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Worship Theme: Trinity
- Here I Am, Lord
- Change My Heart, Oh God
- Lord, I Lift Your Name on High
- Solo: Holy Is the Lord
- CW 195: Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
- Koiné: All Glory to Our Lord and God
Pastor Jon Brohn
Certain people in our world today seem unapproachable. The President of the United States is unapproachable—the Secret Service makes sure that most people can’t get too close to him. Royalty is unapproachable—just watch what happens if someone tries to personally greet the Queen of England. Some professional athletes and Hollywood elite are unapproachable. Just watch what happens when a fan tries to get an autograph. We might even feel that way about someone we know personally. We’d like to talk with them and get to know them better. Every time we try, they shut us out. Whether they are shy, introverted, or not, they are unapproachable.
What about God? Is he unapproachable? King Uzziah thought he could approach God. Uzziah was a good king. He was one of David’s descendants who remained faithful to the LORD throughout his life. He brought success to Judah by conquering his enemies. He had a large, well-provisioned army. He protected Jerusalem with strong walls and the latest in defense technology—war machines that could shoot arrows and hurl large stones (2 Chronicles 26). Uzziah was a powerful king, and his pride at all his accomplishments became his downfall.
Uzziah entered the LORD’s temple where God was supposed to be unapproachable, unless you were a priest. He planned to burn incense on the altar of incense, something God only allowed a priest to do. When the high priest and 80 others confronted him, Uzziah became angry and raged at the priests who dared try to stop the king. At that moment, God showed that Uzziah should not have approached him in the temple. Leprosy broke out on the king’s forehead. 2 Chronicles 26:21 says, “King Uzziah remained a leper until the day of his death. He lived in a quarantined house because he was a leper. He was excluded from the House of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 26:21 EHV).
Isaiah was King Uzziah’s pastor at the end of the king’s reign. He saw what happened when Uzziah was bold enough to approach the unapproachable LORD. Isaiah had to minister to a king who could no longer publicly lead his people. Uzziah couldn’t go out in public or go to the temple. In the same year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw something incredible:
“I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two they covered their faces. With two they covered their feet. With two they flew. One called to another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies! The whole earth is full of his glory! The foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of the one who called, and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:1-4 EHV).
When Isaiah looked at the LORD, he saw all kinds of reasons not to approach him. The LORD was “sitting on a throne, high and exalted.” This wasn’t just any throne. It was floating high above every other throne, every other ruler. The LORD was in charge!
“The train of his robe filled the temple.” I did a little math. Solomon’s temple was 2700 square feet. It was 60,750 cubic feet. That’s a lot of cloth—and that’s only the train of the LORD’s robe. No earthly ruler’s robes were that amazingly big!
The LORD didn’t have soldiers attending him. He had seraphs, literally translated “burning ones.” These angels looked like they were on fire! They had three pairs of wings. One pair allowed them to fly and carry out the LORD’s commands. The other two pairs demonstrated their humility. They didn’t dare approach the LORD either. One pair of wings covered their faces, and the other pair covered their feet.
They stood above the throne, acknowledging who their master was: “One called to another and said, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies! The whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3 EHV). The LORD is three-times holy! He can do and say nothing wrong. He is the LORD of Armies—he commands legions of angels that will carry out his orders. The whole earth—the entire universe—is full of his glory! The prophet Amos wrote, “There is one who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the shadow of death into morning, who darkens day into night, who summons the waters of the seas, who pours them out upon the face of the earth— the LORD is his name” (Amos 5:8 EHV). The seraphs’ praise was so loud, so intense that it shook the temple’s foundations and filled the entire building with smoke.
After everything that had happened to Uzziah and with everything Isaiah saw, he didn’t dare approach the LORD. He was terrified! “I am doomed! I am ruined, because I am a man with unclean lips, and I dwell among a people with unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Armies!” (Isaiah 6:5 EHV). Isaiah recognized that the words he spoke were enough to make him unworthy to stand before the LORD. The LORD had told Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no human may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20 EHV). Isaiah knew he was unclean with sin. Now he had seen the LORD of Armies. He waited for the lightning bolt to strike him down!
Who do you identify more with? Uzziah or Isaiah? Some days, I’m just like Uzziah. I tell myself that God owes me his time and attention. I have been so faithful, worked so hard, been such a good pastor, husband, father, and grandfather that I can walz right into his presence and demand his attention. When someone calls me on my pride, my temper flares. “You can’t stop me! I can do whatever I want when it comes to my relationship with God. He owes me!”
Then, when I’ve really messed up, I’m more like Isaiah. “I’m doomed! I’m ruined! I didn’t get my action items done in time for my meeting. I treated Kay like a second class citizen. I didn’t help Matt out like I promised. I haven’t been praying for grandkids Emma and Joel like I should. Then I see this picture of the LORD on his throne and realize just how imperfect and unclean I really am. I AM doomed!
Before Isaiah could say another word, one of the seraphs went to the altar of incense, took a tongs, and grabbed one of the hot stones where the incense was laid to burn. “He touched my mouth with the coal and said, “Look, this has touched your lips, so your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven” (Isaiah 6:7 EHV). The angel’s message is even more powerful in Hebrew. He literally says, “Tadaaa! Every twisted, crooked thing you’ve thought, or said, or done is removed. Every time you’ve missed the bullseye, it has been covered over.” How is that possible?
The angel’s words point to the work of the Messiah whom Isaiah will later describe so beautifully. Isaiah didn’t get rid of the guilt. Isaiah didn’t pay for the sin. Someone else did. Centuries later the apostle John wrote, “The blood of Jesus Christ, [God’s] Son, cleanses us from all sin. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the whole world” (1 John 1:7; 2:2 EHV). Jesus removed every crooked thought, word, and deed from Isaiah and from us. He covered every miss of the bullseye with his perfection. No more unclean lips. No more unclean anything. We are perfect!
We don’t have to be afraid to approach the LORD anymore. Because Jesus made us perfect, the unapproachable is now approachable! The writer to the Hebrews encouraged: “So let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 EHV). Through Isaiah we see the throne of grace. It is high and exalted. The LORD himself is seated on it, with angels above him. The seraph’s voices thunder their song of praise, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Armies! The whole earth is full of his glory!” We see it all, and we don’t have to be afraid! We can approach him CONFIDENTLY! We can join the angels’ song and sing it LOUDLY! All because of those words we heard earlier in the service. It wasn’t a seraph. It was me, God’s messenger (angel) saying, “Your sins are forgiven!” The unapproachable is now approachable!
The angels shouted. Isaiah spoke. The angel comforted. But the LORD was silent. He hadn’t said a word. “Then I heard the Lord’s voice, saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”” (Isaiah 6:8 EHV). This unapproachable, approachable God needs help. He needs messengers to reach out to his people and speak for him. “Who will go for us?” The angels’ song, “Holy, holy, holy!” and the LORD’s own words teach us that he is one God in three persons. He approaches us and makes his request. Who will help us? “Which of my children will help out their Father? Which of our brothers is ready to serve the Son? Is there anyone my Spirit can fill with words of power?”
Isaiah heard the LORD’s call and couldn’t stay quiet. The unapproachable LORD had done an astounding thing for him. His angel He has taken away Isaiah’s guilt and forgiven every one of his sins. Isaiah could approach in peace and joy. Isaiah’s hand shot up immediately, “Here I am. Send me!” Isaiah wanted to tell someone else that the unapproachable God is approachable!
Are you sure, Isaiah? Do you know what the LORD would ask you to say? I have read chapter 6 several times, and preached on it several times. I don’t remember reading the last 5 verses. “[The LORD] said: Go! You are to tell this people, “Keep listening, but you will never understand. Keep looking, but you will never get it.” Make the heart of this people calloused. Make their ears deaf and blind their eyes, so that they do not see with their eyes, or hear with their ears, or understand with their hearts, and turn again and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9–10 EHV). Isaiah would bring plenty of good news, trying to point people to the Savior. He would also confront them with their sins and warn of the punishment that would soon follow. Ultimately, Pastor Isaiah’s ministry would appear to be unsuccessful, because Israel wouldn’t listen. Isaiah never gave up. He kept preaching and teaching so some might possibly believe and be saved.
Here we are LORD—guilt covered, sins forgiven! Send us! We have the same powerful message as Isaiah did. Everyone needs to hear it. It won’t be easy. Some will listen. Some won’t. The LORD still needs us to go! Who do we know that needs to hear the LORD’s promise of light and life? Tell someone about God the Father’s work—how his glory fills the universe. Share the wonder you feel as you look at the night sky, spring flowers, and new shoots in farmers’ fields. Talk to them about your relationship with Jesus, God’s Son. Jesus made the unapproachable approachable. He loves and forgives you because he loves and forgives you. Share these powerful truths with them so that the Holy Spirit can go to work. He wants to breathe new life into hearts that are dead. Here I am, LORD—send me to someone who sees you as unapproachable so I can help them approach you!