The book of Isaiah begins the section of the Old Testament known as the “major prophets”. Isaiah is generally considered the greatest of the Bible’s prophets. He certainly was one of the longest-serving, prophesying for 60 years and under the reign of five kings. Isaiah’s style of writing weaves poetry and prose together in a way that is thought to be strikingly beautiful.
By far the most memorable recorded event of Isaiah’s life is found here in chapter 6. It tells the story of his dramatic call to prophetic ministry. While in the temple in Jerusalem, Isaiah had a close encounter with God that had a profound effect on him: he saw the Lord in all of His glory.
As the King of Glory, the King of the Ages, the King of Heaven, and the King of kings, the Lord was on a throne, the seat of authority and majesty. Isaiah saw him sitting — not pacing about, wondering what to do; not running from here to there, out of control; not lying down, asleep — but seated, at ease, secure. (Note: it happened in the year that King Uzziah died. Human kings die, but the King of kings lives forever!)
As Isaiah watched in amazement, he saw mighty, multi-winged angels (seraphim) flying around the temple, exclaiming “Holy, holy, holy”. It must have been terrifying and wonderful all at once! The volume of the angelic voices shook the temple to the foundations and “holy smoke” filled the room, a visible manifestation of the glory of God.
In the presence of perfect holiness, Isaiah knew that his hidden sins had been brought to light. He immediately began to confess and to repent, and God immediately responded with cleansing grace. What a picture of forgiveness! The angel took a red-hot coal from the temple’s altar of sacrifice. The altar contained fire, symbolic of God’s judgment. It was an altar of blood sacrifice, symbolic of the mercy of God. When it was applied to Isaiah, his sins were burned away and he stood forgiven. That reminds me that on the cross of Christ judgment met mercy, and when it is applied to my life I am forgiven!
The Lord, speaking for the first time in this scene, asks Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” God’s question reveals His heart: He wanted everyone to hear the message of His judgment (v.9-13), but also the message of the hope of His salvation (chapters 40-66). Isaiah’s answer, “Here am I; send me,” is inspiring. He knew that he was inadequate and powerless on his own, but after his encounter in the temple he was willing to be the Lord’s spokesman.
Take time to encounter God today as you meet with other believers for worship. As the praises go up, search your heart for whatever sin might be exposed in you; confess it and receive God’s forgiveness. Then consider what God is calling you to do, and obey Him immediately.