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Bristol Road Baptist Church

13th February 2005 PM

SMOKE FILLED THE TEMPLE

Isaiah 6

6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high
and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were
seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces,
with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they
were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the
temple was filled with smoke.

There is more than a mere thematic link between this passage and the one
we were considering this morning.

If we had continued to read in Chapter 12 of John we would have come to


that part where our Lord speaks to the people about His coming death.
John tells us that Jesus withdrew from amongst the people for a while, and
he then continues to explain that their reaction of unbelief is a fulfilment of
Isaiah:
37
Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence,
they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfil the word of Isaiah the
prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”a
39
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says
elsewhere:
40
“He has blinded their eyes
and deadened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”a
41
Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
JOHN 12 37-41

Verse 41 takes us directly to our passage in Isaiah.

a Isaiah 53:1
a Isaiah 6:10
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15th August 2004 PM

Isaiah sees Jesus’ glory and speaks about Him.

This morning we were reminded that to be in the presence of the Lord is


costly – once again, and this time from the Old Testament we have a
similar message from Isaiah.

As we examine the passage we can see what it cost Isaiah to see the Lord
high and lifted up.

Here – in a simple division of the material we have:

ℵ The Vision

ℵ The Change

ℵ The Challenge

I believe that this short chapter provides us with an insight into the
meaning of worship and the meaning of encounter with God.

You will find it helpful to compare with your own experience of God. See
whether the work of God in you has the same ingredients as it had for
Isaiah – and indeed for virtually all individuals whose encounter with God is
recorded for us in Scripture.

Let’s start by sharing some thoughts about the VISION:

Vision – at a time of weakness

6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high
and exalted,

As we noticed this morning, there is a link between being in His presence


and living a different life – a life of service, devotion and witness.

Isaiah sees his vision at a time of earthly transition. He contrasts the


passing of an earthly king (Uzziah) with the Eternal King of glory.
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We too need to be reminded that, when earthly powers change or pass


away – the King of Glory does not change.

When Isaiah might very well have been reflecting on the sad misfortunes
that had befallen God’s people – reflecting on the story of Uzziah, his
example, and his failure and his leprosy. Uzziah has died and the
transition has not been easy.

God has a desire to meet us at the PIVOTAL POINTS in our life.

They may seem to us to be pivotal for altogether different reasons – a


change of family circumstances, or work or health. God intends to speak
to us, and to reveal Himself to us at such times.

Then the experience will become PIVOTAL because HE HAS MET US.

Vision – of splendour and holiness

I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his
robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With
two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and
with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the
temple was filled with smoke.

It was – as it inevitably is – a disturbing vision.

A vision of MAJESTY

I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his
robe filled the temple.

What kind of picture do you have of God?

Like John in the last book of the Bible, Isaiah sees the Lord in majesty.

We have different pictures of MAJESTY these days – and it is rarely of a


monarch on a throne – it may be a small man standing at a podium
bearing the seal of the USA
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Or a bearded Arab on a grainy video from a terrorist video. It might be a


judge in all his crimson robes – or an ayatollah wearing his turban.

These are the marks of HUMAN AUTHORITY – and over them all is GOD THE
KING!
A vision of HOLINESS

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;


the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Holiness is a very unfashionable word. It sets apart altogether. It is such


as to create AWE and a sense of UNWORTHINESS

Isaiah’s vision has a sound track – the angels sing repeatedly of the HOLY
HOLY HOLY LORD.

A vision of POWER

This is the LORD OF HOSTS – the El Shaddai - He is seen and described as


the God of the conquering army

♦ Who did Isaiah see?

That question is answered for us by John in the same chapter of his gospel
we were reading earlier. 12 39~41
39
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says
elsewhere:
40
“He has blinded their eyes
and deadened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”a
41
Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.

That is most significant – John is telling us that the King that Isaiah saw is
JESUS!

Jesus in His pre-incarnate majesty.

a Isaiah 6:10
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Peter would have agreed – for you remember when Peter realised who
Jesus was his reaction was similar to that of Isaiah;
8
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9
For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and
John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Luke 5 8-10

Isaiah’s reaction was:


5
“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.”

This is an appropriate reaction to an experience of God. And it signals the


second phase in his experience:

The Change

5 “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.”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he
had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and
said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin
atoned for.”

The association with the cleansing work of the Lord through the angel and
the function of the altar would not be lost on Isaiah.

It is a simple but dramatic description of the forgiveness of sin and the


dealing with guilt.

Your guilt is taken away


Your sin atoned for

We should not be surprised to find the heart of the Gospel in the smoke
filled temple when God appears in majesty.

There are always those two sides to the fundamental CHANGE that God
works – the supplicant’s acknowledgement of sin – and the promise of
forgiveness and atonement already achieved: IS TAKEN AWAY IS
ATONED FOR
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Of course the shadow of guilt remains – there are times when the enemy
of souls stirs it up – but our atonement is secure in Christ. By repentance
and faith we are cleansed and purified.

God has set it aside.

God has put it behind His back.

Once the HOLY GOD has been revealed and sin confessed

Once the ATONING WORK has been carried out – then, and then only is the
VOICE OF GOD HEARD
8
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who
will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

In that way the third phase is reached;

The Challenge
8
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who
will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

This is a most remarkable thing. God seems to asking for help! Is this a
sign of weakness – of course not. Does it mean that His work depends on
Isaiah – no – but His grace is continuing to work in the prophet.

After vision comes transformation – after transformation the challenge of a


work for the King Himself.

In a way we are back at Bethany:

Martha to serve
Lazarus to live
Mary to anoint

Those who meet the Master must recognise their sin and their guilt
In repentance and faith they experience His saving work
Then He commissions them to a task of His choosing.

Where do you stand in that sequence?


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Notice that the CHALLENGE IS NOT AN EASY ONE

It is natural that – having just received pardon and atonement, Isaiah will
be anxious to serve the King : but just in case he has any mistaken ideas
about such service the Lord continues to describe the work in remarkably
difficult terms:
9
He said, “Go and tell this people:
“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.a
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11
Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12
until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13
And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

Mmmm. That’s a bit grim isn’t it?


9
He said, “Go and tell this people:
“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.a

a 9, 10 Hebrew; Septuagint ‘You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; / you will be ever seeing,
but never perceiving.’ / 10This people’s heart has become calloused; / they hardly hear with their ears, /
and they have closed their eyes
a 9, 10 Hebrew; Septuagint ‘You will be ever hearing, but never understanding; / you will be ever seeing,
but never perceiving.’ / 10This people’s heart has become calloused; / they hardly hear with their ears, /
and they have closed their eyes
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Yet this is a very frequently echoed passage which turns up again and
again in the New Testament. When Jesus’ teaching and person were
rejected this passage was quoted as an explanation.

It is a LONG TERM MINISTRY TO THE DEAF AND THE UNHEEDING!

Why does God want Isaiah to see it in these terms?

Partly because the good news is not in the speaker but in the Grace of God

Partly because God sets no targets or goals – often what we do for Him
seems to bear little immediate fruit.

No wonder Isaiah responds:

“LORD, HOW LONG?”

And the answer comes – until there is nothing left but what is described as
“the holy seed”

And so the idea of a remnant – a chosen few emerges.

I may be tempted to ask more questions – but the reality remains:

VISION

CHANGE

CHALLENGE

My response has to be like that of Isaiah in the smoke filled temple shaken
by His Majesty

Repentance – the cleansing work of God – and a challenge to bear His


message in His Name in His way.

“Who will go for us?”

“Here am I, send me!”

Are you ready for that?