Isaiah 6:1-8. 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. 2 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. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 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!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
8 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.” 9 And he said, “Go.”
What does true worship in the presence of the Lord look like? Or, we might ask it this way – what process does God use to change us over the course of this life?
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul will tell us that all transformation comes from beholding Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
But how does beholding, or gazing upon Jesus actually change us? Seven hundred years before Paul, Isaiah the prophet offers as the answer from his own personal experience of beholding Jesus. Isaiah 6 reveals to us the pattern for all worship and all of life: Holy – Woe – Cleansed – Go.
Isaiah’s worship experience, and every worship experience, must begin with a vision of the holiness of God in Jesus Christ. Isaiah says that he saw the Lord (Adonai) high and lifted up on a throne, surrounded by the fiery seraphs who cry out “Holy, holy, holy.” This is his vision of Jesus enthroned on his mercy seat (see John 12:41). Jesus who embodies the three times holiness of the Trinity. All of God’s transcendent purity and perfection meeting all of God’s imminent grace and mercy on display in the Christ.
All of worship, all transformation in life, begins with beholding the holiness of Jesus, but it only continues with our proper response to that holiness. The holiness of Christ can only produce one response – “Woe is me! For I am lost.” Ruined. Undone. Dismantled. This is where every worship experience, every encounter with Jesus, must leave us, with a clear understanding of our own sinfulness, and our desperate need for grace.
When we’ve come to grips with the holiness of Christ and our own desperate sinfulness we will be open to the cleansing power of Christ’s holiness. Notice that Isaiah was cleansed by the burning coal of judgment. His guilt was taken away and his sin atoned for by the holiness of Christ. Isaiah should have been destroyed by Christ’s holiness, but he is completely forgiven and cleansed. How? Because one day the holiness of Jesus would be high and lifted up on a cross. One day the holy wrath of God would be satisfied in the burning judgment of Christ. And now that burning coal of Christ has touched our lips, our lives, and made us as holy as himself.
The glory of Jesus has now revealed both our deep wickedness but also the deep cleansing of his imputed holiness. Now we have been transformed. How do we know? Because when Christ asks “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” the transformed heart answers, “Here I am, send me.” The life changed by worship goes wherever Christ sends.
“To live is Christ” takes us moment by moment, day by day, through the life changing worship experience of Isaiah. Holy – Woe – Cleansed – Go. This is the pattern of all true worship and the process of all true change. A process we can now embrace, for Jesus has already taken away all our guilt and atoned for all our sins.
Do you see the holy Christ? Is Jesus your enthroned king? Or only your “buddy,” “co-pilot,” or “therapist?”
You in Christ
How does knowing that you are in Christ allow you to embrace true worship and transformation? How does it let you say “woe is me” with hope?
Christ in you
Where is Christ sending you today? Will you say “Send me?”