My husband and I are reading the book of Isaiah this month. Chapter six is one we are very familiar with. Anyone who grew up in church has no doubt heard the story of Isaiah’s vision of God.
It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.They were calling out to each other,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!
The whole earth is filled with his glory!”
Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke…..Isaiah 6:1-4
Isaiah’s response is one I think most of us would have if we saw such a sight!
His immediate reaction was one of total sense of unworthiness.
Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”….Isaiah 6:5
Interesting to me that he saw his sin as being connected to his lips and the lips of the people he lived with. Why his lips?
There are probably many different takes on that, but here it is mine.
Words matter. With words we can hurt, damage people’s reputations, discourage others, create division and hatred. The Bible has much to say about our tongues.
James wrote that:
the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison….James
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless….James 1:26
Jesus told us:
It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person….Matthew 15:11
For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks….Matthew 12:34
Isaiah’s response is one we all should have when we recognize our need of forgiveness. Sadly, many people never reach this conclusion. They think they are “good enough.” But if our standard for goodness is based on who God is, we cannot measure up. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that people who do not believe in God are not good. I actually know some who are atheists that show more “goodness” than many of my fellow Christians.
But the standard is not how good we are compared to others. It is how good we are compared to God. Based on that gold standard, we are not good enough.
An illustration of this thought:
A group of people are going to see a movie. The price of entrance is $5.00 When they get there, many are very short of the price having only a dollar or two, or maybe just fifty cents. Clearly they will not get in. Along comes someone who is sure they will get in because they have $4.99. But the price is $5.00. Although they are much closer to having the price of the ticket, they are still short and will not get in.
But wait! God did not leave Isaiah bemoaning his unworthiness.
He had a solution.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”….Isaiah 6:6-7
Thank God for Jesus. There is a solution.
So now we come to the second group of people’s response to the goodness of God. Unlike Isaiah they never move beyond that initial sense of unworthiness. Although many claim they know they are “not good enough” and question how God can love them, they are just like the first group – relying on their own goodness.
In this case they feel their own goodness is not enough, but they still are relying on it. Because they continue to say they are “not good enough” they are judging themselves by their own goodness – or lack there of.
They have refused to accept the gift that God has given us though Jesus Christ. We are not “good enough.” That is the whole point of Christianity. Because we are not “good enough” Jesus came and He gives us His goodness.
To continue to insist how unworthy we are, we are denying the whole message of the cross. We are still relying on our goodness, or in this case, our lack of goodness. We are rejecting the very Word of God that tells us through Him we are made worthy.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him….John 3:16,17\
To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name….Acts 10:43
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness….1 John 1:9
Going back to my illustration of the movie tickets:
The group are all standing there realizing they do not have enough to get in. Along comes someone who offers to give them what they lack. Those with only a dollar or two will probably jump at the chance to get some help. But the person with $4.99 may very well think if they just look though their pockets again, or search in the car they will be able to find that penny they are lacking. Sadly, some who are lacking the full price will probably refuse the stranger’s offer of help because they do not think they should taking something for which they have given nothing.
Only when we recognize our need of a savior and also realize how much He loves us – not because we somehow deserve His love, but because He just loves us, can we have the response Isaiah had.
After his lips were cleansed, he answered the call of God.
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”….Isaiah 6:8