Isaiah's Testimony
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah. We are going to read the entire sixth chapter. As we read it, you will recognize it to be a very familiar passage of Scripture, because there are certain portions of the Old Testament which preachers have emphasized more than other portions. This is one of those portions.

I trust, as it is related to the entire book of Isaiah, our pure minds may not only be stirred up by way of remembrance, but the Lord will bring to our attention some other things as well.

Isaiah 6

1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
9And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
11Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
12And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
13But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.

You will keep in mind, in view of what we have told you about the construction of the book of Isaiah, that the sixth chapter represents the last portion of the first section of the book of Isaiah. We told you that the first six chapters of the book of Isaiah represent the first portion of the book, being those prophecies which were delivered in the reigns of Uzziah and Jotham, kings of Israel.

Isaiah's Crisis Experience

Yet, as we look at chapter 6, we realize that it is not a brief sermon, as was chapter 1, nor is it a lengthy sermon, as were chapters 2, 3, and 4, nor is it a song as was chapter 5. It represents a personal testimony, one of those fragments of biography which are scattered throughout the book of Isaiah that enables us to know something about the man who is the author of this particular book. It is included in the first section of the book, because it occurred at the time that these other prophecies and songs and sermons were delivered.

If we keep in mind that it is a fragment of biography, if we keep in mind it is a personal testimony, if we keep in mind that it is a personal experience, we will recognize that he is involved in a crisis at the very outset. This is an experience, similar to the experience of many of us, which had its roots in a crisis experience.

Many of us can go along in life pursuing ordinary courses until a real crisis comes; then when that crisis arrives, we take a new look at ourselves. We recognize some needs, we make some adjustments, and we become more usable in God's service.

I believe this was the experience of Isaiah, for I do not hold with those interpreters of the Scripture who say that this is a record of Isaiah's conversion, and the editors of the book of Isaiah tacked it on here at the end of the sixth chapter. I believe it is exactly where it was intended to be, that Isaiah preached for a number of years in the reign of Uzziah, for that is very plainly stated in verse 1 of chapter 1. I believe that the year that King Uzziah died, after Isaiah had been preaching, he had this crisis experience.

Related to the Death of Uzziah

When you look at the first line of verse 1, you realize that this crisis experience was very definitely related to the death of Uzziah, for the statement, “In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord,” is more than a date on a calendar. It becomes very evident when you look at some of the background in the life of Isaiah and realize that Isaiah was a nephew of King Uzziah. They were both close to the same age, and they were both very fond of each other, to the extent that there is every evidence that Uzziah was somewhat of an idol in Isaiah's life. Isaiah was placing loyalty and affection upon Uzziah that rightly belonged to God, and when Uzziah died and the idol was removed, Isaiah's eyes were turned to the Lord.

May I pause in our discussion of this passage of Scripture to emphasize that sometimes God has to permit these crisis experiences to come into our lives in order to fasten our eyes securely upon Him. It is possible to let individuals come between us and God. It is possible to let desires, goals, careers, and occupations come between us and God. When that happens, God finds it necessary to remove that which stands between us and Him.

I think that is suggested by the word also in this verse, where we read:

Isaiah 6

1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord…

Commentators have written quite a bit about that little word also . Some of them have suggested that it refers to the fact that for the first time Isaiah recognized the authority of someone besides Uzziah. That may be true. Others suggest that it is related to the title which is ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ in this passage, because before we are through with this lesson, we will turn to chapter 12 of the Gospel of John and find beyond a doubt that the one who Isaiah saw upon this throne was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Look at that first verse and will you notice the word Lord , and notice how it is spelled? You notice that only the first letter is capitalized, and you will recall that I have suggested to you, as such is the case in the Scripture, that it is a translation of the Hebrew word Adonai , which really means “Master.” This is a term in the Old Testament that is used to refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you see the reason for the word also now, in the light of this?

Recognition of the Lord as Master

Isaiah had a vision of the Lord, but this time he had a vision of the Lord as Master of his life, the One who had complete control of his every thought. Keep in mind that when he is talking about the Lord in this fashion, he uses this word that you might notice, by way of contrast and emphasis, this fact.

Look at verse 3. You will hear the seraphim crying out:

Isaiah 6

3And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Do you see how the word LORD is spelled there? Every letter is capitalized. This is the holy name of God. It is Jehovah. This name was so holy that Hebrew scholars would not even write it out in full because it was so sacred to them. It always represented the unbending, righteous God, who demanded absolute holiness on the part of all of His subjects. That is the reason, in verse 5, Isaiah said:

Isaiah 6

5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Do you notice how the word is spelled there? Every letter is capitalized. “I have seen Jehovah.”

Please glance down to verse 8. After certain adjustments had been made we read:

Isaiah 6

8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.

The word is spelled here with only the first letter capitalized. It is the word Adonai again. He heard the word of the Master saying, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”

Look at verse 11: “Then said I, Lord…” Notice how it is spelled with only the first letter capitalized. “Lord, how long? Master, how long? Adonai, how long?”

Then look at verse 12, so that you will, by way of emphasis, know that what I am saying to you is true. Notice verse 12:

Isaiah 6

12And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

Did you notice? Every letter is capitalized, because this is not a picture of Christ, the Master of individual lives; it is a picture of God sitting in unbending judgment.

I say to you, as we go back to the first verse, that this crisis experience in Isaiah's life meant that he not only saw someone for the first time besides Uzziah in his life, he saw the Lord in a new light. He saw Him as Master and Controller of his life. This was a vision that he had. He went into the temple to worship. I dare say that he went into the temple because his heart was full of sorrow at the death of Uzziah. He went into the temple to brood upon his own problems, but his eyes were directed toward the Lord, and he found something deeper than the solution of the sorrow of his own heart.

When he looked there in the temple, he saw the throne. He saw the Lord Jesus Christ sitting upon the throne, and he saw Him sitting there in all of His royal robes to the extent that the train of the robes was so long, in Isaiah's eyes, it filled the entire holy place. The word temple here does not refer to the entire building, but it refers to the holy of holies.

The Occupation of the Angels

Around the throne Isaiah saw a group of heavenly creatures. Those of you who are familiar with your Bibles know that there are three kinds of creatures related to the throne of God. There are angels with which we are more familiar. There are cherubim. You don't need the s on the word because im is the plural in Hebrew. It is a transliterated word. Then there are seraphim.

The cherubim are always related to judgment. Whenever you see God's throne set for judgment, you see it surrounded by cherubim, as you do in the book of Revelation and as you do in the book of Ezekiel. When you see the throne of God set for an act of mercy, you find it surrounded by seraphim. Seraphim are related to mercy; cherubim are related to judgment.

I do not want to make too much of numbers, but I cannot help but be impressed with the fact that there are always more seraphim mentioned than there are cherubim, which would suggest that mercy is greater than judgment.

You notice that with which the seraphim were occupied. They were praising the LORD, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God of hosts.” So strong was their voice of praise that the threshold of the house—that is, the meaning of the word posts —figuratively speaking, trembled. You are not to think as you read this passage of Scripture that the threshold of the house literally trembled, any more than you would think it literal if we said, “We sang so well we raised the roof.” The speech is the same in any language.

Isaiah's Realization of Sin

However, notice the effect it had upon Isaiah. As his eyes were filled with this vision of Jesus Christ, his Master, as his eyes were filled with the vision of the seraphim, calling “Holy, holy, holy, LORD God of hosts,” he cried out. Look at verse 5:

Isaiah 6

5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…

“Isaiah why do you feel that way? Why do you feel that you are man of unclean lips?” Mind you, this is the man who preached a marvelous sermon that we studied in our last lesson. But he said, “I am a man of unclean lips.” “Isaiah, why are you a man of unclean lips?” Why? Listen to him. He said:

Isaiah 6

5…for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

I challenge you to take your Bibles, when you have time, and notice the record of the visions which men had of God and notice what happened every single time. Not one of them stood to their feet and talked about their own righteousness. Not one of them stood to their feet and declared how good they were. Some of them fell in a dead faint on the ground they were so overwhelmed with the holiness of God. All of them when they were able to speak, owned their own unrighteousness and gave testimony to the holiness of God.

I have said before, when we have been considering such experiences as this, and I would repeat it again today, when I have heard people talking about how spiritual they are, when I hear people talking about how close they live to God, I always make a little notation in my mental notebook of the character of men, that they are not as close to God as they think they are or they wouldn't be talking about it. The individuals who are the closest to God are the individuals who are conscious of their own unworthiness.

Restoration of Fellowship

If we had to stop our discussion here, it would indeed be a sad thing, but look at verse 6. As soon as Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips…”

Isaiah 6

6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

Did you notice what the seraphim did when Isaiah began to talk about sin? The same thing you and I ought to do. He went to the altar. This altar was the altar of burnt offering. It was the altar upon which the sin sacrifice was placed which carried the weight of all the sins of the people.

But look at the altar now. You don't find any sacrifice on it, do you? All you find are burning coals, which indicate that the sacrifice has been consumed. Judgment has been passed, and the burning coals are evidence of a consumed sacrifice accepted by God which made possible forgiveness. No, there was nothing in the coal as such, but it came from the place where God's just demands were met, and that is the reason the seraphim could lay the coal upon Isaiah's lips and say, “Your sin is forgiven. Your iniquity is purged.”

Don't miss the lesson here. We're not talking about a sinner unsaved, a sinner lost and condemned; we are talking about a sinner saved by grace. We are talking about a sinner out of fellowship, a Christian out of fellowship. We are talking about a sinning saint. What does a Christian do who sins? Christians do sin. You who are reading this lesson, though you profess to know the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior, could very well have unconfessed sin in your life. Remember, whatsoever is not of faith is sin, and remember, if you fail to walk in the Spirit as you should, and walk in the flesh, it is sin. “For to him who knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

What are you going to do about it? Some people would suggest you do penance. Some people would suggest you bury yourself in service so that you won't be conscious of your sin. I would suggest, on the basis of this passage of Scripture, that you come to the altar, where the sacrifice was originally made, and you claim the advocacy of the first sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins.

The Problem of Unconfessed Sin

Turn with me to a very familiar New Testament expression of this very same truth, found in I John, chapter 1, verse 9.

I John 1

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Make constant use of it. I am not suggesting that you develop the habit of sinning and confessing and sinning and confessing and sinning and confessing, but I am suggesting that you recognize that you as a child of God will sin. I am suggesting that you live in such contact with the Holy Spirit that the moment you sin you will be conscious of it and you will not let it pile up.

Isaiah did. He let it pile up until a crisis came into his life; then he made it right. Don't wait until it piles up. Someone says, “I don't understand. Wasn't Isaiah preaching all of that time?” Yes. Yes, he was. He preached some good sermons, but he had some sin piled up that had not been confessed. You may go ahead and have your devotions. You may go ahead and sing a special number. You may go ahead and teach a Sunday School class. I may go ahead and preach. You assume everything is all right. I haven't told you, but there could be sin unconfessed in my life, as there could be sin unconfessed in your life. That is why I want you to get familiar with this passage of Scripture, and the very moment sin is evident in your life, act upon I John, chapter 1, verse 9:

I John 1

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And that cleansing, according to verse 7, is on the basis of the blood of Christ:

I John 1

7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Go back to Isaiah, chapter 6, as I remind you that it was a coal from off the altar that cleansed the lips of Isaiah after he had confessed. That coal was representative of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that will cleanse your lips and mine. It will cleanse your heart and mine after we have confessed our sin, but remember that when sin becomes evident in your life, there is no forgiveness if there is no confession. If there is no forgiveness, there is no fellowship; and if there is no fellowship, you are treading on very thin ice, and you are heading for a crisis in your life.

In Isaiah's case, it was the removal of Uzziah, because Uzziah was his idol. In your case, it could be the removal of something or someone, but you can be sure that God is not going to let one whom He has called His own sin and remain out of fellowship without bringing it forcefully to his attention, as He did in the case of Isaiah.

Notice that not only Isaiah's lips were touched, but Isaiah's ears were touched. Oh, there is no record of it here. No, the seraphim didn't take the coal and touch his ear, he only touched his lips, but that's where the sin was. When the sin was removed the ears were unstopped.

Do you understand that sin has a way of dulling your hearing, that unconfessed sin has a way of stopping up your ears? That is the reason that some people can sit in a service and hear a message from the Word of God and think about a thousand and one things while the message is being delivered. They don't hear. Their ears are dull. That is the reason that certain events can occur in an individual's life and he won't even recognize them as warning signals from God. He won't even recognize, and I say this reverently, that God is blowing the whistle on him. He doesn't even hear the whistle, because sin has dulled his ears. Isaiah's ears were opened, and if you will look at verse 8, we read:

Isaiah 6

8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us [He was speaking of the Trinity] ?

Did you notice? The Lord only said this one time. Did you notice that? “Whom shall I send, and who will go?” Do you know why He only said it one time? It was all He needed to. Those dull ears had been unstopped. Those ears were in tune with the voice of God, and God found it necessary only to speak one time.

The Willing Obedience of Fellowship

Listen carefully to what I say to you today. If God has to tell you more than one time to do something, it is a good indication that you are not in fellowship with Him, because the individual who is in fellowship with Him finds obedience a lovely thing. That is the reason that Isaiah cried out, “Here am I, send me.”

If I may use the word today, it has always been a little amusing to me when I read this. It is just as though Isaiah was saying, “Whoa, Lord, don't pass me by. Here am I.” Do you see the difference?

I have had individuals speak to me about how they had to fight the call to preach, how they had to fight the call to the mission field. I won't argue with anybody's experience. It is never wise to. You say you have had an experience; who am I to say you haven't? But I have always wondered how an individual who has reached that crisis experience in his life where he recognized the Lord Jesus Christ as the Master of his life could have any argument about anything. “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”

In verse 9, he immediately responds to the Lord. Oh, this is perfect fellowship. You see, there is no interruption of the communication. There is no need to repeat the message. There is no need to go into explicit details. Notice in verse 9, he said:

Isaiah 6

9And he said, Go, and tell this people…

I love to put myself in Isaiah's place and wonder how he must have felt when he heard these next words. When he heard the word go , that's what he wanted to do. When he heard the word tell , he expected to have a message, but when he heard these following words, he was puzzled:

Isaiah 6

9…Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.
10Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

What God said to Isaiah was, “Isaiah, you go ahead and you tell them a message that will dull their ears, that will make their hearts fat with self-righteousness, that will turn their hearts away from me. That will cause them to be more bitter against Me than they are now. That will even turn them away from Me. Preach a message that will bring My judgment down upon them, because they won't pay any attention to what you say.

Isaiah's Difficult Assignment

Put yourself in Isaiah's place. Would you be a little bit puzzled? Oh, I think you would because we all have the idea that if we are in the very center of God's will, if we have heard His voice and there is no interference, everything is going to be as smooth and as pleasant as one can imagine. But that isn't true always. Sometimes, but not always.

I love this continued fellowship on the part of Isaiah. Did you notice his response down in verse 11? I can't blame him for this. He didn't say as I might have said, “Now, wait a minute, Lord. I didn't bargain for anything like this.” He might have said, “Now, Lord, surely the wires are crossed,” but did you notice what he said: “How long, Lord? How long?”

I can't blame him for that. Isaiah was called upon to do the most discouraging thing that any person has ever been called upon to do. He was called upon to preach and not have one convert. He was called upon to preach and have people pay no attention to his message.

Wait just a moment before we leave this. Don't you be guilty of judging a man's ministry by the visible results of it. We have fallen into this day of computing everything in the range of numbers, and we sometimes set ourselves up as judges to the extent that if we don't see huge numbers responding to a man's ministry, we assume God couldn't be in it.

Has it ever occurred to you that God is calling men today to be faithful in the proclamation of the Word of God, so that when men stand in His presence, they will be without excuse, because they have heard the Word, whether they have responded or not?

It isn't easy. Isaiah said, “Lord, how long?” Isaiah, bless his heart, could have better stood this if God had said, “Isaiah, not for too long—a year or two, but not too long.” Most of us can weather a famine if it isn't for long. But did you notice what God said to him?

Isaiah 6

11Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,
12And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

“Isaiah, I want you to carry on this message until My judgment has irrevocably fallen upon this people, Israel, who have lived in open rebellion against Me.” There was nothing Isaiah could do but follow the call of God, because he was in fellowship with the Master, and there was nothing between him and the Lord.

The last verse emphasizes a truth that we will deal with in detail throughout our study of the book of Isaiah. In judgment, mercy is always remembered, and though God says, “I will utterly destroy the land,” He says, “There will be a tenth of people left who will still have some life, and after the judgment of God has fallen completely, there will be a new beginning and a new era because God's judgment has burned out the dross.”

Conclusion

We must close, but I would like for you to turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of John, chapter 12. Glance at verse 37, which is the beginning of the paragraph. You will find the quotation from this portion of the Word that we have read earlier. In verse 41, you will find John's comment by inspiration of that event:

John 12

41These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

Those pronouns His and Him , if we took the time to read the entire chapter, would be referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah saw all of these things, and he said these things when he beheld the Lord Jesus Christ and recognized Him as the Master of his life.


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