Do you want to be with God? That sounds good, doesn’t it? Think about it for a minute. You see, before God gave Isaiah his job of representing him, he wanted to make sure Isaiah knew the One he’d be working for. So God let Isaiah see him. This is how Isaiah records it: "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 saw God, and the only thing he could find words to describe was that his robe was big. Does that say something to you? It’s like when the elders of Israel saw God on Mount Sinai, all they could say about it was that there was something like a pavement made of sapphire around his feet. Our God is so awesome our words can’t even communicate him.
Isaiah was much more effective in communicating how he felt though… "Woe to me! I am ruined." Whatever he saw — it made it clear to him that his sinful self did not belong there.
Think about that. When my kids are in trouble — one of the hardest things to make them do is look me in the eyes — they know they’ve disobeyed, they know they have messed up — so they can’t even make eye contact. And I’m a sinful human who has messed up far more than they have.
Now think about us going into God’s presence. You’ve disobeyed. You’ve cheated him. You’ve told him he’s not all that important to you whenever you’ve found some excuse from his creation that makes you too busy to give him the first fruits of your time, your work, your gifts. If you’ve just cheated or stolen from another person and you know it and they know it — do you really want to hang out with them — especially when they have the power and authority and the nature to crush you?
Isaiah was right: "Woe to me! 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."
One of my favorite questions to ask in spiritual discussions is one that has been around for decades. Maybe you’ve heard it: "If you were to die tonight and God asked you why he should let you into heaven, what would you say?" I like that question because it puts us into the scene we see here in this text. It puts us in the presence of the holiness of God and makes us realize our fundamental problem of humanity: God is holy. We are not.
I know, so many people answer the question thinking that God should probably let them in because they’ve tried to be "pretty good" or "haven’t done anything really bad," or simply "try to live by what God wants them to do."
But "pretty good" isn’t holy, is it? Trying isn’t good enough — just ask the Vikings or the Jets. But this is bigger than sport or even the Super Bowl. There’s not a "next year" when it comes to Judgment. There’s nothing we can do on this. There’s no such thing as "kind of holy." Isaiah was right. Woe to me. I am ruined.
But, God had a reason for showing Isaiah his holiness — and it wasn’t to destroy him. You see, the holiness of God is like a two-sided coin. Isaiah saw one side. But Christ came to flip that coin over. In Luke 2, we read the promise: "The Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.’" That’s the holiness that Jesus gives us so that we can be in his presence. And that changes this scene in Isaiah 6 from a scary one to a very motivating one. Through Christ we can be in God’s presence. Come to church on Sunday to find out what I’m talking about. And check the article next week to see God’s grace to go for God
the Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.