“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. These 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.
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. 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 6:1 says that the prophet saw the Lord. The prophet continues by saying that the Lord is “high and lifted up.” Next we witness that the “train of his robe filled the temple.”
The following sentences focus upon the reality, the rejoicing and the resulting effect of the praise given to God by the Seraphim angels. “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.” The Seraphim are specifically named angels whose task is to worship God before His heavenly throne. We do not know how many Seraphim angels there are before God’s throne, but we do know that there are more than one.
However, God does give us information regarding the appearance of the Seraphim angels. To begin with, each one of these innumerable angels have six wings. The Seraphim have an all important task to perform. They call to one another in antiphonal praise and cry out “holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The threefold repetition indicates that this attribute of God is superlative. It is unmatched, untouchable, and unparalleled. There is no greater attribute that God possesses that holiness.
The title LORD of hosts refers to the most personal name for God: Yahweh. Yahweh, the self-existent One possesses divine control over the entire universe. He is the holy One. Because the LORD of hosts is holy, holy, holy, all of creation is full of His glory. The LORD is ruler over all, and His glory, the truthfulness, righteousness and beauty of His character, fills creation.
The result of this anthem of praise by the Seraphim is that “the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” This symbolizes the wrath and judgment of God upon those who are sinners.
What hope then does any sinner have before the awesome holiness of God? There is no hope in ourselves. This is conspicuously evident in Isaiah’s response to what he had witnessed. “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 6:5)
Upon seeing the glory of God, and witnessing the resounding praise from the Seraphim, Isaiah becomes a broken man. He has for the first time seen God for who He truly is: holy. Concurrently, Isaiah has for the first time seen himself for who he truly is: unholy. In light of this startling recognition, Isaiah pronounces judgment: not upon Israel or Judah, but rather upon himself. He exclaims, “Woe is me!”
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains, “Isaiah is astonished by the glory of God; like Peter, he becomes afraid (Luke 5:1-8). He pronounces an oracular curse upon himself. His conviction of sin is specific: he has unclean lips. The fact that others around him suffer from the same condition compounds his sin rather than alleviating it.”
Often when we are confronted with the holiness of God, and by consequence our sin, we tend to evaluate ourselves either by ourselves or by others. We dismiss our sin by saying that it is not that bad. Or we look to others and favorably compare ourselves by saying that we are not as bad as they are. Isaiah would have none of this. He compared himself to the thrice holy God and became a broken man. A man “lost” or “undone.” Isaiah is no longer a man who has it altogether, but rather is a man who has fallen apart.
To truly know God is to recognize and understand that He is holy, holy, holy, and that we are not. He is set apart from sin, while we belong and revel in sin. How then can sinful creatures ever hope to eternally be in the presence of this God who is holy, holy, holy? Our only hope or confidence is in the gracious redemption of the LORD.
Take the time today to meditate and consider the holiness of God.
Soli deo Gloria!