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This sermon was preached on Sunday 01/07/01 Am, by Kevin Matthews.
Read Isaiah 6:1-7
If I were to ask you this morning about how you came to church, what would you say? I don’t mean in the way of transport, or of what you’re wearing, but about your motivation, attitude and so on. How did you come to church?
Did you come with an attitude of, ‘well, it’s only a couple of hours and it will soon be over for this week?’ Did you come with any thoughts about church at all? How did you come to church? This is really an important question that you need to address each week before you come. Is it important to you?
Well, think about this, for this morning we are in the presence of God. God is really here among us in this place. Now that should give you a whole new perspective about your attitudes, motivations, etcetera, when coming to church. How do you think you should come into the presence of Almighty God? As you think upon this question, the section of Scripture that we are dealing with this morning becomes extremely relevant to where you sit and to where I stand this morning.
‘Why,’ you ask? Because Isaiah is in the Old Testament temple, in the place of God’s special presence among His people in that day. He is in the church of his day if you like. Christians are the spiritual bricks of God’s New Testament temple, the church of God, 'Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5a).’
As God was in the Old Testament temple, so He is also in His New Testament temple, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Mt 18:20).’
In other words, as God was present in the Old Testament temple, so He is present in His New Testament temple, the church, which is His people gathered together. Yes, God is here! God is really present among us this morning!
Friends, this passage this morning has much to tell you about being in the presence of God, and it is to this theme that we give our consideration this morning.
#1. The God Who Is Present
‘In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple (Is 6:1).’
Isaiah is in the temple of His God, and He sees God! There he is, doing whatever it was he was doing in the temple, when all of a sudden, without warning, the power of God came upon him. At one moment he was actively engaged in this present world, in the next he is actively involved in a vision in which he sees God.
Isaiah through the power of God is removed to the spiritual world, and in this spiritual world he sees the God who is always there. If you and I could somehow now see the spiritual, you would find God right here, right now! Have you ever thought about that? These Scriptural truths are not just page fillers, they are reality. What they have to say about the spiritual world that we cannot see with our physical eyes is actually all around us.
In this vision Isaiah experiences what man in this life can never experience in its fullness - the spiritual reality. Here he saw God, in human form - how? ‘No man hath seen God at any time (Jn 1:18a),’ ‘Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see (1 Tim 6:16a ).’
How could Isaiah have seen this God? Yet Isaiah says that he saw the sovereign, all controlling and almighty King sitting on a throne, wearing a robe in human form.
Let’s hear what John has to say about this vision in John 12:37-41:
‘But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him (Jn 12:37-41).’
How did Isaiah see God in human form? John quoting Isaiah six tells us that Isaiah saw Jesus that day in the temple. ‘In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple (Is 6:1).'
It was Jesus, wearing the robe, as the symbol of glory and majesty, filling the temple, for so great is His glory. In other words, Isaiah saw the Lord Jesus Christ in a pre-fleshly state (a theophany).
‘Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly (Is 6:2).’
These seraphim that stood above the throne of God were spiritual beings, angels who were at the Lord’s bidding. They stood above the throne covering their feet so as not to encroach upon the glory of God and they covered their eyes because the glory of God was too much for the creature to behold.
‘And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory (Is 6:3)!'
Here are the seraphim in the very presence of God as we, and they could do nothing but praise God saying, ‘holy, holy, holy.’ The word translated as holy in this verse is the Hebrew word ‘qadosh,’ which means absolutely perfect and separate. It is the perfection of God that separates Him from His creation.
What the seraph is saying about God is that He is transcendently separate, exceeding and surpassing all else that is present in creation. He is totally separate, a massive cut above the rest, in a league of His own, and that everything else is of mega-insignificance when compared to God. He is totally other, completely separate from creation. Then note that this was said three times in order to emphasise the great chasm that exists between God and the creature.
‘Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders (Ex 15:11)?’ ‘There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee (1 Sam 2:2a,b).’
His majesty cannot be contained in the temple, for ‘The whole earth is full of His glory (Is 6:3c).’ His glory overflows throughout creation, so that ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard (Ps 19:1-3).’
‘And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke (Is 6:4).’ At the mere mention of God’s glory, the temple shakes to its foundation, His glory being everywhere present. What an awesome God is revealed to us by Isaiah! What an awe-inspiring vision!
This must be one of the most glorious revelations of what God is like in all of Scripture. What majesty, what glory! Is there anybody or anything like unto God? Yet man is constantly trying to portray God as somebody on his own level, but this isn’t a level playing field - who are we when put alongside God?
That God present in the temple then, is the God who is present in the church now! He is right here among us this morning. I ask you the question again, how did you come to church and how did you come into the presence of this God? How do you respond to this God who is very present here this morning?
Can you really treat His worship as a light thing and as a joke when you know He is here? Can you just rush in and rush out of His presence with no concern about the consequences? Can you fool about with the worship of God, coming in hypocrisy and thinking that it won’t matter? How do you behave and live in this God’s presence? How do you respond to this God who is right here right now?
Sinner, what is your response to this God in whose presence you sit right now? He’s here, and you are very much the object of His consideration. His eyes are penetrating into your heart, His ears listening to your every word and thought, His mind assessing each and every action, attitude, deed, motive, prayer, thought, word - everything about you is being scrutinized by this God who will Judge you in truth and with righteousness at the last day.
Sinner, how did you come into His presence?
2. In the Presence of God
Well, how did Isaiah respond to God when he saw Him that day in the temple? Was it a time for breaking out in wild displays of religious fervour? What did he do?
‘Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts (Is 6:5).’
How did Isaiah respond? He found himself over-whelmed by the Majesty and Glory of God. The experienced shattered him, so that he cried out in despair, ‘Woe is me, for I am undone!’ He feared for his life - ‘woe is me,’ Isaiah proclaimed. He was sure he was finished, and that he was on his way to Hell. He knew himself to be undone before this holy God. This God knew his heart!
There in the presence of God Isaiah was completely open to the gaze of God. The Hebrew gives the idea of a man who sensed he was falling apart before God. He was a man who knew God to be a consuming fire and he sensed that this would be his end - to be consumed. Isaiah knew that he didn’t have what it takes to stand in the presence of God, for at that moment Isaiah knew what God was really like and what he himself was really like. ‘Surely God will destroy me!’
All the illusions that Isaiah may have had about his own goodness were shattered. God knew him for what he really was, a sinful man among a sinful people. His lips betrayed the state of his own heart. His sinfulness was demonstrated by what he said. How could he stand before the thrice holy God and survive the experience? Isaiah was a shattered, broken and wrecked man before the God of glory.
That day he knew that between him and God was a chasm of separateness. God, the transcendent God, and Isaiah the sinful insignificant creature. Well might Isaiah have proclaimed that he was undone before God and in big trouble.
What a difference we see in Isaiah when contrasted with so many that come into the presence of God today. Here we are, in the presence of the very same God, yet His majesty and glory have not gripped us.
Today, at this very moment we find ourselves in the presence of the same holy God. You all stand undone before Him, open to the gaze of the all-seeing God. It is as though he has each one under a microscope and that he is jotting down every single sin he finds in order to bring it against you in the judgment. How can you stand before this holy God? Sinner, He is a consuming fire, and there you are before Him!
You may not sense that undoneness before God, but never the less it is true. He sees into your heart and He knows what you are truly like, ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’ He knows whether you are trying to hide from Him behind your Bibles, your profession or your alleged goodness. He knows whether you are fair dinkum before Him this morning.
If you truly understood that this God is right here this morning sinner, then you would know like Isaiah knew that you are undone and stand condemned before the holy God. Sinner, the axe of God’s judgment is ready to fall upon you, you stand undone before Him this very day and do you not fear?
Is there any hope for you? Is there any way for you to bridge that great chasm that exists between the holy God and you the ungodly condemned sinner? Are you to be condemned forever? Sinner if this chasm is not crossed, then yes you will be condemned forever. Are you doomed to a life of despair, knowing that sooner or later you will be swallowed up by Hell?
3. Crossing the Chasm
‘Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged (Is 6:6,7).’
The chasm was there between God and Isaiah, and how was it crossed? Isaiah lay a broken and shattered man before God, thinking he was about to be consumed. Did Isaiah cross the chasm of separateness between God and him? No, he did not. He couldn’t cross it, remember that Isaiah was the man with the unclean lips, the sinner. There is no way that a sinful creature can find his way into the presence of God.
So what happened? God did not destroy Isaiah, but sent His angel with a hot coal from the altar as a symbol of God’s forgiveness. So what does the coal represent? It’s not really that important, but what is important is the overall meaning of the vision. The vision is rich in symbolism. The hot coal had no saving ability in itself.
What the vision symbolised was forgiveness for Isaiah. The very God who had the right to destroy Isaiah reached out across the chasm to Isaiah in mercy and forgave him. That’s what’s important about the vision. God reached out and forgave Isaiah.
Remember whom it was that reached across the chasm - it was Jesus. It was Jesus who reached across in this vision through this symbolic act. How did he do this? Was it through a hot coal? No, but through the sacrifice of Christ represented throughout the whole Old Testament era by the sacrifices offered up on the altars full of hot coals. Jesus suffered in the place of sinners upon the hot coals of God’s wrath so that sinners would not have to.
Today, the way across the chasm is the same. Jesus Himself has built the bridge across it. 'Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (Jn 14:6).’
Jesus was sent by the Father to build the bridge across the chasm to man. That bridge is His own blood and body hanging on the cross, the sacrifice for sin. It is this bridge that you must take for salvation and to be able to stand acceptably before God.
You want peace with God sinner, then cross the bridge that God has built for you. You want to be free from your sin, then cross the bridge.
Isaiah was able to stand confidently before God and serve as his prophet to Judah because the God of Judah had reached across the chasm and saved him. God, in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, had reached across the chasm in grace and mercy and saved him.
The vision that Isaiah experienced is a picture of how a sinner can be saved. That bridge remains open and is the only way across to God. It comes from God’s side and reaches out across the great gap to sinful men and women.
You will never cross that chasm through your own bridges, for you do not have the resources to span such a huge gaping chasm. The bridge of decision will not cross it, the bridge of baptism will not span it, the bridge of church will not reach the other side, none of your bridges of merits and works will make it - but the bridge that Jesus has built goes the whole infinite distance. It is a finished bridge and you can cross it this very day.
Turn to Jesus from your sin, and trust Him as your bridge to God. Cross the bridge by faith and repentance. Take Him as your bridge from sin to the Holy God, 'For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed (Rom 10:11).’
Oh sinner, why will you perish. Trust Jesus as your bridge to the Father. Turn from your sin onto the bridge of Christ and travel the narrow road that leads to life. Cross the bridge before it becomes a drawbridge, and the offer of mercy is withdrawn by the arrival of judgment. Cross before it is too late.
Brethren in Christ who have already crossed the bridge, remember your Saviour this day and what He went through to provide you with access to the Father. Offer up your bodies as living sacrifices, for this is your reasonable service when you carefully weigh up what God has done for you in Christ.
This is our Lord’s Supper day, let us praise Him with thankful hearts for His grace and mercy. Amen.
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