So, there are the angels, singing the praises of the triune God! Holy, Holy, Holy! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The whole earth is full of His glory! Can you imagine being one of the angels there who gets to sing and dance in the heavenly throne room of God! For the angels, that is a place of praise for the Creator of all things! They look upon their Creator and He is a wonderful, magnificent God to behold. I mean, this place is shaking with the glorious, heavenly praises of these pure beings created to glorify God!
But, suddenly, there is an interruption in the celebration! The voice of a sinner cries out. Isaiah finds himself in this glorious presence, and for Him, the glory of God is the death of Him. And, now, this may surprise us a bit. After all, Isaiah is a prophet of God. Up to this point in the book, it would seem, that Isaiah has been prophesying for at least five whole chapters of our lives. He has been faithfully and truthfully preaching God’s Word to His people. This is a guy who seems to get God. Here is a guy who faithfully tells the truth in a world that seems to oppose God. Here is one who stands for the truth, in the midst of an Israel that closes its ears and hearts to God’s commands and promises.
Unlike the angels, Israel had become idolatrous and, with unclean lips, a choir which sang its own praises. But not Isaiah, no! He is one of the good guys! He had come as a prophet to bring the people back to God. Israel is going to bow to false gods, then, Isaiah says, God will leave you in their hands. Israel is going to put their hope in wicked foreign nations, then God will let them rule you. And you will be destroyed. Isaiah came and told the truth. Isaiah was one of the good guys because Isaiah was right! You can just picture him going to bed at night, fearful of what is happening in the world, but content with himself, because he is right about God. After all, it is in his being right that he most reflects the righteous God!
And, we all say, perhaps rightly, that we need more Isaiah’s today. After all, we live amongst a people of unclean lips! Those who proudly boast of their own righteousness over and against God and His will. So, we as the church say, we need to take a stand for righteousness. We must stand against the wicked unclean forces that are seeking to overthrow the church! We must fight against those who brazenly want to destroy God’s gift of marriage! We must oppose those who, in the name of rights, want to end a baby’s life in the womb. We must take a stand against the debauchery and disrespect for authority that we find in the media. I mean, we got to bed fearful at night because of what is happening in the world, but we can be pleased with ourselves, because, hey, we are right. Just like Isaiah. We condemn all the right people with all the right judgments! Like Isaiah, we can be proud that our morals are right and our lips are clean! We really are the Isaiah’s of our time! We could sing a song about how in being right we reflect God’s glory. How right we are with our own…clean…lips…
Yeah, this is perhaps why it is surprising to see Isaiah falling apart in the presence of the triune God and His angels. Because he sees himself, here, for who he truly is: a man of unclean lips, just like those people amongst whom he dwells. In the presence of the truly holy and righteous God, he sees all his rightness and all his righteousness as nothing but a pile of filthy, stinking rags. His pride is his undoing before God. His self-righteous preaching of the Law to condemn his enemies and make himself feel better about his position is exposed for what it is, the pride. Both Isaiah’s opponents and Isaiah are undone in the presence of God because both, though in different ways, have lips boasting in themselves. The right words spoken from a sinful, pride-filled heart, and not from a heart of faith, are sins in the eyes of this God. And Isaiah knows it. So that, his cries of fear interrupt the praise of the angels.
There is a danger for you and I as Christians when you live in a time and a place where sin and unbelief run rampant. You and I grow proud. We begin to look at everyone around us as wrong, and whether we admit it or not, inferior. We take it upon ourselves to fix them, to correct them, to put them in their place. We don’t speak the truth in love for our wayward neighbor, we speak the truth because it makes us feel right. We love to be right! Just think of how many snarky memes you’ve laughed at because they made your opponent or political other look stupid. Geez, that feels good.
And then you stand before God who exposes the truth. You and I are all just as guilty and sinful as whatever person or whatever unclean lip party we are proud to speak out against. Unclean lips that come from unclean hearts. Dead in our sins before the Holy, Holy, Holy God. We are, in fact, the Isaiah’s of our time!
But, just like with Isaiah, once we are dead before God, God can start to work with us.
So, the angels are singing. And an angel, with no regard for itself, with no pride, with a glorious picture of what God’s righteous holiness actually means, looks down on Isaiah, and flies down to him with tongs, takes a flaming coal, and touches his lips with it. The angel comes to Isaiah with no sense of self-righteousness or pride, with no intention of putting Isaiah in his place, but with a burning coal and a word from God: “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” The angel continues, you might say, to sing the glories of God by proclaiming Isaiah’s forgiveness and purifying His lips. And, it is in delivering this forgiveness that the angel most reflects the glory of God! It is God’s glory to forgive!
And now we, the Isaiah’s of our day, gather in the presence of the triune God every Sunday. And as we do so, an angel doesn’t leave the heavenly ranks to purify our lips. Rather, the Lord Jesus is the one who looks down upon us. He is the one who left His heavenly ranks, set aside His glory, and offered up His own life as a sacrifice for your unclean lips and unclean hearts. Mine too. Your loud pride was paid for by his humble death. The blood he shed purifies your heart. God’s purifying message comes to you today from the heavenly thrown room where your crucified and risen Jesus reigns. And when you take that wafer in your mouth and that wine hits your lips, Jesus says, “See! This has touched your lips! Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for!” You people of unclean lips who dwell among a people of unclean lips have a God who dwells among the angels and purifies you with His Word. Your sins are taken away! Your guilt is atoned for! God is most glorified in Jesus dying for you and forgiving you! You truly are the Isaiah of our day!
And, so you purified Isaiah’s, you have now been given something to say! A message of grace that can actually clean up this foul mouthed world. Not a message of self-righteous judgment, not a message that merely condemns, but a message that strips away all self-righteousness, that exposes sinful lips, and brings forgiveness, life and salvation. You and I, forgiven sinners, go forth reflecting the glory of God in announcing His forgiveness to the world! You have been given lips to proclaim, not how right you are, but how merciful and gracious God is, even to those sinners ruining our country! Even to sinners like you and me. You are the Isaiah who brings this message, “See, Jesus crucified and risen for you! Your sins are taken away! Your guilt is atoned for!”