“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)
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. 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! I am lost.”
Why does Isaiah pronounce this judgment upon himself? Why does he realize that he is a broken man, lost or undone before God? It is because he realizes, perhaps for the first time, that he is man whose heart is filled with sin as evidenced by his speech.
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “If the lips are unclean, so is the heart. This vision of God’s holiness vividly reminded the prophet of his own unworthiness which deserved judgment. Job (Job 42:6) and Peter (Luke 5:8) came to the same realization about themselves when confronted with the presence of the LORD (Ezekiel 1:28:2:7; Revelation 1:1-7).”
Jesus said as much in Mark 7:14-23. “And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”(Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The Prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). The prophet was not only speaking of the individual, but also of the entire nation of Judah. See Jeremiah 17:1-8.
The Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
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!