Meditations on “God of Transformation: 8: See into heaven
Isa 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
There is NOTHING so life transforming as encountering God. Even catching a sense of God’s presence changes you. It is the most wonderful thing that can happen to you and yet the most mysterious, tantalising and fleeting. For all we have considered so far in these studies, the truth is that God hides Himself. Maybe it is as if He knows that if He fully revealed Himself to us we would be destroyed. When the apostle John had a vision of the risen and glorious Christ he wrote, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Rev 1:17) When Ezekiel had a heavenly vision we read, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown.” (Ezek 1:28) Years ago I was part of a group that had spent the day praying and fasting and during that time we had a wonderful sense of the Lord’s presence. Later that evening when we had all parted, I suddenly realised that I was tiptoeing around the house, as if I was afraid to break the wonder.
Isaiah was a prophet, or perhaps at the time of the verse above, a prophet in the making. King Uzziah had ruled for many years and had been a real stabilizing force in the nation – and then he died. It has often been commented upon that in the vacuum that follows the death of a great leader, the sense of emptiness and of loss often drives people to face the reality of their lives and their need of the Lord. The United Kingdom in the second decade of the twenty-first century is in a unique position in the word. It has a Queen who has reigned for longer than any other monarch and although many people probably do not realise it, she had become a symbol of stability. One day she will die and on that day the nation will suddenly find that sense of security removed and there will be a major hole in the national life. This is how it probably was when Uzziah died. Joshua probably felt similarly on the day when Moses went off never to return again.
Into such voids, the Lord often speaks. Sometimes we have to have all our security removed before we are open enough to hear or see the Lord. On such a day the Lord grants Isaiah a vision of heaven. He is not taken up with the wonder of the throne room, just with the One at the centre of it and those immediately around Him: “I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isa 6:1) We have just spoken of a throne room because this One is seated on a throne. He is clearly a ruler and his throne is “high and exalted”, i.e. above any other, but then there is something strange – “the train of his robe filled the temple”. This throne room is a temple!
Why a temple? What is there about a temple? Well it is the meeting place of God and man, it is the place God has designated to be where He will be found by man on earth, in Jerusalem. But this is a temple in heaven, and so the same emphasis is being made, this is the place of God’s designation where He will meet with mankind. A temple reminds us of sacrifices offered, that enable man to approach a holy God. It is also a place of worship, and so it should not surprise us that the heavenly vision in Rev 4 is all about worship and it is only when the vision moves on to deal with earthly matters, the overseeing of the End Times, that we see, “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne.” (Rev 5:6) Jesus, the Lamb of God, the only means for mankind to be able to stand unharmed in the presence of the holy God.
In this holy presence Isaiah is just aware of his shortcomings: “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.” (v.5) A prophet is all about being a messenger, a speaker of words from God and so Isaiah doesn’t focus on his deeds but his speech and he realises he falls far short of anything demanded by a holy God in heaven. He is doomed. On the Day of Atonement, coals of fire were taken inside the Most Holy Place (Lev 16:12), when sacrifice was made to atone for sin. Now those coals are applied to Isaiah’s lips. No, he is not being destroyed, he is being cleansed by the work of heaven: “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (v.7b)
Once this has been done, it opens the door for something else: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (v.8a) These words are purposely said in his hearing as if they want to see his response: “And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (v.8b) Isaiah, now cleansed, recognizes he can stand before the Lord by the Lord’s enabling, and so declares his availability. The Lord commissions him: “He said, “Go and tell this people: `Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.” (v.9)
It is a strange commission – go and tell a people they will hear God’s word but not understand it. We said earlier on the Lord almost hides Himself, but it is so that true seekers will be revealed: “if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 4:29) This is why Isaiah’s message to the people will be so true. It will only be true seekers who will find the Lord, only true seekers who will realise what Isaiah is saying. The rest will hear his words and just wonder whatever he is on about.
Let’s recap the lessons that come out of this. The greatest transformation comes about in a human life when we encounter the Lord, and such times of revelation often come when things we rely upon are removed, our security is taken away. At such times the Lord draws close offering revelation. The point of all true revelation is to reveal the Lord and that revelation will evoke in us a sense of personal unworthiness as we realise what we are like as His light shines on us and reveals us as we truly are. Then the revelation will show us afresh or anew the only source of sanctification – the Lamb of God who takes away all sin, who died on the Cross to take our guilt and our shame. As we receive that afresh we are offered a fresh opportunity to serve the One who is Lord of all, for He has made us worthy and we sing with the heavenly host, “you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:9,10) Transformed by heavenly revelation! Hallelujah!