Isaiah 6:1–13 (NLT): Isaiah’s Cleansing and Call

It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

9 And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people,

‘Listen carefully, but do not understand.

Watch closely, but learn nothing.’

10 Harden the hearts of these people.

Plug their ears and shut their eyes.

That way, they will not see with their eyes,

nor hear with their ears,

nor understand with their hearts

and turn to me for healing.”

11 Then I said, “Lord, how long will this go on?”

And he replied,

“Until their towns are empty,

their houses are deserted,

and the whole country is a wasteland;

12 until the Lord has sent everyone away,

and the entire land of Israel lies deserted.

13 If even a tenth—a remnant—survive,

it will be invaded again and burned.

But as a terebinth or oak tree leaves a stump when it is cut down,

so Israel’s stump will be a holy seed.”

You might not believe me, particularly if you have read through any of the census records in the Old Testament books recording the tribes of Israel, but in general, the Hebrew language does not waste words. In the Hebrew scriptures, if something is repeated, it is done so on purpose… typically for emphasis. When Isaiah writes that the angels around God’s throne say, “holy, holy, holy”, it should be translated in English as “Holy, HOLY, HOLY!” or, at the very least, “the Most Holy of All!”

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin may have been the first men on the moon, but over 2500 years earlier, Isaiah stood face to face with the source of life so powerful it makes the sun itself look like a lightbulb hanging in the sky. God’s holiness overwhelmed him. He understood in a moment how very small his own life was. Isaiah could feel how unworthy and unable he was to serve God, but he was more than willing to try.

There are varying concepts of this “worthiness” to be found all over, but only God’s worthiness reaches out and makes us worthy as well. Only in Christ can the filthy become clean and the sick made well. Why? Because God is the source of all life.

That is the mystery of Christmas. We can criticize the virgin birth and details of the gospel accounts (although not by much) but what the witnesses of 2000 years ago are truly proclaiming is that the holiness that Isaiah witnessed is the same thing that Mary carried in her womb and gave birth to in Bethlehem. The source of all life in the universe became a baby.

This passage ends with the mystery of Advent – our time of waiting for Christ’s return, even as we prepare to celebrate his first entry into our world. It is the mystery of the holy seed found in the stump. The stump is the tombstone of the tree… there is no life in it. It is the seed of the tree, found in the fruit, and much smaller that typically brings new life. But God, in His Holiness, chose the tomb to be the source of new life – perhaps gazing down through the ages to an empty tomb that would change the world forever. The Holy seed is found in that very place that it appears life has abandoned.

  • Where do you experience the holiness of God?
  • How does that holiness make you feel?
  • Where is God sending you to carry that holiness?

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

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