The first five chapters of Isaiah were written during the reign of King Uzziah, a good king who did right in the sight of the Lord. II Chronicles 26:3 tells us that he reigned for 52 years: Sixteen years old was Uzziah when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and two years in Jerusalem. He was a strong military leader who finally defeated the Jews’ enemies, the Philistines, permanently. Having a powerful ruler brought a sense of safety and protection; but as is often the case with the kings of Judah, there was one great flaw: out of pride he defiled the temple of God. Verse 16: But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. He died an outcast with this disease. And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, being a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the Lord: (verse 21). Although he had defeated the Philistines, his passing emboldened a new and more terrifying enemy: the Assyrians. Great terror came across the nation as they felt their biggest protector was gone.
This is exactly why the Lord stepped in to give a prophet a vision, only the third time in human history that His throne was seen by human eyes. God chose to reveal himself to Isaiah to show the people that He was there protector, not an earthly king.
Isaiah 6:1: In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. The temple in Jerusalem was one of the wonders of the ancient world; people came from all over the known world to gaze upon it. But even this magnificent structure, the best human hands could build, was so insignificant compared to God that merely the tip of His robe filled it (I also can’t help but wonder if this is a connection with a bridal train, mentioned later in Isaiah and also in Revelation).
Isaiah now sees two distinct angels before the throne. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly (verse 2). The root word “seraph” means “to set on fire,” meaning these creatures exude a burning light similar to a torch; their presence in the vision represents the Fire of the Holy Ghost. They have 6 wings, two with which to fly, two covering the feet, and two covering the faces. Even these heavenly creatures, shining brighter than any light on Earth, cannot stand to look directly at their creator. Verse 3: And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
If these angels sounds familiar, they can be likened to other creatures (perhaps they are the same?), found later in Revelation 4:8: And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. The three cries of “Holy!” signify the trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
It’s amazing to ponder that beings live in Heaven, seated at the throne of God, unable to look directly upon Him yet spending all of eternity repeating praises to Him. To the non-Christian this would sound like a depressing existence, as if God created mindless slaves never allowed to leave His side while only speaking of His glory and nothing else. But the Christian understands. These angels have the exact same purpose in life that we do; to never stop singing His praises. Have you ever been in a church service where the glory of the Lord appeared, and you simply never wanted to leave? In the olden days at camp meetings, people used to stay at the altars into the early hours of the morning speaking in tongues. There is no place better in the entire universe than in the presence of God. I’m sure if given the choice, these creatures would never leave and never want to say anything other than the repeating cycle of “Holy!” for all eternity.
Verse 4: And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Once the door was opened, a cloud of glory that resembled smoke filled the room. It took praises of the seraphims to open that door, and it takes praises for us to bring the presence of God into our midst today. This cloud also appeared when Solomon dedicated the temple: And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, So that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord (1 Kings 8:10-11). Just like the angels hid their faces from the bright light emanating from His throne, the priests couldn’t stand in the temple because His glory was so powerful.
Those who have been in the Pentecostal movement since the old days may remember a time when the presence of God appeared in church services and resembled a cloud of smoke, or a fine mist, hanging over the people as they prayed.
So great was the glory of God and so awe-inspiring the sight that the human mind couldn’t comprehend it. Isaiah was the most righteous man in all of Judah, but even he felt unworthy before God. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (verse 5).
But when he had said this, Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged (verses 6-7). This experience foreshadows the fire of the Holy Ghost, which would baptize the disciples in the New Testament on the Day of Pentecost. Only after the burning coal touched his lips was Isaiah’s iniquity purged, and then he was truly ready to be sent on the mission from God.
Verses 8: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? (God’s use of the plural “us” again signifies the Trinity). Then said I, Here am I; send me. This is a complete change in Isaiah’s attitude; he went from being scared and unworthy in the Almighty’s presence to being bold and eager to complete the mission of proclaiming the Word to the people. This is the same transformative power that fell on the Apostles at Pentecost: And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:3-4). Only after they spoke in tongues were they ready to carry on the mighty works of Jesus, and only after we receive that power will we be ready to take up that mantle! Acts 2:43: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
Isaiah asks the Lord how long his mission would take, but God basically responds that it is never-ending. And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land (verses 11 and 12). This is referring not to the Assyrian conquest, from which God would deliver Jerusalem, but to the destruction of Judah by Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar 100 years after Isaiah’s death. God isn’t saying that Isaiah would be prophesying during this time (Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Daniel would be the ones to pick up his mantle), but that his mission would never end in his lifetime.
But God doesn’t stop with the prophecy of the fall of Judah; he even promises to Isaiah that the people would be regathered. Verse 13: But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof. The Lord uses the illustration of a sawed down stump that regrows into a mighty tree. Even after the destruction Jerusalem, one day the people would return (under Ezra and Nehemiah) and God’s promise to protect His people would be everlasting. In this vision, it is not just revealed that He would spare Jerusalem in Isaiah’s time, but that he would let it be destroyed a century later, then it would be rebuilt and see spiritual reformation 70 years after that.
And the point of all this? It refers back to the initial reason God revealed Himself to Isaiah; to show him the big picture. The fear that had gripped the land of Judah over the death of their earthly king was only temporary. Things looked hopeless, but in the future, it would all be forgotten. Kings will come and go. Empires will rise and fall. But God’s throne will be eternal. A thousand years after Judah had been destroyed and rebuilt, those beings would still be before Him crying “Holy!”
Our situations look grim today. We worry that America is doomed. We fret ourselves over the state of the church and how we don’t see the power we once did. We desperately sound a warning call for God’s people to wake up, that the Rapture is soon upon us. But for once, just once, we need to read of Isaiah’s vision and see a glimpse of a throne that will last for all eternity. And none of it will matter. Ten million years after this country is gone and we are no more, He will still sit upon His throne. And like the angels, we will have all eternity to sit at His feet and praise Him, because of the blood of the Lamb!