“And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:7)
In the LORD’s personal and continual atonement from both the penalty of sin and the power of sin within the heart and soul of the believer in Christ, God not only forgives but also restores the individual in question to intimate fellowship between themselves and God.
This restoration is a personal restoration to intimate fellowship with the holy LORD. “And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips;” Why did the Seraphim angel touch Isaiah’s mouth with the hot coal from the Altar of Incense? It is because that was where the prophet was conscious of his unholiness. His speech had not been holy and separated from sinfulness.
This restoration was a painful for Isaiah unto intimate fellowship with the holy LORD. Repentance and restoration is not easy but it is necessary for intimate fellowship to be restored. It is seeing one’s sin, and the holy LORD, as it, and He, should be seen. No rationalization, no validation and no defensive explanation can replace the searing awareness of my sin and the gracious forgiveness and cleansing from God.
King David wrote, “1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:1-4).
Though personal restoration with the LORD may be truly painful, it is also truly wonderful. “Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” The prophet’s perversity, depravity and guilt for his sin was taken away. The LORD took it away. God forgave Isaiah of his sin. Cleansing had taken place because Isaiah’s sin had been covered by a substitutionary atonement, which is centered in Jesus Christ alone, and was prefigured for the Old Testament saint by the brazen altar of sacrifice.
John Calvin writes, “We see how God condescends to meet the weakness of human sense. He puts the tongs into the hand of a seraph, that by means of it he may take a coal from the altar and apply it to the Prophet’s mouth. By the aid of the outward sign God assisted the prophet’s understanding. There is no reason to believe that the coal possessed any virtue, as superstitious persons imagine that in the magical arts there is some hidden power. Nothing of this sort is to be found; for it is God alone who can cleanse our pollution in whatever part it exists.”
Calvin concludes by saying, “The angel administered the cleansing, but was not the author of it; so that we must not ascribe to another what belongs to God alone. This is expressly stated by the angel himself, who claims nothing as his own, but bringing forward the sacred pledge which he had received from God, laid it as a sacrament on the lips of the prophet. Not that he (Isaiah) could not be cleansed without the coal, but because the visible sign was useful for the confirmation and proof of the fact. And such is the use of sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) to strengthen us in proportion to our ignorance; for we are not angels that can behold the mysteries of God without any assistance, and here He raises us to Himself by gradual advances.”
May the LORD so do to us what He did to the Prophet Isaiah.
Soli deo Gloria!