Ah, we FINALLY get to Isaiah 6: one of the most POWERFUL chapters in the whole Bible. Only here and in Revelation do we get the windows of heaven opened enough for us to get a glimpse—and WHAT A GLIMPSE. It’s hard to digest everything we see and feel in this short span of time, but it sure makes me yearn for heaven. It’s just hard to even imagine how powerful and awesome eternity will be.
As for the historical context, increased wealth in the country were causing people to disregard God (huh, sound familiar??), but people felt secure in their sins as long as they were appropriately religious (again, sound familiar??). But like a light in the foggy world, God shows up as he really is and just BLOWS AWAY everything else. SOOOOOOOOOOO AWWWWWWESOME.
The real question for me, even at the beginning: would I have wanted to be in Isaiah’s shoes? My quick answer is yes, Yes, YES! But after that I get scared. Isaiah fell apart, and he was given a commission, “You’re gonna do what I ask you, and no one will listen, and people will hate you all your life.” Hmmmm… But you know what? I still think my real answer is yes.
All of the images here are those of authority and power: He sees the Lord in a form that makes sense to Isaiah: he’s on a throne, symbolizing sovereignty, authority, and power. It’s absolutely awe-inspiring. Heaven and earth merge, as they will at the end of time. The Jerusalem Temple expands into its heavenly counterpart. God is sitting on a magnificent throne, and the ark of the covenant is where God rests his feet. The cherubim, instead of being on the ark, are alive and they flank God like attendants. The clothes are magnificent, symbolizing God’s majesty.
What is it like to be in the presence of raw power? Certainly it’s nothing one can see, or feel. It’s a recognition. Visually there are signs of power: a throne, robe, train, and attendants. The power is established by observation: He speaks and they rush to do what he commands. Immediate and complete compliance, with no defiance or disobedience. Later we learn that disobedience is met with swift and sure punishment.
The length of the train symbolizes the extent of the authority. His power encompasses all of his presence and the revelation of himself. When he reveals himself, we see his power. There is a great power in the universe. It is both unseen and magnificently obvious. The power so fills all of life that we are used to seeing it and feeling it, so much so that we don’t see it or feel it (like gravity). It is both mysterious and familiar, and it is extended to each one of us who believes. You can be at one with this power. It is both frightful and exciting.
But people resent power over them. Yes, they want to be the power. They want the credit for all.
When he is present, he is present in power. This is not just derived power, but the source of power itself. The point for all this to be included here is that he has the authority to assess Israel (ch. 1-5) and to give blessing or pronounce judgment.
Above Him are seraphs. They are flying, and He is seated, to show His superiority to them. Since fire is everywhere associated with God’s holiness, it would be entirely appropriate for the seraphs to have a fiery appearance. I close my eyes and try to picture this scene, and it’s too splendiferous. Fantabulous? Wonderficent? The seraphs cover their faces as a symbol of reverence, service, and praise. God’s glory is so piercing that even the heavenly beings themselves must shield themselves. They cover their feet, and they fly.
And they call to each other saying, Holy Holy Holy is the LORD Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory. Their worship is communal, and not individual. It is cognitive and emotional. It is experiential. They worship God for his holiness. He is transcendent, righteous, moral, pure, and completely distinct and “OTHER”. He is separate and unlike. The three-fold repetition is for emphasis and escalation.
The whole earth is full of his gory: his STUFF, his heaviness, his essence, his importance, and his reality. He FILLS the universe.
And the temple shook like an earthquake. The sound of the “hymn” was thunderous, rocking the building to its very foundations. Even lifeless objects are moved in the presence of God’s holiness. What power! What presence! And the building is filled with the smoke of God’s presence.
CAN YOU PICTURE THIS SCENE? This is worth, many times over and over, over the course of years, bringing to mind to digest.
Would I have wanted to be there? Well, I’d-a peed my pants, but it would be worth it.