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February 9, 2009

A Note From the Author:

Thank you for taking an interest in and reading my exegetical analysis of Isaiah

6:1-13 and I hope you will find the research and contextual exploration helpful in your

understanding and reading. I’m an academic at heart and a thinker by nature, so detailed

analysis of Scripture is truly enriching not just to my mind but also to my spirit. Hebrew

4:12 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged

sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow,

and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (NASB). While the historical

and concordant information may be interesting to you, don’t allow this read to just be an

intellectual and theological exercise. To conclude the exegetical analysis, I have included

a “Significance” section that sums up the information and explores the possible

hermeneutical or practical applications of this section of Scripture. The Bible is divided

up into 66 books, 1,189 chapters, and 31,173 verses, but it is one great story of God’s

creation and redemptions of humanity and Isaiah’s story is just one part of the greater


For those that may be interested or curious, footnotes and formatting are in

adherence with Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and

Dissertations. I hope you enjoy and benefit from this analysis and I am always open to

thoughts, questions, and suggestions.

Adam Young



Biblical Context

Isaiah’s prophecy and prophetic ministry are the inspiration and heart of the book

which bears his name as the title. Isaiah and his ministry found unique significance at a

pivotal point in the history of God’s people. Positioned between the ministries of Moses

and Christ, a transition was taking place and Israel was about to learn that their salvation

could not be obtained by reliance on man but only from God Himself.1

A new era had begun, removing the old order of tribal confederacy and the

kingdoms that came as a result to the old order, into a dispersion that would open the

door for a return to Zion, the city where Yahweh dwells.2 Isaiah’s ministry and prophetic

book bears witness to Yahweh’s plan and word to His people throughout 12 generations,

each generation’s response, and His divine perspective of the history of Israel and Judah.3


What little we know about the person of Isaiah mostly comes from the prophetic

book named after him. Isaiah, whose name means, “The Lord is salvation,” was an

eighth-century BC prophet and son of Amoz. He grew up in Jerusalem, received the best

Edward J. Young, Chapters 1-18, The Book of Isaiah: The English Text, with
Introduction, Exposition, and Notes, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans
Publishing Company, 1965), 4.
John D.W. Watts, Isaiah 1-33, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 24 (Nashville:
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), xxxi.
Ibid., xxvii.

education the capitol city could offer, and had repeated close contacts with four different

kings of Judah.4 Isaiah’s close contact with several kings, his access to the court, and

great concern with the issue of leadership have led some to believe that he may have been

of royal family or even related to King Uzziah.5

As to the authorship of the book, there is great debate. Young states that “The

prophet Isaiah himself was the author of the entire book; he himself committed it all to

writing and he was responsible for collecting his messages and placing them in the

present book which bears his name.”6 Elwell and Comfort claim that chapters 1-39 took

place during Isaiah’s ministry of about 750-700 BC and chapters 40-66 were written

during his retirement years.7 However, Goldingay examines the name of the book, which

is often called the “Book of Isaiah,” implying his authorship and agreeing with the NIV

which correctly renders just “Isaiah,” linking him and his ministry to the work but not

suggesting his partial or complete authorship.8 Watts takes it another step further and

breaks down the major sections of the book into the possible authors: Chapters 1-35 to

Isaiah; chapters 36-39 to an individual who used 2 Kings 17-20:19 as a resource; chapters

40-55 to individuals during the Exile and restoration periods; chapters 55-66 to the

returned community in Palestine. I believe tradition, in combination to the historical

evidence we have today, is correct in giving complete authorship to Isaiah. While

Walter A. Elwell and Philip W. Comfort, eds. s.v. “ISAIAH (Person),” in
Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1:642.
Paul D. Gardner, ed. s.v. “ISAIAH,” in New International Encyclopedia of Bible
Characters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 1:269.
Young, Chapters 1-18, 9.
Elwell, ISAIAH (Person), 642.
John Goldingay, Isaiah, New International Biblical Commentary, vol. 13
(Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2001), 2.

authorship can long be debated, the un-debatable reality remains; the primary speaker is

Yahweh who uses vessels like Isaiah to communicate His message to His people.9


Placing a date on the Book of Isaiah is a difficult task not without its problems. In

following Watts’ view, the very chronological progress has brought the events to the

Persian period. The destruction of Edom in Isaiah 63:1-6 is referred to as a current event.

Edom usually appears in all references to Judah’s neighbor, yet neither Ezra nor

Nehemiah mentions it. This suggests a mid-fifth century completion.10 However,

believing Isaiah to be the entire author of the book, we should explore the date of the

prophet Isaiah’s life. Because Isaiah states that he worked under four kings of Judah:

Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, we know that his ministry took place about 750-700

BC. If it were to be believed that Isaiah wrote the entire book himself, finishing the final

prophecies of the Babylonians during his retirement years, we would date the book late

seventh century BC.11

Historical Setting

A rapid Assyrian expansion and a monarch that continually overthrew

neighboring nations and demanded tributes from other nations as a sign of submission

and allegiance mark the period of Isaiah’s life and ministry. As Assyrian rule began to

overtake Syria and northern Israel, the kings of these regions employed the help of Ahaz,

king of Judah, in about 734 BC. He refused to assist them, so they invaded Judah. In

desperation, Ahaz called on the Assyrians for help and with little hesitation the Assyrians
Watts, Isaiah 1-33, xxvi, xlv.
Watts, Isaiah 1-33, xxix.
Elwell, ISAIAH (Person), 642.

captured Syria Damascus and turned the northern kingdom of Israel into an Assyrian


In about 701 BC, under King Sennacherib, Judah was vexed but, through the faith

of Judah’s King Hezekiah, Jerusalem remained. It was not until the invasion of the

Babylonians that Jerusalem fell and the people of God dispersed.13


By 435 BC Judaism was just beginning to find a rallying point with the rule of the

new Persian Empire. There was no king; Jerusalem was still largely in ruins; the new

temple had been a disappointment; there were Jews scattered throughout the Empire.

They were facing a critical issue: what Judaism was and should become. A new era had

begun, the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests had destroyed the old order and with the

rise of the Persian Empire a new order was now possible.

Past history had shown the unwillingness of God’s people to heed and follow

Yahweh’s direction. Yahweh was still looking for an attentive and responsive group that

would remain faithful and obedient to His will.14 The accounts in Isaiah provided the

history, the call of Yahweh, and the open opportunity to start afresh.


To assign an intended audience/reader is to assume we know the exact date and

place of writing, as well as to have some idea of the author or editor. Looking at the

complete book is best, but the conclusion of the book in Chapters 60-66 no doubt

Walter A. Elwell and Philip W. Comfort, eds. s.v. “Isaiah, Book of,” in Tyndale
Bible Dictionary (Wheaton:Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1:643.
Young, Chapters 1-18, 6.
Watts, Isaiah 1-33, xxx-xxxi.

addresses the people in Jerusalem. According to Watts, there is no evidence to suggest

any circulation before the whole letter was complete. If we take his approach towards the

book having multiple authors and at least one final editor operating after the returned

community in Palestine, the intended audience would be those living in Jerusalem in

about 435 BC.15 If we were to assume that Isaiah wrote the entirety of the book assigned

to his name, the recipients would be the people in Jerusalem in late seventh century BC.16


Literary Genre

Once again, the unknowns about the Book of Isaiah, including its authorship and

date, can change the way one views this writing. If Isaiah himself were to be the sole

author then it would not only include historical narratives but the latter half would be

classified as prophecy. If it were written in its entirety much later, some of the prophecy

would actually become history. Although we find the Book of Isaiah in the presence of

the books of Prophets in today’s canonical Old Testament, the book is full of history,

prophecy, prophetic messages, poetry and prose. Watts presents an interesting thought as

he classifies it as vision literature. Isaiah’s title calls the book a “vision.” These visions,

whether interpretations of current events or prophecies of future ones, places the speaker

and prophet in the background and make Yahweh the dominant speaker and the dominant

sub-form is that of the Yahweh speech.17

The Book in Parts

Watts, Isaiah 1-33, xxviii, xxix-xxx.
Elwell, ISAIAH (Person), 642.
Ibid., xlv.

While any writing can be labeled with a specific genre, it is important to note and

remember that within any writing, there are multiple sections each serving a specific

purpose. The Book of Isaiah can be broken up into three major sections that gives a

synopsis of its overall messages and themes. Chapters 1-35 begin with an introduction

into Isaiah’s prophetic calling, mission, and message. In these chapters we get a picture

of the sin that entangled Judah and Jerusalem and God’s judgment on them. Although the

text primarily focuses on the southern kingdom of Judah, the principles and theological

insights apply to all of God’s people, those who received the Covenant. Chapters 36-39

include a historical interlude that fill in the historical gaps between Isaiah’s prophecies

and Yahweh’s warnings and promises. The events in this section do not appear in the

order of time, but connect the two halves of the book together. They are, in effect, a

proper appendix to the first half and an introduction to the second half of the book.18

Chapters 40-66 make up the latter half of the book, capturing the rise and fall of the

Babylonians, Yahweh’s promise to redeem His people with salvation through the Servant

of the Lord, His ultimate blessing, and His final judgment.19

We find our passage of focus in Isaiah 6:1-13, located in the introduction of the

book in Chapters 1-6. It is here during the reign of Uzziah and Jotham that we are

introduced to the nation of Israel as a sinful nation in which Yahweh demands

repentance. While the people continue to bring offerings, their worship is hypocritical, an

attempt to mask their sin. Isaiah turns to describe the day when people will live in

obedience to God and His will and the city of God, Jerusalem, will be raised up. He goes

on to pronounce the six woes of Israel in Chapter 5 and then announces that another
Charles R. Erdman, The Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
1954), 13.
Watts, Isaiah 1-33, viii-x and Elwell, Isaiah, Book of, 644-645.

nation will invade the land. This brings us to the vision of Isaiah and his calling to be a

prophet to God’s people. In what is often referred to as Isaiah’s calling, or as the New

International Version labels “Isaiah’s Commission,” we see the driving force behind his

ministry and the power and authority with which Isaiah spoke and prophesied.

This “commission” can be broken down into even more layers, as was done

previously with the whole Book of Isaiah. In verses 1 and 2 of Chapter 6, Isaiah describes

what he saw: the Lord seated on a throne and seraphs with six wings, two covering their

faces, two covering their feet and with two they were flying. Verse 3 describes what he

heard: the seraphs calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the

whole earth is full of his glory” (NIV). In verse 4, Isaiah describes what he felt: the

doorposts and thresholds shook. Verse 5, Isaiah recounts what he said: “‘Woe to me!’ I

cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean

lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty’” (NIV). He then, in verses 6

and 7 describes what he experienced: a seraph touched his mouth with live coal and

pronounced his guilt removed and his sin atoned for. Finally, in verses 8-13, Isaiah

describes what he received: his commission to be the prophet to God’s people.


The grammatical and vocabulary variations found in current English translations

are more a point of interest than a point of concern. Variations in adjectives and forms of

use for God’s name could perhaps give us a slightly different perspective on Isaiah’s

experience. But the over arching theme in all current, major English translations give us

the same idea and understanding of Isaiah’s experience and life-calling he received from

God. This is especially true when you place each of these variations in their complete

context as any good interpreter and expositor should always do.


Beginning the process to exegete Isaiah’s commission, reference will be made to

the New American Standard Bible as the source for an accurate literal English translation,

as suggested by Vines and Shaddix when unable to do so in the original language.20

“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and

exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple” (Isaiah 6:1 NASB). Many readers

believe that Isaiah’s mention of King Uzziah’s death only signifies a time period which is

believed to be between 742-735 BC.21 However, as Erdman has pointed out, it is much

more a description of the times. The king had died by a loathsome disease; the country

was in peril through moral decay; and the Assyrian Empire was posing severe political

danger.22 The first person narrative does not tell us whose vision is being described.

Watts concludes that if we are to believe Isaiah wrote all or at least this part of the book it

would be his vision, but if the book had been completely written during the fifth century

BC it would be very unlikely it was Isaiah’s. He believes that we are not safe to assume

either.23 However, Watts is incorrect in not referring to John 12:39-41 that clearly gives

credit of the vision to the prophet Isaiah.

While Isaiah says he “saw the Lord,” it is to be believed that he in fact did not see

God directly because he gives no description of God himself, only his throne, robe and

Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver
Expository Sermons (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999), 110.
Goldingay, Isaiah, 58.
Erdman, Book of Isaiah, 32-33.
Watts, Isaiah 1-33, 73.

the seraphim around Him. Isaiah has only been made aware of God’s presence in the

things he did see.24 John 1:18 and 1 Timothy 6:16 both say that no man has ever seen God

and John 12:41 states that Isaiah merely saw God’s glory.

The vision of God being seated on a throne represents Him as king and judge over

His people and all the people of the earth. While God had always been their great King,

the symbolism was especially vital for a group of people who had just lost or were about

to lose their earthly king to death.25 There is some debate as to the temple Isaiah is

referring to, whether it be a heavenly or earthly temple. While many of the things he

describes represent parts of the Jerusalem Temple, it was a vision and could have in fact

taken place anywhere.26

“Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face,

and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew” (Isaiah 6:2 NASB). Seraphim,

which can be translated, “burners,” are often interpreted to understand their burn in love

and zeal for God.27 Here, even the seraphim covered their faces as a sign reverence and

awe of God. Perhaps this is why Isaiah did not see God, but only His glory, because to

look at God was a sign of irreverence and would be fatal as well. Some have speculated,

as has Kaiser, that the covering of their feet actually represented a covering of their

genitals. It was an ancient experience of the connection between sex and the feeling of

Otto Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12: A Commentary, trans. R.A. Wilson (Philadelphia: The
Westmister Press, 1972), 73.
Young, Book of Isaiah, 238.
Ibid., 23-237.
Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible (Nashville: Thomas
Nelson, Inc., 1997), 639.

guilt.28 However, most believe it does not represent sinfulness but rather another sign of

reverence and humility.29

“And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,

The whole earth is full of His glory’” (Isaiah 6:3 NASB). God is holy by definition but

shows His holiness through His decisions and acts.30 The word “holy” used here literally

means to be consecrated, dedicated, or set apart. It is removed from the realm of the

common and what is secular to the sphere of being sacred.31 It represents Gods separation

from creation and complete freedom from what is sinful. The threefold use of the word

has been interpreted by some to represent the Holy Trinity, but because the development

of this idea was not understood until the New Testament and Isaiah makes no mention or

reference to this special meaning, one should be cautious in taking it that direction.

Perhaps it was merely to emphasize God holiness.32

The phrase, “Lord of hosts” is also used in 2 Samuel 6:2 and Amos 9:5-6. It

represents Yahweh as the holy God, the Lord over all the powers and forces that form

and control the world. He possesses the power to make His will prevail in the world.33

While many scholars place glory as the subject in the next phrase, full or fullness as the

subject follows the more natural order of the Hebrew words. The meaning is essentially

the same, however, this view does not limit the glory of God to the earth but extends it to

all of creation.34 Here, God’s glory lies behind every reality in the world as an invisible

Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12, 76.
Young, Book of Isaiah, 241.
Watts, Isaiah 1-33, 74.
Lawrence O. Richards, ed., s.v. “Holy/Holiness,” in Expository Dictionary of
Bible Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1985), 1:339-341.
Young, Book of Isaiah, 243-244.
Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12, 78.
Young, Book of Isaiah, 245.

force, which is revealed to those who have been given the eyes to see it as Paul refers to

in Romans 1:19-20.35

“And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called

out, while the temple was filling with smoke” (Isaiah 6:4 NASB). Another reference to

physical aspects that could be found in the Jerusalem Temple, the doors and their pivots

set in the foundation shook at the seraphim's chanting. In the Bible, smoke often

accompanies the presence of God and may be the reason for the smoke. However, we

know from verse 6 that there was altar present at the time of the vision and Leviticus

16:12-13 describes a cloud of smoke from the incense on the altar that will be a

protection for the priest, who is in the presence of God. Without this smoke the priest

would die. This could be another explanation for the smoke filling the temple, to protect

Isaiah in the close presence of God.

“Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips;

For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5 NASB). “Woe” is

defined as an interjection or an exclamation of grief or denouncement.36 The word used

here should be literally translated, “be silent.” This personal self-instruction by Isaiah was

to restrain his natural desire. In the presence of the Most Holy God and the praise of the

seraphim, Isaiah is compelled to join the praise, but dares not. His own sinful nature of

unclean lips and that of his people does not allow him to speak.37 Isaiah knows the

consequence of being in the presence of pure glory, holiness and justice and he claims

himself to be ruined or cut off, doomed to die.38 Isaiah 29:13, 59:3 and Jer. 9:3-8 give us

Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12, 77-78.
Richards, Dictionary of Bible Words, “Woe,” 631.
Watts, Isaiah 1-33, 74-75.
Young, Book of Isaiah, 247.

a better picture of the sin of Isaiah’s people and how they were a people of unclean lips.

While they continued to obey the ritualistic and sacrificial laws demanded by God, it was

merely lip service in hopes of deterring God’s wrath. In Mark 7, Jesus quotes Isaiah’s

observations, declaring the religious people of His day, guilty of the same grievous sin.

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he

had taken from the altar with tongs” (Isaiah 6:6 NASB). Whether the seraphim was given

oral command or some other instruction we do not know, only that the seraphim was

acting on God’s behalf and in His will.

“He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and

your iniquity is take away and your sin is forgiven’” (Isaiah 6:7 NASB). Kaiser argues

that the burning coal of the altar contained the necessary power of atoning and purifying

force to forgive Isaiah’s sin as it did for the congregation alluded to in the Book of

Numbers.39 However, forgiveness comes from God alone. In the Old Testament,

sacrifices and burnt offerings were only a temporary atonement until Jesus’ innocent

blood could be shed for all of our sins. This act of the seraphim touching the mouth of

Isaiah with the burning coal was only a symbol. That is why it was necessary for the

seraphim to give an explanation of the events taking place. If it had contained the power

within itself, Isaiah would have known immediately the significance and power of the

seraphim’s actions.40

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go

for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I, Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8 NASB). Notice, that it is not

until after Isaiah has been forgiven from his sins that he is able to hear the voice of God

Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12, 81.
Young, Book of Isaiah, 250-251.

and to respond to it correctly and obediently. Here the question is not directly asked of

Isaiah but he has no hesitation in responding. We see a similar response from Paul in 1

Corinthians 15:8-10. God chose Paul, unfit to be an apostle, but because of the unmerited

grace shown to him, Paul was even more motivated towards obedience. Because of the

forgiveness and the atonement for his sins, seen to Isaiah as God’s unmerited grace, his

only response is to volunteer and remain faithful to this task throughout the rest of his


“He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep

on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears

dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.’” (Isaiah 6:9-10 NASB). Why

would God tell his people to do something that He was not going to allow them to

actually do? Why would God not want His people to return and be healed? There are

several thoughts on the meaning of God’s instructions here. McGee believes that God

never hardens a heart that would have otherwise been soft, but rather is only making

mention of what is already true of Isaiah’s people and their condition.42 Butler, however,

references Exod. 7-14 and the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to support his understanding

of God’s sovereignty and asserts, “At times God must destroy a generation before he can

work out his purpose of salvation.”43 But Motyer believes that in fact, what God is

actually referring to is the dilemma that all preachers face. While the hardened heart can

only be changed by hearing the truth, sometimes the truth is what ends up pushing people

Kaiser, Isaiah 1-12, 81-82.


J. Vernon McGee, Isaiah: Chapters 1-35, Thru The Bible Commentary Series,

vol. 22 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), 73.

Trent C. Butler, Isaiah, Holman Old Testament Commentary, ed. Max Anders
(Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 96.

beyond the point of no return in complete hardening of mind and heart.44 Jesus quotes

God’s instructions to Isaiah in Matthew 13, observing the very same reason why people

rejected His message as well.

“Then I said, ‘Lord, how long?’ and He answered, ‘Until cities are devastated and

without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, the Lord

has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.

Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning, like a

terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump”

(Isaiah 6:11-13 NASB). There is even more discussion and confusion in the

understanding of this final part of Isaiah’s instructions. Could the destruction described

here be a prophecy of the Assyrians? What does terebinth and oak mean to the Isrealites?

While there are nearly as many differing opinions about these meaning as there are

scholars who read them, one thing seems to be agreed upon: in the midst of all the

destruction they will face, there will always be hope in the promise that the “holy seed”

will remain and be a part of their future. Jer 1:9 and Daniel 10:16 help confirm the

authenticity of Isaiah’s vision as this is a recurring pattern in the way God calls some of

the Old Testament prophets.


When someone in our life who may be of importance or very close to us dies,

what is our response? For some, they go into deep depression. For some they get angry

and take it out on others. Still others use it to justify their own unbelief and apathy. Yet,

J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old


Testament Commentaries, ed. Donald J. Wiseman, vol. 20 (England: Inter-Varsity Press,

1999), 84.

Isaiah, when faced with the death of his king and leader, in the midst of political turmoil

and the threat of invading nations, “saw the Lord.” This event in Isaiah’s life wasn’t an

accident or pure coincidence. When faced with adversity, hardships, and struggles it isn’t

easy to see the Lord working in and around you and it doesn’t happen by accident either.

Isaiah was a man who feared God and fervently believed in His power, justice, and

purpose for his life. He was involved in teaching, preaching, and prophesying before the

vision of God and his life’s commission ever took place. For us to see the Lord in

difficult times, in times of unrest, and those moments when we have a lot more questions

than answers we must begin seeking after God long before historical life events happen.

God sits on the throne of both heaven and earth as its King. As its Creator, He

sees things as both how they were meant to be and how they are. While many times we

view this as a negative image; as God sitting up in heaven, disappointed in all the little

sinners and striking them down. But this is actually greatest news! God didn’t just create

the world, put it into motion and then step back to watch it fall apart. He is the King!

Kings are active in the regulation and daily affairs of their kingdoms. They know what is

happening and are guiding their subjects to produce the best end result. Now, earthly

kings are of course human and prone to fall into pride and selfishness and usually don’t

have the best judgment, but our King is full of infinite wisdom, love, grace, and hope. In

fact He is wisdom, love, grace, and hope. We are in good hands because our God, who

judges both the just and the unjust, paid the price only He could pay through his son Jesus

so that we could receive forgiveness.

God is set apart and distinct from His creation. That is what the very word “holy”

means. He is so holy that the seraphim that surround Him must cry it over and over!

God’s holiness and glory is evident all around us, even for those of us who will never

have a vision like Isaiah did. Romans 1:20 lets us know that throughout all of creation, in

the things we can see, are the invisible qualities of God. They were put here by God and

for God, to attest to His glory. We just get the privilege of seeing and experiencing them


When in the presence of God, our place in comparison to Him is clearly seen.

Being in the presence of the Most Holy and hearing the seraphim praise Him, Isaiah is

compelled to do the same: to praise God. But we see in Isaiah’s self-instruction to keep

quiet. Here, that “woe” is literally translated to “keep quiet.” Isaiah is speechless before

an Almighty God. He can’t praise God because the very mouth needed to do so is

unclean. Isaiah was not just aware of his sin in general, but in the presence of God his sin

became concentrated to one particular area.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6-7 when He says, “This people honors me

with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching

as doctrines the precepts of men” (NASB). The sin of Isaiah and his people was that they

were merely giving lip service to God. They didn’t mean anything they said and were

only trying to appease God so He would bless them and deliver them from the difficulties

they were facing. Even in desperation and sorrow they couldn’t be genuine. Standing

before God, Isaiah is acutely aware of his specific sin. For us, as believers today, to just

admit we are sinners in general isn’t good enough. When we are faced with the personal

presence of God in our lives, He reveals certain areas of our lives that do not honor Him.

It is not until God has forgiven Isaiah’s sin that he is able or ready to hear God’s

voice and respond appropriately. The call was open to anyone, but only Isaiah was in the

presence of God and in the place to hear and respond to His call. God does not single out

only certain individuals to carry out the call He gave in Matthew 28 and Acts 1. We each

have special roles just as each member of the body carries out special functions, but the

call is open to those you are able to hear Him and willing to respond.

For believers today, Isaiah’s encounter with God is a reminder of the fact that

God is always in control and the ruler of our lives. He has a special plan and purpose, not

only for history as a whole, but also for our lives individually. But before we can hear

God’s voice to appropriately respond, we must be ready to confess our sins and come

humbly before the Lord. Then, in everything good and bad, we can be assured that God’s

sovereign hand is guiding us and giving us the words to say, as well as follow His

direction and plan for our lives.


Butler, Trent C. Isaiah. Holman Old Testament Commentary. ed. Max Anders. Nashville:
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