Having expressed the ominous prospects for Judah in Isaiah 5, the book now turns to Isaiah’s call from God in chapter 6. Isaiah has a profound encounter with “the Lord sitting upon a throne,” where his splendor is revealed (vv. 1–2). This Lord’s glory fills the heavens and the earth, being perfectly complete and unmistakably holy (v. 3).

The revelation of the glory of God results in statements of humility and confession from the prophet—regarding both himself and his people (v. 5). Here we discover important truths: real perception of the holiness of God necessarily results in acknowledgment of our sin and our need of his mercy; and, for all who are called to proclaim God’s majesty and mercy, we must confess, “Woe is me!” (v. 5). When in the divine presence, Isaiah doesn’t stand over against the people to whom he preaches; he identifies with them: “for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Isaiah does not promote a deceptive modesty based on comparison to others; instead he experiences genuine humility that comes when his “eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (v.5).

We become emotionally and spiritually able to address the needs of others only after we come to recognize and confess our own great need and dependence upon God. Until that happens we inevitably slip into mere self-help advice, rather than the repentance unto life into which the gospel invites us. Isaiah confesses that he is a man of unclean lips (v. 5) as he realizes that he cannot join in the holy song of the seraphim (v. 3). Thus, the touch of the burning ember (from the altar of atonement) to his lips indicates that he has been made pure by a work beyond himself, so that now he can sing of, and give witness to, his God (vv. 6–7). We too have been touched by the “burning coal” of the altar where the sacrifices were made, having been purified by Christ’s atoning sacrifice that put an end to the need of the altar’s fire. Restored by his forgiveness and liberated from sin to be sent out, our lips may joyfully testify to the holiness and mercy of our God (v. 8).

Despite Isaiah’s vision and message, God tells him that the covenant people will not listen to the message that he has given them yet another opportunity to hear (vv. 9–10); their deliberate deafness further justifies his judgment (vv. 11–13). Jesus draws on Isaiah’s words (vv. 9–10; cf. e.g., Matt. 13:13–15) to explain his preference to speak about the kingdom in parables: no one will remain unaffected by their hearing of God’s word; their hearts will be either softened and drawn into God’s saving grace, or hardened by their refusal to acknowledge their need. Only God can give eyes to see and ears to hear (Matt. 13:16–17).

While Judah may appear hopeless, yet “the holy seed is its stump” (Isa. 6:13), for out of this stump of Jesse will come the heir of David (11:1, 10; Rom. 15:12), our Savior Jesus the Christ (Acts 13:23).

Jesus Christ is our hope. Jesus is God’s gracious provision for our greatest problem. Jesus came to save sinners. Praise God. May we experience the love and the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. And may we share that love and grace of God with people of all nations.

* Adapted from ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.

This week’s Bible reading schedule:

Monday: Isaiah 8 Thursday: Isaiah 11
Tuesday: Isaiah 9 Friday: Isaiah 12
Wednesday: Isaiah 10 Saturday: Isaiah 13