In the sixth chapter of Isaiah the prophet describes to us the awesome vision he saw of the Lord. It was a sight unlike anything on earth yet Isaiah had to use human language to express his vision. And so he explains the vision in terms of a heavenly throne room. He says that the Lord was “sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple”. The first thing that we are told, then, is that God is a great king. He rules and reigns with more power and glory than even the greatest monarch this earth can produce. We also see how the Lord’s throne room is intimately connected with the temple. It was the temple where God came and made his “home” with his people. From the days of the tabernacle to the days of the temple God dwelt with his people in the place where he was to be worshipped.
And what glorious worship takes place! Isaiah describes the seraphim who “called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” The attribute that these heavenly beings draw our attention to is that of God’s holiness. Although scripture tells us that God is light, love and other things it is his holiness that is triply praised by those that surround his home. And his holiness is connected to his glory. Earthly kings may seek to spread their glory across the globe but the closest they have come is having a statue in major cities like the Roman emperors or a dusty picture of Queen Victoria in an Indian bureaucrat’s office. God’s glory fills the whole earth. There is not one patch of this glorious universe that does not speak of the majesty, power and glory of God.
The natural response to this glorious God comes next. Isaiah realises he cannot stand before the Lord because: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; … my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Isaiah knows the truth that sinful human beings cannot approach a God this holy. Do you? Even if you are respectable and law-abiding you still are unclean and living among unclean people. But God provides the answer. One of the seraphim brings a coal from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips with it and says: “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah could not do it. Even his best efforts would not have been enough. No, it is God who provides the atonement. And in this vision we are pointed forward to the great atonement that God has accomplished for us. It was not through the sacrifice of beasts but through the sacrifice of the one who was there in the throne room (John 12:41). The one who took on flesh and died for the salvation of a people of unclean lips. The Lord. Jesus Christ. The holy one has come and atoned for his people. Let us join in with the chorus of the seraphim: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’