nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian [brothers and sisters].”

Do you view your brothers and sisters in Christ in this fashion? If not, why not? Ask the Lord to show you His gracious presence and goodness through your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Coram Deo – Devotional Guide through Acts 23

Coram Deo – Acts 23– Click on this hyperlink to the left for a pdf file of this devotional guide.

Coram Deo is a Latin phrase which translated means “in the presence of God.”

To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in God’s presence, under God’s authority, and for God’s glory.

Coram Deo fosters a life of integrity and a clean conscience (v.1).

  • To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity. It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God. A fragmented life is a life of disintegration. It is marked by inconsistency, disharmony, confusion, conflict, contradiction, and chaos. When we are in right relationship with God and others, we possess a good conscience.
  • Conscience – Moral awareness. The faculty by which we distinguish between right and wrong. Conscience is an irrefutable testimony to the existence of God. We can sear our consciences and make them dull.
  • How is it that the Apostle Paul had a clear conscience? Paul had a clear conscience with regard to his past sins because of the cross of Jesus Christ, the cross which he proclaimed.
  • Acts 24:16 – “In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” 

Coram Deo fosters courage to bear up under hardship (23:1-11).

  • What special encouragement does God give Paul at this time?
  • Let us consider some of the lessons which are implied in this incident.
  • Even God’s most faithful servants suffer discouragement and despair.
  • Encouragement comes ultimately from the Lord. God often uses people to encourage us, but it is God who is the source of all comfort and encouragement. It is in His character, His power, His promises and purposes that we find our hope and comfort (see Romans 5:1-11; 8:18-39; 2 Corinthians 4:16—5:10; 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17; 3:16; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 5:10).
  • God often encourages us by reminding us of something we already know, but have either forgotten or doubted. Paul was not told anything new by the Lord, but only assured that what he had already been told was still going to take place.
  • Our encouragement is not rooted in our success, but in our faithfulness – our obedience to the task that God has given us. Paul’s testimony in Jerusalem was not humanly successful, but the Lord told him that he had completed his task of “solemnly witnessing to His cause” in that city. His task was done, and in this Paul could find encouragement.
  • It is encouraging to know that God has a task for us to fulfill, and that He will use us in fulfilling His purposes. Paul’s task of testifying to the gospel in Rome was not yet complete. There is more work to be done. What joy one can have in knowing God, in his grace, has chosen to use us (see 1 Timothy 1;12-17).
  • How has God encouraged you in the past?

Coram Deo fosters hope in a sovereign God who orchestrates the details of our lives (23:12-35).

  • How does God rescue Paul from the guerrilla attempt to kill him?
  • What does this incident reveal about God’s work in the world?
  • What is the basis of your confidence amidst turmoil and trouble?
  • To be aware of the presence of God is also to be acutely aware of His sovereignty. Nothing can come into my life apart from the loving hands of a faithful and good God who providentially controls all.
  • This chapter underscores the sovereign control of God over history, in such a way that men are responsible for their actions, and yet God’s plan that He purposed from eternity past will be carried out. A sovereign God does not need perfect followers in order to achieve His will. He does not even need saints to carry out His purposes. And so God used the apostles, Paul, the elders in Jerusalem, Roman officials, and unbelieving Jews to spread the gospel to the Gentiles as far as Rome.

What We Believe About Evangelism and Missions

Here are a few things we believe about missions at Trinity.

  • We want “to so present Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, that men, women, boys and girls shall come to put their trust in God through Him, to accept Him as their Savior, and serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church.” (Anglican Archbishops’ Committee of Inquiry into the Evangelistic Work of the Church, 1918).
  • We believe that every believer must be a global Christian with a global vision because our God is a global God.
  • We believe that Jesus’ authority on earth allows us to dare to go to all the nations. His authority in heaven gives us our only hope of success.
  • We believe that His presence with us compels us with delight to go and make disciples of all nations.
  • Thus, “evangelism means exhorting sinners to accept Christ Jesus as their Savior, recognizing that in the most final and far-reaching sense they are lost without Him. Nor is this all. Evangelism also means summoning men to receive Christ Jesus as all that He is—Lord, as well as Savior—and therefore to serve Him as their King in the fellowship of His church, the company of those who worship Him, witness to Him, and work for Him here on earth.”  – J.I. PackerEvangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 39)