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The Hebrew name of the prophet Isaiah is יְשַׁעְיָהוּ, meaning “Yahweh is salvation.” His name tie very well with the basic theme of Isaiah’s message which is that salvation is   bestowed only by grace, by the power of God, the Redeemer, rather than by the strength of man or the good works of the flesh. The holy God will not permit unholiness in His covenant people, and will therefore deal with them in such a way as to chasten and purge them and make them fit to participate in His program of redemption.

In chapter 6 of Isaiah provides to us God’s call to the prophet to go out in behalf of God and pronounce to the nation of Israel God’s judgment in exile.

God is still calling His people to reach to the world with the message of hope and salvation. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:20 say, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Several years ago, this ad appeared in an English publication for six men to go to China: Six courageous young men are needed at once to go to China for the Chinese Industrial Co-Ops which trains technicians for a democratically industrialized China. They are to take the place of George Hogg, brilliant 3l-year-old Oxford graduate, who died of tetanus in Northwest China beyond reach of medical aid. If willing to risk disease, endure discomfort, eat only Chinese food, talk Chinese, he may apply immediately at the Anglo-Chinese Development Society. Anyone not prepared to take similar risks need not apply. Over 600 young men applied! Yet a relative few responded to similar challenges from the mission fields. Are we willing to respond to God’s call for us as the prophet responded to God calling by saying, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa 6:8).

The Prophet Isaiah

The prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz was apparently a member of a fairly distinguished and influential family. Not only is his father’s name given, but he appears to have been on familiar terms with the royal court even in the reign of Ahaz. He must have been a well-educated student of international affairs, who spent most of his time in the city of Jerusalem, where he was in touch with the crosscurrents of national and foreign affairs.

Isaiah’s prophetic career spanned at least four decades. God commissioned him to be a prophet in 740 B.C., the year of king Uzziah‘s death (Isa. 6:1). His ministry continued through the reigns of Jotham and Ahaz and lasted well into the reign of King Hezekiah, who led Judah from 715-686 B.C. (1:1).

These times were very exciting. The mighty Assyrian Empire was expanding westward and swallowing up smaller kingdoms like Israel and Judah. By 722 B.C., the Assyrians had conquered Israel, taken its people into exile, and made its territory an Assyrian province. Judah also became an Assyrian subject. When Judah eventually rebelled, the Assyrians invaded the land (701 B.C.) and conquered the region surrounding Jerusalem. Only the Lord’s miraculous intervention, in response to King Hezekiah’s prayer, saved the city (see Isa. 36-37). Isaiah lived through all of this, prophesying these events and challenging God’s people to repent.

The Exegesis of the Text (Isaiah 6:1-10)

The reason Isaiah had his calling in chapter six maybe because Isaiah’s purpose apparently is first to present the heart of his message, and only then to relate the account to his own prophetic call. To accomplish that he write a general introduction (chapter 1) in which he show the depravity of the nation of Israel. From this he moves immediately into his message, beginning with a note of hope (2:2-4) and concluding on the same note (4:2-6). It is only after this initial proclamation that the prophet is ready to relate the call to the prophetic office, an account which reinforces what he has already proclaimed.

Isaiah vision of the Lord (1:1-4)

In the year of King Uzziah’s death (740 B.C.), Isaiah saw a vision of the real King, the Lord Almighty (6:5), enthroned in his heavenly court (6:1) and attended by beings called “seraphs” (6:1-2). These seraphs loudly proclaimed the Lord’s holiness and declared that his royal splendor fills the entire earth (v.3). Uzziah had brought many benefits to the country and had introduced an era of prosperity and peace. But now Judah was without the king.

In what sense did Isaiah saw the Lord Almighty? Since the Scripture says that no man can see God at any time (John 1:18; 1 Tim 6:16). This however was not seeing through the bodily eye, for God is invisible. There absolutely no way the physical eye can see God. At the same time, despite the fact that God is a spiritual, invisible Being, the Bible does say that men will see Him. In Matthew Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8). “It is not the essence of God which Isaiah sees, for, inasmuch as God is spiritual and invisible, that essence cannot be seen by the physical eye of the creature.” On the other hand it was a true seeing; “a manifestation of the glory of God in human form, adapted to the capabilities of the finite creature, which the prophet beheld!” “There was therefore,” as Calvin puts it, “exhibited to Isaiah such a form as enabled him, according to his capacity, to perceive the inconceivable majesty of God; and thus he attributes to God a throne, a robe, and a bodily appearance.” Other commentators say that what Isaiah saw was a theophany. Thus Martin says, “Because the Apostle John wrote that Isaiah “saw Jesus’ glory” (John 12:41), Isaiah may have seen the preincarnate Christ, who because of His deity is the Lord.” Also Wolf says that, “Smoke is usually present during a theophany (Exod. 19:18).”

Isaiah saw the Lord seated upon a throne this refers to both king and judge. He is ready to exercise His authority and pronounce judgment upon the people of Israel. The Lord was seated upon a throne, high and lifted up. As judges and kings sat upon their thrones, so the Lord is sitting upon His. The long, loose, flowing robes or skirts of the robe were filling the temple, “so that there was no room left for anyone to stand.” It is a scene of magnificent majesty. The heavenly attendants are described as seraphim (lit. “Burning ones”). This is the only passage in the Old Testament in which they are mentioned. The seraphim are personal, spiritual beings, for they have faces, feet and hands, they employ human speech and understand moral concepts. Each with six wings covering their faces with two pairs and with two their feet, and with two they flew. The covering of the faces was a sign of majesty and awe before the holy Lord. The covering of the feet was maybe a sign of humility and unworthiness. And the two wings that they flew with were maybe a sign of God’s power. The threefold appearance of the word “holy” draws attention to the Lord’s holiness. In Hebrew, a word is sometimes repeated for emphasis. And thus the repetition emphasizes that the Lord is absolutely holy. God’s holiness in this context refers first and foremost to his transcendent sovereignty over the world that he rules. At the same time his holiness encompasses God’s moral authority, which derives from his royal position. There were effects of this crying. The foundations of the threshold shook. It is a scene of incomparable majesty. As Calvin comment, “for no mortal man has a voice so powerful as to be capable of making the lintels and posts shake.”

The Cleansing of Isaiah (6:5-7)

Having seen the Lord Almighty in his magnificent splendor (Psalm 24:3, 4), Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah realized his sinful nature and his unclean lips. With our lips we praise God and we also curse man (James 3:9; cf. Rom 3:13). Even though recognizing his sinfulness the seraphim do not expel Isaiah from the presence of the Lord. Rather, they give to him a symbolical assurance that his sins are forgiven. They were doing God’s command, but Isaiah does not state, nor is it particularly necessary for us to know. It seems like the flight of one of the seraphim is real; however, if the coal touched Isaiah’s lips he will be burned. Therefore I rather take this act as a symbolic act assuring Isaiah the forgiveness of his sin. Further, the cleansing and purifying work is not that of the fire, but of God alone. “There is no reason to believe,” said Calvin, “that the coal possessed any virtue, as superstitious persons imagine that in the magical arts there is some hidden power.” “God alone is the Author of Forgiveness, and the seraph is but His messenger, flying to do His commands.” Isaiah’s iniquity is taken away so that it no longer stands as an obstacle in the path of divine forgiveness.

The Commissioning of Isaiah (6:8-10)

For the first time in the vision the Lord speaks (v.8a). Up to this point He has been seated upon the throne. The Lord said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” The Lord’s invitation was general although there was no one else except Isaiah present. However, it became specific when Isaiah was willing to except it: “Here am I. Send me!” Upon the expression of Isaiah’s willingness the Lord commissioned him to “Go,” and preach a message to the covenant community, called here “this people” (v.9), a designation that suggests a degree of alienation between God and his people (cf. 1:4). The message that Isaiah to pronounce is a message of judgment not hopes or comfort. Because of the persistence rejection of the nation of Israel to God’s messages through the prophets they will “Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed” (vv.9-10). Should we take this commission at face value? Did the Lord really want to prevent his people from understanding, repenting, and being healed? Verse 10b is clearly sarcastic. On the surface it seems to indicate that Isaiah’s hardening ministry would prevent genuine repentance. But, as the surrounding chapters clearly reveal, the people were hardly ready or willing to repent (1:2-4; 3:8, 9). Therefore, Isaiah’s message was not needed to prevent repentance.

Conclusion

The last three verses of chapter 6 reveal the fate of the nation. Israel’s sin would bring devastation and deportation. Although this sad truth must have deeply discouraged Isaiah, the chapter ends on a note of hope: a remnant would survive the destruction. The number preserved would be less than a tenth and this group is used in a messianic sense.

The remnant may be called “holy” because the tithe was considered “holy” to the Lord. At Mount Sinai the entire nation was set apart as a “kingdom of Priests” and a “holy nation” (Exod 19:6), but only a few of their number lived in accord with that position.

What about the church today, Peter said in 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are A Chosen Race, a royal priesthood, a Holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Are we willing to live according to our position in Christ as a holy nation, and to proclaim His good news to the whole earth? God is still calling people for ministry. The question remains: Are you willing?

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Archer, Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament introduction. Rev. and Exp. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994.

Calvin, John. “Commentary on Isaiah.” Vol. 1. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Internet. Available: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom13.xiii.i.html. Accessed in November 8, 2006.

Chisholm, Robert B. Jr. Handbook on the Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.

Grogan, Geoffrey W. “Isaiah.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: with the New International Version. Vol. 6. Ed. Frank E. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986.

Martin, John A. “Isaiah.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament. Ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Victor, 1983.

Wolf, Herbert M. Interpreting Isaiah: The Suffering and Glory of the Messiah. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985.

Young, Edward J. The Book of Isaiah. vol. 1, chapters 1-18. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965.

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