The Faith of Isaiah

It was “in the year that King Uzziah died” (Isaiah 6:1) that Isaiah had his first vision. It was a time of great discouragement and dark forebodings and Isaiah shrank from the task before him, for it seemed so utterly hopeless. Judah was fast following in the footsteps of Israel, and who could stop them? If Hosea and Amos had not been able to hold Israel in check, how could anything be done to save Judah? What Judah needed was a prophet that would stir the conscience of the people and rouse them from their lethargy, preparing them for the crisis before them. And Isaiah was very doubtful that he was the man. In fact, he felt that he was not. He was “undone.” Isaiah 6:5.

He had evidently gone up to worship, when suddenly the vision rose before him. The Lord was seen sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. The seraphim, a high order of angels, cried, “Holy, holy, holy.” The foundations of the threshold shook at the voice of the angels, and the house filled with the smoke of incense. At the sight of it Isaiah cried out in anguish, “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.” Isaiah 6:5.

This vision was the great decisive event in Isaiah’s history. It settled his career, his destiny. Henceforth men could not intimidate him. He had seen the Lord. His lips had been touched with coals from off the altar. From now on they were to be dedicated wholly to the Lord. “Holy, holy, holy,” would ever ring in the prophet’s ears. He had “seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

As the live coal was laid on Isaiah’s mouth, the wonderful words were spoken, “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Verse 7. For the first time Isaiah heard the Lord’s voice and He asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” With exalted joy as well as deep humility Isaiah answers, “Here am I,” and then prays, “Send me.” The answer comes back immediately, “Go.” Verses 8, 9.

Before this vision, Isaiah had shrunk from the responsibility that would be his should he accept the call to be the Lord’s messenger. After he had seen the Lord, he willingly offered himself for service. The Lord now instructs him what to say to the people, plainly telling him that they will neither understand nor accept his message. As Isaiah doubtless is wondering as to the use of preaching to such a people and how long he should continue, the Lord tells him to persevere as long as there are any people left, until the land is “utterly desolate.” Verse 11. His work was not to be entirely fruitless. There shall be left “a tenth” (verse 13), which should be as the stump of a sturdy oak that still retains its life and will survive. Those that were thus left were to be called the “holy seed.”

It is interesting to note how Isaiah, all through his ministry, clings to the thought of the remnant who shall survive. His work was not to be a complete failure. God Himself had said there would be a remnant. This thought buoyed him up, and he reverts to it again and again all through his book.

Lessons for Today

The year that King Uzziah died was not an ordinary year to Isaiah. The experience which Isaiah had that day in the temple left such a deep impression upon him, that it was ever fresh in his mind. It is well for us to remember God’s mercy and recall His blessings. “Would it not be well for us to observe holidays unto God, when we could revive in our minds the memory of His dealing with us? Would it not be well to consider His past blessings, to remember the impressive warnings that have come home to our souls, so that we shall not forget God?” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 343.

“I saw also the Lord.” When Isaiah saw the Lord, it was more than His form or appearance. He saw His holiness, His character, and he received cleansing as well as forgiveness, a commission as well as a vision. We too should thus see the Lord.

It says of the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2, “He covered his face.” Reverence is fast disappearing from the hearts of men. Reverence for holy things, for the Sabbath, for the house of God, for those in authority in the church and in the state, for virtue, for the word of God, for the law—how little of it is found today! Yet, true religion must be founded on reverence, or it is not religion.

“Holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah 6:3. In its original derivation the Hebrew word “holy” means “separate, apart from, distinct.” Holiness is the central virtue in God’s character that includes all others. God is love, light, goodness, and all His other separate characteristics, but the one inclusive trait is “holiness.” Without holiness no man can see Him. Stainless holiness, perfect purity, utter and eternal hostility to every shade and taint of sin—that is God’s character.

“Woe is me.” Isaiah 6:5. The immediate effect upon Isaiah seeing God was a profound sense of his own unfitness. “Woe is me,” he cried. He that has seen God has also seen himself, and he that has not seen himself has not seen God. Whoever trusts his own righteousness thereby proclaims to the world that he has seen neither God nor himself—that he is blind.

“Unclean lips.” Isaiah 6:5. Unclean lips reveal an unclean heart. Cleanse the heart, and the lips will be clean. May God keep us from suggestive, slangy phrases, indelicate stories, ribald songs, unseemly jokes, undue familiarity! “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Isaiah 52:11.

“Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah 6:7. Here fire is used as the cleansing agency. (Numbers 31:23.) It is possible, then, to come in contact with the fire of divine holiness, and live. (Isaiah 33:14.) But would Isaiah have lived had he not accepted the cleansing?

“Whom shall I send?” Isaiah 6:8. The Lord did not directly ask Isaiah to go. He asked a question that gave Isaiah a chance to volunteer. That is the way of the Lord. Had He said: “Isaiah, will you go?” the privilege of offering himself would not have been so complete and free. How considerate the Lord is!

“Who will go for us?” Not, “Who will go?” but, “Who will go for us” Some may offer to go for the adventure, or for the glory, or for the pay. “Who will go for us”—for the Lord?

“Ears heavy.” Isaiah 6:10. It is a sad fact that the rejection of truth renders the mental, moral, and spiritual conditions of those who reject it worse than before. Those who accept the truth rejoice in it. But the same truth will make harder the heart of those who reject it, and cause them to shut their eyes and close their ears.

“Lord, how long?” Isaiah 6:11. What is the use of preaching if men do not accept? May we not consider the work finished when we have gone over the ground once and men have “rejected” the truth? It is well to remember that sometimes when we think men have rejected the truth, they have not really rejected it, but only our presentation of it. Such may later accept it when presented with more spiritual power. “How long?” Never give up. As long as there is an inhabitant left, keep on working. It may seem that the results are meager, but God has a remnant.

“A tenth.” Isaiah 6:13. Even as the tithe belongs to the Lord, so the Lord has a “holy seed.” Do not conclude from this that just “a tenth” will be saved. Even if so, “a tenth” of what? The stress is rather on the fact that the Lord has a remnant, and that they are holy as the tithe is holy.

Taken from the book, Isaiah The Gospel Prophet by M.L. Andreasen (1928).