Isaiah 6-8 Isaiah's Vision of the Lord September 24, 2018
Today’s study begins with a familiar vision that is also an incredible event. We also find a known event that fixes the time of the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah finds himself in a heavenly theophany. It changes him as a person completely. It happened in the year King Uzziah died. Although the precise year is difficult to determine, it is between 742 and 736 BC. We know Uzziah reigned about 50 years, from 792-740 BC. There were about 6-8 years of co-regency with his son Jotham. He remained loyal to Yahweh throughout his reign, and the land enjoyed a long period of peace. This led to great prosperity for both Judah and Israel. His son, Jotham, followed him and the peace continued until 735 BC, when Ahaz his son became king. Ahaz reigned for 20 years, from 735-715 BC. His reign was devastating for Judah. Israel and Syria invaded the land. Edomites invaded from the south and captured territory. Ahaz called to Assyria for help (2 Kings 16:7) and Tiglath-pileser came with the invading force we read about last week. Worship of pagan gods was encouraged by Ahaz and he even set up an altar to an Assyrian god in the Temple. By the time Ahaz died land was left broken and impoverished.
Chapters 7-8 could be designated the era of Ahaz. This will be next week’s study.
6:1-7 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah suddenly finds himself in the throne room of God. Was he transported to heaven, or did God come down with his throne into the Temple in Jerusalem?
There are several Theophanies in the Old and New Testaments.
A very dramatic Theophany is seen in Ezekiel 1:4-2:1.
As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf's foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.
Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.
Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings.
And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around.
Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
And he said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you.”
Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in one of the first deportations under Nebuchadnezzar in 596 BC. He was in his mid-twenties at the time. It seems that God was protecting him for his future ministry. The bulk of captives arrived in Babylon in 586 BC. Ezekiel had to wait until he was 30 years old before he could be commissioned. His commission was very dramatic.
People are confused by the apparatus Ezekiel saw. However if we see it as four drones working together to transport a platform that held the throne of God, the confusion can be eliminated.
Joshua, the high priest in Jerusalem after the return of the exiles, was taken to heaven for an audience with God and the heavenly council. Zerubbabel was the governor of Jerusalem at the time (Zechariah 4:6-10). The two worked together in the restoration of Jerusalem. The two demonstrate the kingly and priestly aspects of the Messiah.
Zechariah 3:3-7 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.
We could mention God’s several encounters with Abraham and Moses. An angel of the Lord visited Gideon. Jeremiah and God had innumerable conversations. Paul’s life was changed when Jesus appeared to him. In the Book of Revelation John is continually traveling between earth and heaven. In all of these encounters God is revealed as being outside our world system and accompanied with otherworldly beings. The threefold sanctus praises God for the relation of his being. His holiness is opposite to physical nature here on earth. Yet his presence fills all of nature.
I saw a quote yesterday from Douglas Adams in his book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. “The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move”.
Isaiah's Commission from the Lord
6:8 -9 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
God wants to get his message out. He needs a voice. Isaiah volunteers to be that voice after his deep encounter with God. Ezekiel and Jeremiah were sent out with specific messages from God for his people. Unfortunately in this case the message is not redemptive.
The Bible speaks continually about hearing-seeing-understanding-knowing. The book is written so that these senses are engaged by one who searches the scriptures. But now God is closing the minds of the people as judgment for not heeding his words delivered by earlier prophets and the available scriptures. There comes a time when God’s word can no longer reach to the hearts of the people, or the heart of an individual, or the heart of a nation. This can happen spontaneously, but may happen at God’s direction.
Some people talk about wanting to be saved, but not yet. They will turn to God when they are ready. That is not always an available option. A hardening can develop that does not allow an individual or a nation to truly repent, and without repentance there is no life.
6:11-13 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Isaiah is dumbfounded by this message. How can this be, for God’s chosen people? What is to become of the royal seed, the seed of the Messiah? Will anyone be left? Will anyone truly repent?
We know the answer because we see history in retrospect. The Northern kingdom fell in 721 BC. Assyria set siege to Samaria for three years and the nation finally fell. The Ten Lost Tribes were deported and scattered through the northern Middle East. Judah itself will fall in 586 BC. Two-thirds of the people will die of war, starvation and disease. The remaining thirds will be taken captive to Babylon for 70 years. A smattering of these slaves will return to Jerusalem under Cyrus and begin to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of Yahweh. The royal seed will be found among these.