For the week of February 6, 1999 / 20 Shevat 5759
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 18:1 - 20:23
Haftarah: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5

Seeing God

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 (Isaiah 6:1).

When Isaiah saw the Lord, he witnessed heavenly worship. Creatures called Seraphim were proclaiming, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory" (6:3). Isaiah responded by lamenting over his own sinfulness:

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty" (6:5).

Notice that he referred to his lips. Having witnessed pure speech through hearing the worship of the Seraphim, he realized how far his own speech was from the holiness of God.

To realize this is to accept one's own distance from God himself. It is easy to forget that God is very different from us. Isaiah's experience shocked him into this realization.

Now see what happened to Isaiah as a result:

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" (6:6,7).

Once Isaiah admitted his state in God's presence, he received cleansing in his area of need. God wants us to be honest before him. While we think we are better than we really are, there is not much God can do with us. But when we admit our failings, errors, and wrongs, then he provides us with the forgiveness and restoration we so desperately need.

Once Isaiah experiences cleansing of his sin, he hears God speak. Isaiah himself would later say,

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).

Until we receive God's forgiveness in our lives, he will seem very far away from us. But when we do receive his forgiveness, we can hear him.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" (6:8).

Isaiah immediately volunteers: "And I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'" (6:8).

Note the sequence. First the revelation of pure speech, causing a realization of Isaiah's own spiritual state, which in turn results in his receiving cleansing. This experience enables him to hear God and positively respond to God's request.

This experience put Isaiah in the place where God desires all of us to be. We were made to serve him. We were placed on this earth to be God's representatives. But in order to be that, we must be restored to God just as Isaiah was, so that we can both hear him and do his will.

What God has Isaiah do is speak. He who realized how far away from God his speech was would now be God's mouthpiece in the world.

God desires to take the weakest and most sinful areas of our lives and use then for his purposes. And he will if we let him.

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