“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.” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV)
This was the cry of Isaiah ben Amoz when he was confronted with the holiness of God. Isaiah was a well-respected man who was also a member of Israel’s royal family. By the traditions of Israel and its Law, Isaiah was considered to be a righteous man.
So, why would a man like Isaiah call down a curse of doom on himself? The next thing he says is, “I am ruined!” Older translations used the phrase, “For I am undone.” The idea being communicated by Isaiah is that he is coming apart at the seams and falling to pieces. Everything he thought about himself: his self-image; his standing in the Jewish community, his self-respect; his moral character and self-confidence came crashing down in that moment. (Isaiah 6:5 ESV)
Can you imagine standing in the gaze of a holy, holy, holy God? The repetition of the word “holy” three times by the seraphim in their worship chorus exalts God to the highest level of perfect holiness. (Isaiah 6:3 ESV) In Hebrew, the repetition of a word is a technique for placing a higher level of degree or emphasis on it.
Isaiah ben Amoz is instantly aware that the LORD sees right through the pretentious defense mechanisms that guard his self-esteem. All his secrets and sins are revealed to God’s instantaneous scrutiny – everything! Isaiah feels filthy and vile. This is the reason Isaiah would curse himself. He would rather the mountains fall on him than endure the gaze of God. Indeed, who of us could bear it? Continue reading
“If we are unwilling to let this term go altogether – though that would be the safest and most God-fearing thing to do – let us at least teach men to use it honestly, so that free choice is allowed to man only with respect to what is beneath him and not what is above him. That is to say, a man should know that with regard to his faculties and possessions he has the right to use, to do, or to leave undone, according to his own free choice, though even this is controlled by the free choice of God alone, who acts in whatever way he pleases. On the other hand in relation to God, or in matters pertaining to salvation or damnation, a man has no free choice, but is a captive, subject and slave either of the will of God or the will of Satan.” (The Bondage of the Will)
“Remember the perfections of that God whom you worship, that he is a Spirit, and therefore to be worshipped in spirit and truth; and that he is most great and terrible, and therefore to be worshipped with seriousness and reverence, and not to be dallied with, or served with toys or lifeless lip-service; and that he is most holy, pure, and jealous, and therefore to be purely worshipped; and that he is still present with you, and all things are naked and open to him with whom we have to do. The knowledge of God, and the remembrance of his all-seeing presence, are the most powerful means against hypocrisy.”
Charles H. Spurgeon:
Often in this present world, the most wicked men are the most prosperous, while the most holy are the most afflicted. This present world is not the place where the Judge of all usually punishes sin. He ordinarily reserves his wrath for the Day of Judgment, and the world to come. This is not the land of punishment, and your having more afflictions than others, may be because God loves you; certainly it is not because he hates you.
Some of God’s people are chastened every morning, and vexed every evening and the Lord’s hand lies heavy on them. Yet there is God’s goodness in that heavy hand, and infinite loving kindness in their tribulations. God only gives the wicked prosperity as we give husks to swine– he gives them this world’s transient things because he loves them not. I beg you then, do not misconstrue your sufferings of body and mind– they may be tokens of mercy; they certainly are not indicators of any special wrath.
“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams; but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean.” (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 17: Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733)
“Fight for us, O God, that we not drift numb and blind and foolish into vain and empty excitements. Life is too short, too precious, and too painful to waste on worldly bubbles that burst. Heaven is too great, hell is too horrible, and eternity is too long that we should putter around on the porch of eternity.”