Thursday, November 4, 2010

One of My Favorite Scripture Passages...

One of my favorite Scripture passages is Isaiah 6.
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said:

“ Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 So I said:

“ 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 my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“ Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.”

8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

“ Whom shall I send,
And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
9 And He said, “Go, and tell 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 shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.”

11 Then I said, “Lord, how long?”

And He answered:

“ Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant,
The houses are without a man,
The land is utterly desolate,
12 The LORD has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13 But yet a tenth will be in it,
And will return and be for consuming,
As a terebinth tree or as an oak,
Whose stump remains when it is cut down.
So the holy seed shall be its stump.”

I like it for two reasons. First, because the vision is so congruous with the liturgical worship of the Trinity in the Church. Second, because of the how the Lord chastises His people.

The people had strayed from His statutes and commandments. In faithlessness they had become of the same mind and spirit as the nations who do not know God. They even had pursued the worship of the idols (demons) the nations worshiped. God follows the conditions of the covenant. He had sent deprivations upon the land. He had sent devastations upon the land from other nations. Finally He will visit the last chastisement upon them through their deportation from the land. But what is at work here is not vindictiveness. It is not a power-play or the satiation of a personal need for justice (a.k.a. holding a grudge).

What is God doing? I believe He is revealing to His people the fullness of their choice to be like the other nations instead of God's Holy Nation. He is letting them see what it means to serve other gods (demons), and the difference between that abominable service and the blessedness of the Royal Priesthood of the Living God.
19:6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Thus the people are to hear without understanding, that their children may understand what folly their parents gave them for an inheritance. They have chosen their own path, but God never changes His tune.

I like this passage because God insists on being their father.

I also like this passage because it reveals the way of righteousness. Isaiah suddenly finds his eyes upon a vision of the Lord God Himself. He sees God and this illumines his fallen condition - to Isaiah's horror! He feels guilt, but God begrudges Isaiah nothing. However, God does not ignore Isaiah's sinful corruption. He forgives any guilt Isaiah has and atones for the sin. Here is God's love for Israel that they will not have, but blessed Isaiah has found. He is pardoned and released and sanctified and made a partaker in God's efforts to love Israel. Here is a foreshadowing of the fullness of salvation that comes through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Was Isaiah actually cleansed from sin? Yes. Did this take the place of Christ's work? No. Why? Because the root problem behind Isaiah's "unclean lips" is addressed truly in our Lord Jesus Christ. He became man, He accepted our mortality without committing sin, He entered the strong man's house (Death) and bound him. The Lord Jesus has made Himself the fullness of our salvation, both by bearing our sins and partaking of our death only to rise in victory.

As Isaiah was cleansed from sin through a flaming coal, we partake of a better flaming coal - the Eucharist. There the Divinity and Humanity of Christ impart to us the Holy Spirit.


Rev. Luke T. Zimmerman said...

Yes, Isaiah's vision of the enthroned LORD is both inspiring and humbling.

Listening to M. Praetorius' setting of Luther's hymnic paraphrase of Isaiah 6:1-4 captures much of the grandeur of the Prophet's vision.

Take a listen to the first 6:15 at this link: Praetorius' German Sanctus

Deacon Benjamin Harju said...

Thanks, Luke!