Sermon: Isaiah 6:1-8
Pentecost 1 - May 27, 2018 - Rev. Steven J. Radunzel
I’m going to begin by asking you a question: Why do you worship and praise God? I would imagine that most of your answers would involve the fact that God sent Jesus to be our Savior. We worship God because Jesus died on a cross for our sins.
But let me ask you another question: Why do the angels in heaven worship and praise God? Think a little before you answer this question. The angels don’t worship and praise God because Jesus is their Savior. They don’t need a Savior. They never sinned against God. They worship and praise God because God is God and they are his creatures.
In our text on this Trinity Sunday we have the LORD’s call to Isaiah to be his prophet. Isaiah has a vision of God sitting on his throne with the angels worshiping him. This vision reminds us of the reverence and worship and praise that the LORD God deserves from the angels and from us. And one thought that might particularly get our attention is that if the holy angels, who need no forgiveness, worship and praise God, then how much more ought we, who need God’s forgiveness, worship and praise God.
Today we consider
IF EVEN THE ANGELS WORSHIP GOD . . . .
Next to Moses Isaiah is the most important prophet in the Old Testament. Isaiah writes, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”
Who was King Uzziah and why would Isaiah mention him and the year of his death? Uzziah reigned as the king of Judah from about 790-740 B.C. Therefore he reigned about 250 years after King David. In those intervening years the nation of Israel had divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Uzziah ruled over Judah.
During Uzziah’s reign Judah extended its boundaries back to where they were originally in the nation of Israel and the people enjoyed a time of prosperity. But when Uzziah died Judah began a descent into spiritual unfaithfulness and political decline. So Isaiah was really saying, “The LORD called me to be Judah’s prophet just about the time the nation began its spiritual decline into complete destruction.
This account of the LORD’s call to Isaiah to be his prophet is really quite amazing, and there’s a lot to learn from Isaiah’s vision. We’re going to note that Isaiah had about three different emotional responses to God. The first emotional response is overwhelming reverence and awe at the sight of God. Isaiah saw the LORD seated on a throne. God took on a physical form or appearance for Isaiah. He was like a very exalted king sitting on his throne in the temple. The majesty and glory of the moment is clear when Isaiah says that God’s flowing robe filled the temple.
And Isaiah expresses his reverence and awe for God when he describes seraphs that were above God. Seraphs are a kind of angelic being. The name seraph literally means to burn or to be fiery. Their name might have been a reverence to their fiery or shiny appearance, maybe the speed with which they moved.
But they had six wings. With two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The seraphs gave God absolute and perfect worship and praise. And on this Trinity Sunday we note that they called God “holy, holy, holy,” three times holy, an indication of the triune nature of God.
But why did they cover their faces with one set of wings and their feet with another? This behavior is utterly amazing and instructive to us. These holy angels covered their faces because even they could not stare directly at the glory of God. They covered their feet because they were in the infinitely greater glory of God’s presence. Remember when God called Moses to be his prophet. The LORD God called him from the burning bush, and when Moses approached that amazing sight God told him to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground.
What’s so instructive about the seraphs covering their faces and feet is that if they, holy angels, angels without sin, needed to show so much reverence and respect to God then just imagine the humble attitude and reverent respect and fear we sinners must have when we stand before God to worship and praise him.
We worship and praise God because he sent his Son Jesus to be our Savior. And that’s of course a good thing. But remember that we worship and praise God first of all for the same reason that the sinless and holy angels worship him - because he’s God and we and the angels are not. He is the holy and almighty God who created all the angels and all of us. He rules the universe, heaven and earth, and provides everything his creatures need. For those reasons alone God deserves our words of praise: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Often when we picture God to ourselves we think of him as Jesus, as a good friend, to whom we can speak. And that’s ok. God did come to us in the person of Jesus our Savior and Friend. But we sometimes need to picture God as the majestic, holy God seated high and exalted on his throne as Isaiah saw him. We also need to have that kind of reverence and respect for God.
Isaiah’s first emotional response of reverence, awe, and respect suddenly changed. As he stood staring at God with the seraphs praising him, the doorposts of the temple shook, and it was filled with smoke. Isaiah’s emotional response suddenly changed to fear. And I’m not talking about reverence and respect. I’m talking about fear, being afraid, afraid of God. Isaiah said, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Isaiah was afraid of God. God is holy. Isaiah and all the people among whom he lived were sinful. God’s holiness could have consumed Isaiah, destroyed him. God could have condemned Isaiah to an eternity of hell.
Are you afraid of God? I’m not talking about reverence and respect for God. I’m not even talking about reverent fear and respect. I’m talking about being afraid of God. If we’re wise we should be afraid of God. He is holy. We’re sinful. He could consume us and condemn us in an instant. Our sinful nature is nothing but afraid of God.
There’s a lot of trouble in our society and world today. And it seems as if almost everyone has an explanation for all the trouble. There are a lot of explanations, but I would put at the top of the list of causes for trouble in our society and world the lack of fear for God. And I mean people are not afraid of God. They don’t respect his holy will, and they don’t fear his judgment. When people aren’t afraid of God they don’t respect him, and they don’t worship and praise him. Churches are empty today because people aren’t afraid of God. People aren’t really afraid of God’s eternal judgment.
It’s not a bad thing to be afraid of God. Isaiah was afraid of God. We should be afraid of God too because our fear of God puts us right where we need to be - helpless and needing God’s mercy. That’s where Isaiah was.
And then we see something amazing. Isaiah writes, “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” From the altar of burnt offering where sacrifices were made the seraph took a coal and touched Isaiah’s lips, purifying him, atoning for his sin.”
The almighty, holy God who sits high and exalted on his heavenly throne, the God who inspired fear in our hearts, is also the God who graciously and mercifully forgives our sins. He stepped down from that throne and came into this world as a little baby named Jesus born of Mary. He would die on a cross to atone for our sins. Isaiah the prophet would one day write, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
And that brings us to Isaiah’s third emotional response. God spoke, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” In other words who’s going to go and speak for God? Who’s going to go and proclaim the forgiveness of God?
Isaiah who now had experienced personally the forgiveness of God, the atonement of his sin, said, “Here am I. Send me.” Isaiah would be the LORD’s prophet. Isaiah would go on to write 66 chapters inspired by God the Holy Spirit. We can be glad that Isaiah answered God’s call. Today, 2700 years later, we’re still privileged to read the words God inspired him to write.
Are you willing to say, “Here am I. Send me”? You and I aren’t going to be prophets or apostles. We’re not going to write 66 chapters in a book of the Bible. We’re likely not going to be missionaries is some far off land. But God still uses you and me to help proclaim the good news that Jesus died for the sins of the world. And the emotional response in our heart ought to be the same as Isaiah’s: to be willing to be used by God as he desires to bring others into his kingdom.
I think you know the words of this mission hymn:
“If you cannot speak like angels, If you cannot preach like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus; You can say he died for all. If you cannot rouse the wicked With the Judgment’s dread alarms, You can lead the little children To the Savior’s waiting arms.
If you cannot be a watchmen, Standing high on Zion’s wall, Pointing out the path to heaven, Off’ring life and peace to all, With your prayers and with your off’rings You can do what God demands; You can be like faithful Aaron, Holding up the prophet’s hands.
Let none hear you idly saying, “There is nothing I can do,” While the multitudes are dying, And the Master calls for you. Take the task he gives you gladly; Let his work your pleasure be. Answer quickly when he calleth, “Here am I - send me, send me!”
If even the holy angels worship and praise God, then we must worship and praise him too. Amen.