“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5)
Thus far in our study of Knowing God, we have stipulated that to know God is to know His attributes, which are His personal characteristics. They are those qualities which make God, God. Some of God’s attributes He has chosen to share with His creation. Some of His attributes, He alone possesses.
Thus far we have seen that God is self-existent, He makes decisions, He is glorious, omniscient, omnipresent and sovereign. However, the most significant attribute God possesses is holiness.
To truly know God is to know that He is, according to Isaiah 6:1-3, holy, holy, holy. I Peter 1:15-16 says, “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Peter refers us to Leviticus 11:44.
What does it mean when the Bible says that God is holy? Holy, or holiness, is defined as being set-apart. The word is found in Scripture to refer to a variety of people, places and things, but the word holy ultimately points to God as the one who is qualitatively different or set apart from creation. Holy may also be used to describe someone or something that God has “set apart” for special purposes. In the NT holiness takes on the sense of ethical purity or freedom from sin. Holiness is God’s “otherness” and “purity”, as well as to God’s prerogative to set people and things apart for God’s own purposes.
Puritan Thomas Watson wrote, “God’s holiness! Exodus 15:2 says God is ‘Glorious in holiness.’ Holiness is the most sparkling jewel of his crown; it is the name by which God is known. Psalm 111:9 says, ‘Holy and reverend is his name.’ He is ‘the holy One.’ Job 6:10. Seraphims cry, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.’ Isaiah 6:3. His power makes him mighty, his holiness makes him glorious. God’s holiness consists in his perfect love of righteousness, and abhorrence of evil, and cannot look on iniquity.’ Habakkuk I: 13.”
In Isaiah 6, we see one of the most striking accounts of not only the holiness of God but also the un-holiness of man. Isaiah 6 does not apply to the Prophet Isaiah alone, but also to you and me.
Isaiah was a prophet during the kingly reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah in the Kingdom of Judah. He ministered for over 40 years. As Isaiah 6 opens, King Uzziah has died and it would be approximately the year 740 B.C. Although the king died of leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21) as a direct result of disobedience before God, his death signaled the conclusion of a long period (52 years) of peace and prosperity.
It was during this period of time following Uzziah’s death, that the Prophet Isaiah encountered a theophany, or a Christophany (John 12:41), which is a visible manifestation of God. Such instances are often accompanied by earthquakes, smoke, fire and lightening (Isaiah 29:1-6; 30:27-31; Exodus 19:18-19; Psalm 18:7-15; 50:1-3; 97:1-2; Micah 1:1-4; Nahum 1:3-8; Habakkuk 3:1-15).
Isaiah 6:1 says that the prophet saw the Lord. The word Lord is the Hebrew word Adonai which literally means Sovereign One or Master. Isaiah describes the Lord sitting upon a throne. This symbolically means that the Lord is consistently ruling over heaven and earth in power and authority. A throne symbolizes power and authority.
The prophet continues by saying that the Lord was “high and lifted up.” The Lord’s throne was greatly elevated illustrating that this was the One and only Most High God. No one is higher or greater.
Next we witness that the “train of his robe filled the temple.” The hem or fringe of God’s glorious robe filled the temple implying supreme majesty. God is the central and only object of worship.
Dr. James Montgomery Boice wrote, “In any discussion of reformation in doctrine one must come to the realization that the real problem of our time is that there is hardly any doctrine at all to reform. So when we talk about reformation we must focus on a recovery of theology, period. Certainly in the liberal churches there is a lack of exposition of Scripture and sound doctrine, and unfortunately, this is rapidly becoming the case in evangelical circles as well. Now you might ask which doctrines are missing? I argue that primarily what we need is a recovery of the doctrine of God. You have to have some kind of starting point and that’s the point where I think we should begin. People have lost any real sense of the fact that when we come to church we come to worship and learn about God.”
“Years ago,” Dr. Boice continues, “I spoke at a conference and my topic was on a number of the attributes of God. Later I got some feedback from a gentleman who was listening to my presentation. He had been in the church for thirty years, and in fact was now an elder, and that was the first time that he ever heard a series of messages on the attributes of God. And after hearing this his friend asked him, “Well, whom did you think you were worshiping all that time?” But he hadn’t really thought about those things and I’m convinced that we have literally thousands of people in our churches today who really seldom, if ever, think about who it is they are worshiping, if they think about God at all.”
Do you realize that God is holy? Do you really know this One who the Bible says is set apart from and is the holy other? Does knowing that God is holy impact your life and the decisions you make on a daily basis? Does it impact your worship, or is worship for you all about entertainment? Meditate today on Isaiah 6.
Soli deo Gloria!