Several hundred years before Christ, there was a man by the name of Isaiah living in Jerusalem. He was married and the father of two sons. His family must have been people of prominence because he had access to the King.
As was the Jewish custom, Isaiah worshiped on the Sabbath. It was a part of his life. While Isaiah expected to be fed spiritually from these services, there is no reason to believe that he anticipated this service to be any different from any other worship experiences. But such was not the case. That day God spoke to Isaiah in a very special way which transformed his life. All of this is recorded in our text. Here you see a worship experience that started in the Temple and ended on the streets. Isaiah dates this spiritual awakening by saying, “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. Above him were seraphs, 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. (1-4) Sensing the holiness, Isaiah responded, “Woe is me! 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.” (5)
Reading of Isaiah’s experience, have we lost this sense of holiness? Society shows us that we have. Often we hear the question, “Is there anything holy any more?” Perhaps this should not alarm us for people have worked hard to rid society of any guilt that could make us uncomfortable. If we eliminate the absolutes and make all truth relative, who can determine what is right and wrong for all people? Once people said, “The Bible says this is sin.” Today people say, “Biblical truths are no longer relevant” or “That is only your interpretation of the Bible.”
But we need not look at society. Within the Church there seems to be less emphasis on the Holiness of God. We are told that if this be the emphasis, people will be turned off to the Church. God can be referred to as “the man upstairs.” This is quite different from Isaiah’s description of God. How long ago has it been since you attended a worship service built around the theme, “God’s Holiness.”
I realize that this next point can be argued, but let me make it to express my own feelings. It bothers me to no end to see how sanctuaries are used in our day. We make halls out of buildings that were constructed and dedicated as places of worship. Here we hear God’s Word, receive His sacraments, marry our young and bury our dead. Should such a place not have an atmosphere of holiness related to it? Do we not need a place of quietness in a busy, noisy old world where we can come for meditation and quietness?
A few years ago I asked a young man to remove his cap when in the sanctuary. He looked at me as if I had lost my mind when he said, “Why?” I said, “This is the sanctuary.” He replied, “It’s just a building to me.” Now I realize that this is not a big point of emphasis, but it does play into the thought of our text the holiness of God. While I am thankful that God is my Father to whom I may come under all circumstances, does that eliminate His holiness? No, even my earthly father has an authoritative role.
It was this holiness that brought Isaiah to a conviction of guilt and unworthiness. In the midst of despair, he heard the Gospel. “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (vs. 7)
Isaiah was a sinner, but God forgave his sin. There was new joy and peace in his soul. He had become a new person through this transforming experience. This is God’s greatest gift for all people. It is for that purpose Jesus came to die for our sins. For Isaiah, Christ was the Savior who was to come. For us, He is the Savior who has come and restores us into fellowship with God forever. Without the Gospel, the worship service would not be meaningful. We would go home with no hope. The preacher scolded us, and we knew we had it coming, but it would not have been a joyful time. However, when we have been released of that guilt through faith in Christ, the service is meaningful. It is an experience that needs to be repeated on a weekly basis.
Now the service is over. Out of the temple and into the streets. As Isaiah was ready to leave with new joy and peace in his heart, the voice of the Lord was saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” The service wasn’t over for Isaiah. Not until he responded, “Here am I, send me.” With that commitment, Isaiah’s life was changed. He became God’s voice speaking to his society. Without Isaiah’s positive response to go as God’s spokesman, the service would not have been complete. What we have heard is ours to share.
We have a few of those great spiritual days when God lays His hand on us in a special way. We thank Him for these days. But meeting Christ, and being reassured that He has cleansed us to serve in the Kingdom, is a daily message. Isn’t that what each meaningful service prepares us to do? Some special need of ours is met and that is what we can share with others during the week. We have been loved and now we are to love. We have been directed by the Counselor, and now we are to counsel. We have been strengthened, and now we go to strengthen others as we bring them to the throne of grace.
A meaningful worship service begins as we find ourselves in God’s presence. Having had this marvelous experience, we move into society to share His righteousness and His love with our world.