Faithlife Sermons

Isaiah 6

Beholding God to Behave Godly for God's Glory  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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This is the beginning of a series that introduces the concept of examing the Scriptures and studying the holiness of God for the purposes of living in such a way as to bring glory and honor to God

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Introduction

The goal of this series, and the title of this series, is Beholding God to Behave godly for the glory of God.
The goal for this series is to do life more Biblically and to enhance our experience of Christianity by being more Biblical.
The suggestion that I have is that in spending more time beholding God than we all are currently doing, that we will not run the risk of missing out on enjoyable things,
Not enough knowledge of God
But instead we will experience the most enjoyable things, through the experience of the Supremely good and soul satisfying God.
Not enough of “doing” Christianity with the right approach
To put things into perspective, let’s think about one of the most significant differences between someone who says they’re a Christian and someone who actually is.
This is the difference between someone who is all talk about God vs. someone who is awestruck by God.
And what I mean by “the right approach” is when you worship, read the Bible, fellowship with Christians, what’s the point of doing all that?
One of the most significant differences between someone who is all talk and someone who is awestruck has to do with the glory of God.
William G.T. Shedd said in a sermon on the Supreme Excellence of God:
Sermons to the Spiritual Man Sermon III: The Supreme Excellence of God

God alone, therefore, is worthy to receive all the glory, and all the extolling, and all the magnifying that belongs to excellence

He states a little further on his sermon:
Sermons to the Spiritual Man Sermon III: The Supreme Excellence of God

The really good man or angel refers his character to God, and is filled with abhorrence at the thought of glorifying himself, or of being glorified for it. And there is no sin that so grieves him as his propensity to a detestable self-idolatry

Which really summarizes the goal of this series.
The purpose then in looking at is adopt the attitude of beholding God to behave godly for the glory of God.
There are three things that will help us to achieve the lifestyle that a Christian should have, beholding God to behave godly.

The Glory of God Beheld by Angels

There’s something very important to keep in mind as we examine . There’s a lot of great things that are going on in this chapter.
There’s tons to learn from looking at God, the angels, and Isaiah himself. And much of the incredible nature of looking at Isaiah and the angels happens when you compare them to God.
But God intended another character to be compared to. And that’s king Uzziah. The angels and Isaiah are beholding the glory of the three time Holy God.
And they react appropriately. But Uzziah the king did not behave appropriately.
(ESV)
16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
5 And the Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land.
(ESV)
16 But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense.
17 But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor,
18 and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”
Compare that with
(ESV)
5 And the Lord touched the king, so that he was a leper to the day of his death, and he lived in a separate house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the household, governing the people of the land.
Uzziah had a very long reign and Uzziah had a very big problem. He didn’t respond appropriately to the glory of God.
He competed with the glory of God rather desiring the glory of God over his own. It’s significant then that records for us that Isaiah had this vision the same year Uzziah died.
It’s meant to keep Uzziah’s wrong, self-glorifying attitude in our minds as we look at what happens when someone beholds the glory of God.
So the Lord is sitting on his throne, in the temple, high and lifted up, and his robe which is a symbol for his glory fills the Temple. So that the glory of the Lord has reached every inch of space of the temple.
John tells us in that Isaiah specifically saw Jesus Christ. And as Isaiah sees Jesus, enthroned, ruling, and glorious, He also sees the magnificent of God as sinless creatures hovered above him.
Now before we continue any further in our first point, I want to make sure that we’re all clear. We’re not trying to look at how awesome these creatures are.
Our goal in our first point is still to behold the glory of God and behave godly because of it. So as we examine the angels, what we’re really wanting to do, is look at the example they set.
And I actually get that idea, to look at angels as examples for us, from ,
(ESV)
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
The word “ministering” is a word in the Greek translation of the OT that refers to the utensils and tools that the high priest would use in performing his priestly duties.
And one of the ways then that angels help out
I mentioned these are sinless creatures. They’re called seraphim. Which means burning ones.
And as they literally burned Isaiah’s lips, you can see why they’re called burning ones. One of them had basically been standing there holding a burning coal, no problem.
And these seraphim are behaving in a way that we wouldn’t expect. And what I mean is, that these creatures are not sinful creatures. They’re not creatures who were even formally sinful.
These creatures were created sinless and kept sinless.
It would make sense that sinless creatures would be in the presence of God. It would make sense that sinless creatures would be worshipping God.
But what, at first, doesn’t make much sense is the way these creatures are behaving.
The description of these creatures is that they have 6 wings. 6 wings means speed, right? Well they’re probably fast, but some of the wings serve a different purpose.
Only two wings are reserved for flight. And in fact they seem to be constantly in flight.
Two of the wings, verse 2 says, are intended to cover the face of the seraph. Why would a seraph need to cover his face?
We’ll you’re probably already thinking that this has to do with the presence of God with His glory filling the temple. But it would seem that an angel would be able to behold the glory of God.
But these angels cannot behold the glory of God, His radiance is
It’s possible that these creatures simply cannot see the glory of God. Maybe it’s too painful for their eyes. I think it’s clear that God is restraining His glory, because otherwise this would be the end of Isaiah.
Which is fantastic to think about, God restraining His glory and yet it still filling the temple and is an absolutely mind blowing sight.
At any rate, these sinless creatures are responding to the Holiness and Glory of God appropriately, not because of who they are, but because of who God is.
God is worthy of this kind of behavior. The seraphim respond by covering their faces because that’s the right thing to do in the presence of God.
And that’s not all they’re doing. Two of their wings are also for covering their feet.
Which again is a rather interesting thing for angels to be doing. I get the concept of covering feet in the presence of God, you walk on feet, feet get dirty, feet are just inherently gross,
But these creatures are in perpetual flight. And yet with two wings they cover their feet.
Again it has to do with the fact of what feet could represent and even though their feet are sinless, they still cover them out of respect for God and because God is worthy of such behavior.
They’re covering of their face and their feet is also a continuous action. They’re constantly trying to cover themselves.
There’s another thing that I would like to suggest as an additional reason for these creatures covering their faces and their feet.
And it would have to do with the fact that they aren’t then looking around at other things either, if they’re faces are covered.
And with feet covered, that could also point to the fact that feet imply movement. But their feet are covered and their sitting here suspended in flight over the thrown of God.
Their staying put above the throne of God. And not only are they in constant flight, constantly trying to cover themselves, but they’re also constantly worshipping.
(ESV)
3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
The only attribute of God listed three times in a row, showing how emphatic and how superlative it is.
And this is interesting because you can get the sense that God’s glory is restrained to the temple, because they say that the whole earth is full of his glory.
And maybe then the glory of God is restrained just for Isaiah but not for the seraphims and maybe they can’t stand the glory of God.
But they keep worshipping God. They’re compelled to worship God. And in fact they don’t just call out to each other, they scream to each other, at the top of their lungs.
They’re yelling it. This is quality worship too, because I don’t the Lord would tolerate incessant bad worship. But I think the issue of the quality of worship isn’t dependent on the worshipper’s ability but it’s dependent upon God’s worth.
We also conclude that the duration of worship is based upon the worshiper’s grasp of the worth of God.
The example these creatures set for us to understanding how beholding God leads to behaving Godly is to grasp the worth of God.
These creatures are bored. Even though all they do until God tells them to do something is hover and say the same thing over and over again.
(ESV)
8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

The Glory of God Beheld by Anguish

Moving to Isaiah we have a very interesting example. We could probably expect that a prophet of God, especially someone like Isaiah, would follow the angels’ example.
(ESV)
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The voice of him who called was one of the seraphs. So either a seraph has the ability to shake the foundations of the doorways and doorposts, or.
The content of what the seraph said invoked the foundations to respond. Which is absolutely incredible, that God doesn’t even need to exert himself and he can still shake things.
And it’s significant that it’s true worship of God. It’s theologically accurate, doctrinally saturated.
False worship only moves the unbeliever and heretical imaginations. True worship moves creation.
Because creation knows who God is and gets excited hearing about who God is.
So the foundations are shaken. And since even creation is moved appropriately, the angels are reacting appropriately, we can probably get some serious worship out of Isaiah.
(ESV)
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The word “Woe” is the Hebrew word אוֹי. This is an expression of anxiety and despair in the face of danger.
Which makes sense given what he says is the reason for his “woe”. He says he’s lost. The Hebrew word נִדְמָה means destroyed. Obliterated. Cease to exist.
נִדְמָה
He doesn’t even say he’s dead. He says he’s annihilated. Body and spirit, totally destroyed by the sight of God.
This is the intensive use of the verb. The simple use of the verb means “silence”. But the contexts that it’s normally used in are like silence after someone has died or after something has been destroyed.
And he uses a perfect tense, meaning it’s a completed action. He’s already destroyed. He’s already been annihilated. He’s just waiting for his consciousness to catch up with what has already happened.
He’s destroyed, by God.
And what’s interesting, Isaiah thinks that his demise is right. He doesn’t appeal to God for forgiveness or mercy or grace. He willingly, albeit in torment, accepts his fate.
Isaiah thinks is the right thing for him to receive his obliteration.
This concept isn’t new. The idea of seeing God and fearing the loss of one’s own life.
(ESV)
22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.”
23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.”
And Samson’s parents also experienced a similar interaction with God:
(ESV)
22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”
23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”
There is no such thing as true worship without a sincere acknowledgment of one’s sinful condition before the Holy God.
(ESV)
There is no such thing as true Christianity without a sincere acknowledgment of one’s own sinful condition in the presence of the Holy God.
20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”
The one’s who are the safest from divine judgment are the ones who agree the most with divine judgment.
Those who are actually saved from judgment have the greatest awareness of judgment. Those who will never see judgment are those who see judgment correctly.
But Isaiah doesn’t only confess God’s judgment is right he also confesses the reality of who he his himself.
He says he a man of unclean lips who lives among a people of unclean lips. So instead of being able to confess the same thing as the seraphs, he confesses his impure lips.
The only legitimate acknowledgment that he can make is how sinful he actually is. The holiness of God draws out the sinfulness of Isaiah.
Is that the reason why we don’t behold the Glory of God? Because of the absolute effectiveness of the Holiness of God at exposes the sinfulness of man?
Some commentators have thought that this is actually the beginning of Isaiah’s prophetic ministry because his sinful acknowledgement.
I happen to think it’s still chapter 6, Isaiah has already been ministering and preaching.
And why I don’t think it’s a problem is because Isaiah’s experience is very similar to the Apostle Paul’s.
In fact the LXX of verse 5 could easily be translated, “O, I am a wretched man”.
(ESV)
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
And we can’t forget that it was at the end of Paul’s ministry that he called himself the chief of all sinners.
The absolute danger of beholding God’s glory is that all sin in our lives is thoroughly sinful to us.
The more we grow as Christians, the more sin we deal with and get rid of, the more the remaining sin beings to look far worse, especially if we dangerously see ourselves in light of God’s Holiness.
But there’s something else that’s present. If you could image getting a glimpse of God, and dying from it, what would be the one absolutely amazing thing of that experience that would make it totally worth it?
(ESV)
5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
What an incredible tornado of emotions. The fear of imminent horrific death mixed with seeing the most soul-satisfying sight imaginable, God himself.
So now, what happens as result of Isaiah beholding God? Does it result in godly behavior for God’s glory?

The Glory of God Beheld by Atonement

(ESV)
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Here’s the ministry of the burning ones. Oddly enough their ministry is to burn. Don’t read over what happened here without paying close attention to it.
This seraph just seared the lips of Isaiah. The seraph took a hot, burning coal from the altar.
, says that the fire of the alter is never to go out, it’s supposed to keep burning. It’s supposed to be a perpetual fire.
Now fire isn’t symbol for cleansing. Especially the fire that seraph took a coal from. That’s a demonstration of the perpetual wrath of God.
Which is something that Jesus presents in the New Testament,
(ESV)
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
This is a rather intense scene.
But notice the immediate significance. I always wondered why it is that only Isaiah’s lips were atoned for.
But the connection in the text is clear. He confessed to be a man of unclean lips and what was confessed was purified.
(ESV)
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What is confessed is what is cleansed. Beholding God’s glory leads to godly behavior because beholding God’s glory is the total convincing of a person’s sin.
(ESV)
20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
Now. I’ve often wondered why does the burning of the coal count? Why isn’t there an animal sacrifice?
The word for “burning coal” is only used in in a purifying sense.
It’s not prescribed in OT law to burn someone’s lips to make them pure. And no one else receives the burning stones. Remember he said he lives among a people of unclean lips.
Well if the fire is a demonstration, a visual reminder of the wrath of God then it counts because it demonstrates the wrath of God being satisfied.
And this encounter points to the One, Jesus Christ, who would on a much larger scale, take the burning coals or in other words the wrath of God for us.
Isaiah says that the seraph touched his lips with the coal and at the same time, his guilt is taken away and his sin atoned for.
The word for “guilt” also means “punishment” and it’s a wonderfully ambiguous term. That both guilt and punishment can be taken away in atonement.
Isaiah’s sin has been “atoned for” and that’s the Hebrew word for “appease”. God’s wrath has been appeased.
Isaiah’s first demonstration of Godly behavior is his confession of sin. His second expression of Godly behavior is commission to service.
(ESV)
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
Willingness, eagerness, desire, motivation to serve spring from conscious awareness of the Holiness of God.
The progression of sinful lips, to lips seared by the symbol for the wrath of God, lead not to evangelism for Isaiah but to proclamation of the wrath of God.
And
(ESV)
9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
This whole time Isaiah has been beholding both his Savior and his judge, there one and the same person, Jesus Christ.
Now wait a minute that’s just an Old Testament issue, right?
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste,
This is actually what Jesus refers to as the reason why he spoke in parables. So that some who not be saved.
12 and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
That’s such a peculiar issue. Both Isaiah and Jesus Christ had ministries that involved preaching in a such a way as to prevent salvation.
Here’s what I think.
13 And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
It’s because Isaiah and Jesus’s ministries weren’t only making converts. In fact, it is only about glorifying God.
(ESV)
37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
If you think that the number of conversions = the success of your local church, you have not spent time beholding God’s glory to produce godly behavior.
40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
Evangelism, serving God in any capacity, is entirely about the glory of God. And
42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;
43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
Our focus is upon beholding God to behave godly for God’s glory. And Isaiah’s and Christ’s ministries are about the maximum glory of God through the salvation of the elect and the just condemnation of those who don’t believe.
And getting on board with glorifying God happens by beholding God in his glory. Because you see him as so supremely valuable and his way of doing things as so so supremely satisfying.
Everything is not going to make sense on it’s own. Why does anything happen the way it happens? It’s because God’s glory is more important.
Why does God let me hurt the way I do? It’s because God wants glory in being your comforter and you wouldn’t experience how good he is without it.
How could two people who love each other clash in marriage the way they do? It’s because marriage isn’t about your glory it’s about God’s glory. And marriages are awesome when marriages work as intended, for God’s glory.
And the single greatest difference from and the parabolic ministry of Jesus between those who believe and those who don’t is those who believe love God’s glory and not the glory they get form men.
And the problem that we have is that we naturally gravitate towards the glory that we can get from others. Especially if that’s what we’re experiencing more regularly.

Conclusion

Remember Uzziah? The difference between him and Isaiah isn’t who spent time in the Temple of God, but who was more focused on beholding God and behaving godly, for God’s glory.
Behold God’s glory to behave godly in order to glorify God.
Don’t just read the Bible or listen to sermons. Don’t be a consumer Christian. Be a Christian who is concerned with beholding God’s glory.
When we read the scriptures, read with the intention of beholding God’s glory
You behold Him in the only place in which the revelation of him is sure, the word of God.
When we listen to sermons, listen with the intention of beholding God’s glory
But with correct theology
When we worship, worship with the intention
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