A Vision of YHWH
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 26, Jan 2016
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:1-13
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.”
King Uzziah had been the most powerful king after Solomon and the longest serving monarch; 52 years of reign. Many tribes has subjected themselves to him and he had a large standing army. The Ammonites, the Arabian and the Philistines are his tributaries. He has built Judah to be a fortified country and obtained great prosperity through peaceful activities. However he died ignominiously (discreditable, humiliating retreat) as a leper. Having being intoxicated with unheard of prosperity he desired the office of a priest himself. This was such an evil that the Priests collectively cast their sovereign King, struck by leprosy, out of the temple. From then on, he lived a leper until he died. It was a sad time for the nation and also for Isaiah because it is possible that Isaiah and Uzziah were related (“iah” may have been a royal ending to names). Uzziah’s death brought a crisis in Isaiah’s life. It forces Isaiah to be dependent on YHWH. The death of a beloved loved ones can bring a big crisis to a person’s life. Divorce, infidelity, a terrible home life, being caught by sin; all can bring crisis in a person’s life. Let all these forces you to become dependent on God. His death had struck Isaiah that the very powerful king has gone the way of all flesh as proof of the truth that all flesh is like grass and all glory of man is like the flower of the field. We are minded here that it is not how well you started but how well you end in your walk with God. Pastor Lily just asked me recently a thought provoking questions: how is it possible that all these modern men of God ended so badly in life? She is teaching a course on the seer and was given accounts of great men and women of God that were mightily used by God, only to die, discredited, and humiliated and in retreat. William Branham is considered the most power prophet of the 20th century but he became cultic in the latter part of his life. Aimee Semple MacPherson, who founded the four square denomination, during the height of her ministry, suddenly disappeared only to reappear again, and when question, she claimed she was kidnapped. It was believed she eloped with a man in a tryst relationship. Paul Cain when confronted confessed he was homosexual and was stripped of his credential. I can go on. Solomon is another example. These people went so wayward to a point it is wondered (Solomon included) whether they are in heaven. King Uzziah was such a person. He died a leper. Leprosy has always symbolized sin in the bible. It behoves us not to think of ourselves too highly but recognized that we are dependent on God in this walk of life.
I was reminded recently concerning one who put trust in man. I read from Isaiah 2:22, “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? I am not to put confidence in man. Man at his best is a mere man. Mankind is transitory (short lived) and it is contingent (dependent) of God’s gift of life. Some of you have placed people in your life above God. You have made a parent or a friend or a rich man or a preacher the king of your life, the person you look to for guidance, the one who you trust and depend on. God was good in that my family, after 5 years, can celebrate last Christmas together and even a short retreat. All five of us including Ben were together. We took pictures together, looking happy, thanks to the photography of Coller. A number of people make some comments on us as a family. One of them wrote, I quote, ‘What a glorious family.’ I felt it was kind of blasphemy. We are not a glorious family. We are a family that has gone through thick and thin and through it all, God has been good. We are just a normal family wanting to live a life that is in accordance with God’s will. So if you have seen the wording, I want to emphasize that we are not a glorious family; just a family bought and saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and all glory should go to God. What I am trying to say is that we are all just mere man.
Going back to the account of Uzziah, here is the contrast between man and God. All people will fade away. All people will die. God simply had to show us who God is or what God is like. This is found in Isaiah 6. We should worship only the one true God, the one true King. God on his throne.
Pastor Guna make this statement. You bet on the wrong King. Uzziah however powerful finally did die. But this is not so with God. God is not Uzziah who will be head of state for 52 years. Yahweh is alive and will always be alive. Bet on Jesus. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
1. A Vision of God
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” (Isaiah 6:1-2).
Now vision is a very powerful experience, especially a vision of God. I want to goad you to have a vision of God. When you had a vision of God, it will be revolutionary. Go to Youtube and watch the account of a vision by a 15 year old Jewish boy, by the name of Nathan. Isaiah had a life-changing experience as He gained a completely new understanding of the holy God He believes in and worship. In the bible, we see Men had a vision of God. Moses saw the back of God. Ezekiel saw ‘the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone… the likeness as the appearance of a man above it. (Eze 1:26). Stephen looked steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55). Paul wrote that he ‘knew a man (likely himself), who was ‘caught up in the third heaven’. (2 Cor 12:2). I pray I have a mountaintop experience, like Isaiah of God; a grander, greater, bigger, more glorious picture of the God on high than I had ever imagined . . . My view of God becomes larger and larger and out of his omnipotent magnificence flows everything, all-sufficiency. More saints than you realize have had life-changing encounters with God. It will bring wonderful revival into the heart and the flame will burn brighter and more surely than it ever has. This vision cannot be taught but caught. And this vision can take place in the church, right here in this place, this morning. Because Isaiah saw the LORD in no other place but in the temple. What was the description of the vision of Isaiah?
Isaiah said this: “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” No one who has a vision of God has ever caught a glimpse of God ploughing a field, or cutting his grass or shining shoes or filling out reports or loading a truck. I know we have seen a movie titled ‘Bruce Almighty’. Morgan freeman was cast as God. And in the movie, we see God mopping the floor, filing the cabinet and in an overall suit with helmet on ready to work. No. that is not God. Heaven is not coming apart at the seams. He is not anxiously pacing the floor, hoping that things work out according to His will. No. He is sitting on his throne. The picture is that of peace and power. That is God. He is never at wits’ end with his heavenly realm. He sits. And he sits on a throne. All is at peace and he has control.
Verse 1 says, ‘His train filled the temple. You have seen pictures of brides whose dresses are gathered around them covering the steps and the platform. When Prince William married Kate Middleton, her wedding train was long and eye catching. What would the meaning be if the train filled the aisles and covered the seats and the choir gallery, woven all of one piece? That God’s robe fills the entire heavenly temple means that he is a God of incomparable splendour.
Verse 2 says, ‘Above it stood the Seraphims. Now the specific name for the 4 angels here mentioned is Seraphims. The name Seraphims never appear again in the Bible. Observe the grandeur and the power of these 4 angelic beings. According to verse 4, when one of them speaks, the foundations of the temple shake. An angel terrifies a man with his brilliance and power; how much more these 4 Seraphims. Seraph means ‘to burn’. It is in connection with sin offerings and judgment. In ranking of angelic beings, they are definitely among the highest. Each has six wings. It is interesting what their wings are used for.
1. To cover the eyes. God’s glory is overwhelming even to the Seraphims
2. To cover the feet. Often feet are euphemistic (indirect description) of the genitalia (the private parts); so to cover their nakedness. This may also be a sign of humility in the presence of holiness.
3. To fly to do God’s bidding quickly
Verse 4 says, ‘the temple was filled with smoke”. This refers to either (1) a symbol of God’s judgment; (2) a reference to the Shekinah cloud, which symbolized but hid God’s presence; or (3) smoke from an incense altar so that God could not be seen. It was said that during the 1906 Azusa Street Revival the church there was a constant midst inside the church and on the outside the church seems to be on fire that fire engine came.
The Seraphims, the train, the smoke all point to the majesty and the holiness of God. It is the holiness of God that Isaiah senses. Holiness is the moral character of God. He is pure; He is complete; He is whole. When God is extolled by the Seraphims they sing, ‘Holy Holy Holy. No other attributes is so praised. Angels do not sing, ‘Love, love, love.’ Or ‘Justice, Justice, justice.’ They only sing ‘Holy Holy Holy.’
A question is often ask? ‘Can God change my life?’ The answer is Yes, especially when you have a Vision of God. A Vision of God will revolutionize your life. Robert Sornsen from Michigan gave this testimony. ‘On December 26, 1989, I was travelling along East Road in Lakeside, Michigan, when a snowplough pulled out into my lane. I was going between 45-50 miles per hour and when we collided, my 1985 Ford LTD was destroyed. I was rushed to the Memorial Hospital in St. Joseph, Michigan, where the emergency room personnel struggled to save my life.
As I lay there, a product of a terrible home life and an atheist at heart, something like an out-of-body experience occurred. I appeared to be in a dark place that was endless with no floor, walls or boundaries. I felt a very evil, cold, and scary presence far behind me. Whatever it was, I knew I didn’t want anything to do with it. It was pulling me towards it. I was completely terrified and I ran in terror.
I saw a great light in this world of darkness. I moved towards this light and a figure appeared at a distance. I froze in fear. I crouched and started to tremble. When I looked up, a tall man about 6’3″ or 6’4″ with a white robe and a gold sash was standing in front of me. He was of the greatest power I had ever imagined and more. I couldn’t see his face because his eyes were the brightest light I had ever seen, ten times the sun’s intensity.
I asked if there was a heaven. The man, who I now recognized as Jesus, could have just said “yes” but he transported me to heaven. I appeared in an open field and expected to feel the wind sweep all around me. But there was no wind, just gospel music. I never liked gospel music before but at that moment it was by far the most beautiful music I had ever imagined.
I looked around and it was like daytime but there was no sun. I thought that was strange and Jesus appeared again. He said, “Come see the light.” He led me through Heaven. He knew my every thought. We walked side by side. Jesus was talking and I looked at Him from a side view and His eyes were like red flames. He said, “Do not be frightened. I am in spiritual form as you are.”
We walked on and Jesus said, “There is the light you wanted to know about.” I looked and the image I saw was more than any words can describe. I saw a castle with light coming from it 1,000 times the intensity of the sun. This light was more than words can describe. Even though it was so bright, it didn’t hurt my eyes. It was warm and brought to mind every good feeling I ever had plus other feelings beyond imagination. It was everlasting and I knew I would never forget it or grow accustomed to it if I lived there.
I also knew that through this light I would never be tired or sick. We entered the castle. Everything inside was perfect. I saw many statues and paintings. It got brighter and brighter as we moved through the castle. It was the same light from before. As we came upon a doorway, the light became more intense. I didn’t look into it. I tried to see what was in the room. I saw some chairs and steps leading up to the throne of God. I looked up into His light and in an instant was transported back to the same place where Jesus first met me. He was there and He said, “I am the truth, the light, and the only way.”
I came back from that experience to spend 20 hours in that emergency room. My life would never be the same. Months later, after recovering, I found my way to the Lighthouse Village Church of God where I committed my life to Christ. I’m serving Him and working in the church, sharing with others my testimony. That glimpse of heaven changed my life. I plan to return there as a member of the redeemed!
2. A Vision of Sin
It is a common belief that to see God meant death. This is has to do with the results of a sinful person in the presence of a holy God. Isaiah said, ‘Woe is me! I am undone.’ People who had a real conviction of their true self, sins, usually are ready for the service of God. The more clearly he saw the Lord, the more clearly he saw how bad his state was. When you see the vision of God, you will proclaim, ‘I am undone’.
To be undone is not a bad place to be. Charles Spurgeon says, “God will never do anything with us till he has first of all undone us.” One of the Seraphims had to touch the lips of Isaiah with a coal of fire.
We went to Barbaza and Libertad last Friday with Pastor Lily, Pastor Carlos, and Pastor Rosalie with Bro Juan Dayaon. We want to thank Bro Juan for coming because we needed his expertise on the agricultural law of land. I shared the trip because of a conversation with Pastor Rizaldi. You see, a week ago, I was sharing with Pastor Rizaldi and he was taken aback by what I shared concerning some people in his life. I gave him two verses. One is Psalms 119:63 which says ‘I am a friend of all your loyal followers.’ Another is Psalms 119:113 which says ‘I hate people with divided loyalties.’ He was surprised there were such verses in the bible. God loves and is a friend of loyal followers and God hate people with divided loyalties. Honestly I was advising him against mixing with church planters with divided loyalties. Pastor Dong even advise him against mixing with a particular church planter who put him in a position of bad light and slandered him and yet pretends to be his friend. In this trip when we were going back from Libertad, he asked again for the two verses. I was just fellowshipping with Pastor Lily and she says, that certain people are just deceptive with their mouth; speak nice words to you but are evil towards you.’ All these has to do with our lips. By nature, our lips are full of flattery and false intent: By nature, our lips lie and are proud, which speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous (Psalm 31:18). By nature, our lips deceive: By nature, our lips are violent: Swords are in their lips (Psalm 59:7). By nature, our lips bring death to others: Our unclean lips is the result of sin. Human speech reflects the heart.
Sin is easy. It requires no malice of forethought. Left to myself, sin is my first inclination; I will choose sin when I come to the fork in the road. It’s as natural as yawning in response to the body’s need for oxygen. Guilt doesn’t even require that the sinner realize what he’s doing! Sin is as simple as falling short of God’s glory — and of course, God’s glory is holy. Perfectly holy — who can stand? That is why Isaiah said, ‘woe is me, I am undone.’
God’s glory is so awesome that prophets, pagans and apostles alike have been undone by its conviction. Isaiah was faced with his own filth and proclaimed “woe is me,” and dared not to speak before the angel touched his mouth with the burning coal. Judas’ mob fell over as dead men when Jesus responded to their inquiry with His holy Name. And Peter — poor Peter — was so ashamed of himself after the fantastic catch that he implored Jesus to go out of his presence.
All the prophets expresses the normal result of man’s consciousness of contact with God. So Moses “hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God” (Exodus 3:6). Some of us are very self-righteous and extremely proud. Only a vision of sin can change us. Job was a self-righteous man. He would maintain his integrity in the presence of his friends who were attempting to tear him into bits. They told him that he was a rotten sinner, but he looked them straight in the eye and said, ‘As far as I know, I am a righteous man.’ From his viewpoint he was right, and he won the match against them. But he was not perfect. When Job saw the vision of God he no longer wanted to talk about maintaining his righteousness. When Job really saw who he was, he said, ‘I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine ye seeth thee. So Job “abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). We really need to have a vison of God and a vision of sin. Peter fell down at his Lord’s feet, and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Man at such a time feels his nothingness in the presence of the Eternal, his guilt in the presence of the All-holy. No man can see God and live.
I ask a question earlier, ‘Can God changed a life?’ The answer is Yes. When we have a genuine conviction of Sin. If we see God we shall see our sin.
On June 1, 1973, Charles Colson visited his friend Tom Philips, while Watergate exploded in the press. If you know the story of Watergate, where President Richard Nixon resigned from office. President Nixon’s closest friend, the one who was involved with him in the Watergate was Charles Colson. He was baffled and shocked at Philips’ explanation that he had accepted Christ. He saw Tom was at peace and he wasn’t. When Colson left the house, he couldn’t get his keys in the ignition. He was crying so hard. He says ‘That night I confronted my own sin – not just Watergate’s dirty tricks, but the sin deep within me, the hidden evil that lives in every human heart. It was painful and I could not escape. I cried out to God and found myself drawn irresistibly into his waiting arms. That was the night I gave my life to Jesus Christ and began the greatest adventure of my life.’
We really need to have a vision of the ugliness of sin in us. Only God can really show us our sin. As a preacher, I realize no matter how hard I preached and try to convict anyone of sin, the person will behave as if everything is fine, life is beautiful and all is well. But I also notice when I just leave it to God, He does his conviction that I am totally unaware of. Do you know what the difference between us and Isaiah? He said, ‘Woe is me, I am undone.’ He has such a clear picture of himself and he cried out, ‘I am a great sinner, as many other ways, so particularly by my lips. I am an unclean branch of an unclean tree; besides my own uncleanness, I have both by my omissions and commissions involved myself in the guilt of their sins’. This can only happen when you have a vision of sin.
The word ‘woe’ means mourn for me, I am doomed, and the curse is on me. I am undone means ‘my fate is destruction, I am ruined, I am lost. This is not a general sense of sin, but a focussing on the concentration of sin in some specific, personal area of life. God begins by convicting us of the thing to which His Spirit has directed our mind’s attention. If we will surrender, submitting to His conviction of that particular sin, He will lead us down to where He can reveal the vast underlying nature of sin.
You will probably think all is well in this life until you saw the Lord in His glory and holiness. When you do you will be made aware of your shortcomings! Until we see God and are confronted with our own condition before Him, we will remain haughty and proud, but when we come face to face with Who He is and what we are, it will produce humility and confession! Isaiah did not cry out “Woe is my neighbour”. He cried out “Woe is me!” Until we are able to see our own failures and our need for repentance before the Lord, we will never come clean. And, the sooner we come clean with the Lord about our own condition, the sooner we will see our downtime start to turn up!
3. A Vision of the World
Isaiah 6:8 says, ‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
It is very interesting that up to this time Isaiah had never heard the call of God. Many Christians had never felt like they were called to do anything for God because they have never had a vision of God and a vision of Sin. They have never felt the great need to do anything for God as Christians. But once they had the revolutionary vision of God and being transformed as a result of a vison of Sin, they are ready for the adventures with God.
Isaiah knew the people that he is living among. He knew the sin of his community. The people on this earth are unclean and had not followed the laws properly.
When Isaiah heard the call of the LORD to go, he immediately obeyed and was commissioned to deliver a message of judgment. We see Isaiah heard the voice of the LORD prodding him to take the message to the nation. God told him to declare a message that people would not believe because they were spiritually blind. God told him to do this until judgment was complete, until nothing was left in the land. God encouraged him that there would be a remnant of righteous believers that would remain, yet they would be tested by fire.
Isaiah will preach and though some may respond the vast majority of his people, his society will not or cannot respond. Isaiah is not an evangelist here, but a prophet of judgment. One of the books of the Prophet I loved the most is Isaiah. I am following a reading guide and after Psalms, I was excited when I know that I am now touching on Isaiah, because He has so much to teach us.
Isaiah’s job is to take a message of light to the people. Light merely reveals the blindness of people. In darkness they do not know if they are blind or not. When Vernon McGee was a boy in Oklahoma, he used to have to milk a stubborn old cow. When it grew dark in the evenings, he would have to take a lantern out to the barn with him. When he reached the corncrib two things would happen. The rats ran for cover – he could hear them taking off – and the little birds that were roosting up in the rafters would begin to twitter around and sing. The presence of light caused one to flee and the other to sing. Now, did the light made a rat a rat? No. He was a rat before the light got them. The light only revealed that he was a rat.
Another example. Years ago there was big explosion in a mine in West Virginia, and many man were blocked off in the mine because of the cave-ins. After several days, a rescue party dug through to the trapped men. And one of the first things they managed to get through to them was a light. After the light came on, a fine young miner said, ‘Why doesn’t someone turn on a light?’ The other miners looked at him startled, suddenly realising that he had been blinded by the explosion. But it took a light to reveal that he was blind.
Our job is to tell the truth.