HOLINESS (session 2)
Isaiah the prophet had a strange vision where he was in the temple (where he didn’t belong!) and in the direct presence of God. Isaiah 6:1-13
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. 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. 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!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. 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.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 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.” 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.” And he said, “Yes, go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ 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.” 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; until the Lord has sent everyone away, and the entire land of Israel lies deserted. 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.”
He is terrified for his life because of his moral impurity (“unclean lips”) Isaiah 6:5
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.”
Instead of being destroyed, God has a burning, holy coal taken from his presence and applied to Isaiah’s lips (ouch!) Isaiah 6:6
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.
Instead of the temple becoming contaminated by Isaiah’s impurity, the opposite happens: God’s holiness transfers to Isaiah and erases his sin and impurity. Isaiah 6:7
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.”
THIS IS UNEXPECTED TO SAY THE LEAST! THE IMPLICATIONS OF ISAIAH’S VISION ARE HUGE. PERHAPS GOD DOESN’T NEED TO BE PROTECTED BY THE IMPURITY OUR SIN, MAYBE IT’S THE OTHER WAY AROUND. MAYBE IT’S OUR SIN THAT IS ENDANGERED BY GOD’S HOLINESS.
Ezekiel’s vision contains another important contribution to this theme. Eze 47:1-12
Ezekiel’s vision of a new temple is part of his larger vision of how God will restore his covenant people after their sin and covenant failure Eze 8-11
Ezekiel envisions a new temple (Eze 40-47) in a new land (Eze 48) with a new covenant people (Eze 36-37).
This temple needs to be honored as holy space, but at the same time, Ezekiel’s vision about the river flowing out of the temple makes it clear that God’s life-giving holiness will one day flow out of the temple into the world creating all kinds of new life Eze 47:7-12
When I returned, I was surprised by the sight of many trees growing on both sides of the river. Then he said to me, “This river flows east through the desert into the valley of the Dead Sea. The waters of this stream will make the salty waters of the Dead Sea fresh and pure. There will be swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows. Fish will abound in the Dead Sea, for its waters will become fresh. Life will flourish wherever this water flows. Fishermen will stand along the shores of the Dead Sea. All the way from En-gedi to En-eglaim, the shores will be covered with nets drying in the sun. Fish of every kind will fill the Dead Sea, just as they fill the Mediterranean. But the marshes and swamps will not be purified; they will still be salty. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river. The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches. There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple. The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.”