Christianity 201

December 12, 2015

Isaiah’s Commission

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I want to look at the opening verses to Isaiah 6, but I do this knowing that so many have covered this passage online.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“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.”

In particular, I want to consider verse 5, underlined above. Here is how some translations render the first part of it:

  • Woe is me! for I am undone (KJV)
  • Woe is me! For I am ruined, Because I am a man of [ceremonially] unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips (AMP)
  • I’m doomed! Everything I say is sinful, and so are the words of everyone around me. (CEV)
  • I will be destroyed. I am not pure enough to speak to God, and I live among people who are not pure enough to speak to him. (ERV)
  • It’s Doomsday! I’m as good as dead! Every word I’ve ever spoken is tainted— blasphemous even! And the people I live with talk the same way, using words that corrupt and desecrate. (MSG)
  • It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips.  (NLT)
  • I am in so much trouble! I’m ruined! I’m just a human being—fallible and stammering. My lips are encrusted with filth; and I live among people just like me. (VOICE)

I think you see the pattern. What brings this self-condemnation?

  • I have seen the King, the Lord All-Powerful. (ESV)
  • I’ve seen with my very own eyes none other than the King, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies. (VOICE)
  • I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces! (CEB)

What is to be seen here is the great contrast between the power of God and the sinfulness of Isaiah. Now we might think the contrast should between man’s sin and God’s holiness, but there is a sense in which I believe his power emanates from who he is. To say that a different way, if we were to meet another human who had a level of righteousness that approached that of our holy God, that person would command great power and authority simply as a natural consequence of who they were and the type of stuff they were made of. While there is mention later in the passage of God’s rule, the contrast in verse 5 is to tremendous power.

The Reformation Study Bible notes a parallel between Isaiah 6:5 and Luke 5:8:

When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” (NLT)

and also Job 42:

I had only heard about you before,
    but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
I take back everything I said,
    and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (NLT)

But why does Isaiah’s sinful state get reflected in what is on his lips? J. Parsons writes:

Not because the depravity, is merely superficial, or resting on the surface; but because the depravity of the heart rends and rages without, and finds vent in the tongue.

The mouth is a barometer of what is taking place in the heart. Luke 6:45 states:

The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. (BSB*)

Isaiah’s speech is his reference point for the contrast being presented here. I wonder how he would phrase this in our world, where more is expressed through our keyboards and smartphones than through our voices? Somehow ‘I am a man of unclean fingers’ or ‘Everything I’ve ever typed is tainted’ sounds awkward, but the things that occupy our media expression are also a reflection of the state of our hearts.

How would what we blog, post to Facebook, Tweet, text, etc. look to us if we found ourselves standing in the presence of Almighty God? And what about our speech?


*We’ve never cited BSB here before, it refers to the Berean Study Bible available at



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