AND THEY CRIED, “HOLY!”
I read a joke some time ago – some of you have probably heard it before.
A couple in their 60s take a trip to the beautiful beaches of Mauritius. One day they decide to take a stroll along the beach, and while on their walk they come across an intricate-looking golden lamp. Just for fun, they rub it and are amazed to see a genie appear who grants them each one wish.
The wife glances lovingly at her husband and doesn’t hesitate, but wishes that they could stay on the island paradise for the rest of their lives. She’s enjoyed their time there so much, she couldn’t imagine having to go home. Instantly her wish is granted, and when they get back to their hotel they’ll discover it’s actually a beautiful home with the title deeds waiting for them to collect.
The man thinks this is a wonderful idea, and while he’s celebrating his mind is also tinkering over what his wish would be. He barely hesitates before giving his wish: “I wish that my wife was thirty years younger than me.” And with that, instantly… the man turns 95.
You might laugh at that joke, but it has two ready lessons for us to learn: 1) Be careful what you wish for; and 2) Be careful what you say.
I’ve thought about that second lesson many, many times – but especially during worship times in Church.
I wonder how often you come to Church and kind of sing along to the songs, waiting for them to end so you can sit down again. You’re saying things that if God were to take you at your word, you’d regret ever saying those words.
“Break my heart for what breaks Yours – Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause.”
“Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”
“Take me, mould me, use me, fill me, I give my life to the Potter’s hand”
So it’s important for us to think about the words that we are singing in Church worship times. Are you ready for God to answer these prayers?
I was thinking about this particularly over the camp two weeks ago as we sang a song declaring that God is holy, holy, holy. And as I thought about these words in the song, I thought it was all very good for us to declare the holiness of God while on a Church camp, surrounded by believers, stomachs full of bacon, somebody else washing the bedding when we leave – but how difficult is it for us to recognise and declare the holiness of God and the holiness of us, His people, when the kids wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning making you late for work, the razor didn’t work, the dog threw up on the new carpet, and your favourite coffee mug smashed on the ground when you didn’t put it on the counter right; your co-worker stole your work as her own, your boss tells you your leave has been cancelled because your deadline has been brought forward ten days, your car breaks down on the way home and then you get home only for your wife to snap, “I told you to get the car fixed weeks ago.”
Maybe you’ve had days or weeks like that. At that point, who or what you turn to for comfort will tell you who your god is. When the day is long and hard, do you turn to comfort food, or alcohol, do you turn to bickering with your spouse, maybe self-pity; maybe you start to strategize a way to murder your boss and get rid of his body secretly.
Or are you at that point reminded of who God is, regardless of circumstances?
Please turn with me to Isaiah 6.
Tonight I want to tell you that seeing God will make the world alright. Yes, regardless of your circumstances – if you catch a glimpse of who God is, it will help you greatly in overcoming hurdles, handling tragic circumstances, and fighting temptations.
I also want to say at the beginning here that this is not an area I have complete victory in. I honestly wish I did, but it’s something I eagerly want to grow in, and I hope that as we speak tonight that it will be something you will become eager to grow in as well.
Isaiah 6 says this: 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. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Let’s just stop there for now.
1. Notice first WHAT HAPPENED – Isaiah saw the LORD.
First let me give you some context.
You’ll know if you read through the books of the Old Testament that from the time after Solomon, the Israelites spent a large part of their time in wars. It was under Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, that the nation of Israel split into two parts – Israel and Judah – nations that sometimes fought with each other against a common enemy, and at other times fought against each other. This went on for about 300 years.
Every now and again there would be a time of peace from war, and one of those great times of peace was under King Uzziah. 2 Chronicles 26 tells us that after the death of his father Amaziah, “all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in place of his father…Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years…He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD…As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.”
So Uzziah was a godly king, and under him the people of Judah had about 50 years of peace. Then he died, and dark clouds of war and trouble began to gather around the nation of Judah.
What dark clouds do you find gathering around you? Maybe you see exams coming, or the results of a medical test to see if a tumour is growing; maybe it’s a turbulent marriage relationship. Whatever it might be, it’s dark. And while it may not be as dark as what Isaiah and the nation of Judah were facing at this time – yet it feels to you as if the world may come crashing down.
At this point, what is it that you need? A surprise bonus from work? A holiday perhaps? What is it that you need? A clean bill of health? What do you need more than anything else? At that point, whether you realise it or not, what you and I need more than anything else is to be reminded of who God is. And not from the pulpit – not from a well-meaning friend who says, ‘But you know God is in control.’ It’s not enough to have a second-hand encounter. You need a first-hand experience of the LORD – the LORD Almighty.
When the dark clouds of trouble are seen on the horizon, you need to encounter – first-hand – the LORD Almighty.
2. Notice second WHERE IT HAPPENED – In the temple.
Notice where Isaiah had this encounter. He was in the temple. Remember what was going on: their source of security has left them, their godly headship has died, and notice where you find Isaiah – in the temple, before the LORD. He was seeking the LORD.
While his contemporaries may have been drinking their sorrows away, or planning their future, or working to put away some cash for the hard times ahead, Isaiah was seeking God.
Let me ask you, when the dark clouds of a gloomy future begin to swirl around you, where can you be found? When the devil is accusing you, tempting or trying you, where can you be found? Will you be found vegging in front of the tv? Will you be found biting at your husband or wife or kids? Or will you be found seeking God; quietly alone in your study, on your face before Him in your room. Will you be found seeking God?
So this is where we are: The whole nation of Judah has just had some heart-wrenching news; their strong and godly leader of fifty-two years has just died, and the nations around them are starting to lick their chops at the small nation of Judah. The clouds of war and all that comes with that are circling them, and they don’t know what to do.
But here’s Isaiah, and he’s seeking the Lord in His temple. And God meets with him there; God reveals Himself to Isaiah. Notice that God doesn’t whisper to Isaiah words of comfort at this point; God also doesn’t take away the challenges that Judah is facing; God doesn’t raise Uzziah back from the dead; God doesn’t summon an angelic host to wipe out their enemies. God gives Isaiah exactly what the people of Judah need: a vision of who their God is.
3. So I want you to notice thirdly WHAT HE SAW – Who The LORD Is: [Isaiah] saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Do you see it? Do you see it? Do you catch a glimpse of the LORD we serve? He is unlike any other. He is far higher than all others. He is far more majestic than any can hope to be. This is the LORD we serve.
Encountering God, having a vision of Him puts perspective to our lives. Yes, your troubles seem dark now, but wait until you see the Lord! God sends one of His angels a few years later under the reign of Hezekiah and that one angel wipes out 185,000 Assyrian troops attacking Judah. You can read about that in 2 Kings 19.
In our particular text these angelic beings speak and the doorposts and thresholds shake. They are mighty beings, their name ‘Seraphs’ means ‘fiery ones’, and yet in the presence of the Almighty they won’t even show their faces because of the holiness of God. One writer says ‘the point of the description here is to re-emphasize the holiness of God, in whose presence even the dazzling and the sinless are overwhelmed, fit neither to see him nor be seen.’ Wow!
In fact, look at Isaiah’s response to this vision of the LORD: “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.”
In the presence of the LORD, Isaiah’s not thinking about his troubles, or fearing other nations. He’s stricken with terror at the holiness of God. He’s overcome with the weight of his sinfulness before a perfectly righteous God. He’s not afraid of the enemy, He’s afraid of God.
I will say it again, whatever your circumstances, whatever your troubles, whatever your burdens and bondages, what you and I need more than any other thing is to have an encounter with the Almighty God that we serve.
Let’s look forward to a picture of our future, the book of Revelation. Revelation is not just visions of the future, mind you, it’s a revelation of Jesus Christ. But it also gives glimpses into what eternity will look like for us. And I love the cries of God’s creatures in these passages. Please turn with me to Revelation 4.
John is given a vision of the throne room of God Almighty. Vs 6b: “In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures…Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Whenever the living creatures give glory, honour and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being…(vs. 11) Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Read the rest of the songs of Revelation: For all eternity we will be crying out, “Holy is the Lord, holy is the Lord! Worthy is He of my love, worthy is He of my service.” That will be our cry.
And again, that’s our cry in eternity, when God has overcome all our enemies for us. Then what will be our cry today? What will be your cry this week when dark clouds of trouble come your way, when the medical tests come back positive, or your house is robbed; what will be your cry?
Let me tell you, at that point what you need more than any other things is to see God for who He really is.
4. Finally, notice ISAIAH’S RESPONSE to his God-encounter – Change: “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.”
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.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
There’s a lot to take from Isaiah’s response, but I want you to take this.
Before, Isaiah was facing the dark clouds of coming destruction. But after seeing God what’s his response? “God, send me! I’m not afraid anymore. I don’t hold my life so important as I did. Lord, I don’t know where you’re sending me, but I’ll go! You’re bigger than these troubles, you’re stronger than my enemies, you’re holier than any other; I want to serve You!”
When you encounter God, your perspective will change, your desires will change. Before you go into your room at home, you’ll be carrying the world on your shoulders: The car needs a service and I can’t afford it; my husband has lied to me again and I don’t know what to do; my children have stepped on my last nerve; my future is looking bleak and my heart is heavy and my mind is dark – but when you go into your room at home, shut the door, seek the Lord, when you find Him and meet with Him you will change! You will come out of the room with the weight lifted. You will be saying, “Lord, You have this. What can I do for you? Whatever it is, Lord, I’ll do it!”
What I want you to remember from tonight is this: When you see God, your world will be alright.
If you see clouds of trouble looming, and dark circumstances swirling around you, what you need more than anything else is to see the Lord for who He really is.
How will you see Him? By seeking Him – by crying out to Him – by turning to Him when you’d rather forget about the troubles.
When you seek Him you will see Him.
And when you see Him your cry will change, from “Woe is me, woe is my life!” to “Holy, holy, holy is my God. I am here Lord, do with me as You see fit.”
Let’s pray together.