I’ve been shamefully inactive the last two weeks- my apologies to you four regular readers. I hope I haven’t lost any of you.
This last Sunday I preached (if the past tense of teach is taught, shouldn’t the past tense of preach be praught?) from Isaiah 6 at Faith Baptist, and in preparation I ran into that age-old problem of too much material (probably better than too little), so I decided to put the overflow here. I’ll just post on Isaiah until I run out of things to say, and though you may fall asleep reading it the same as you would in church, I don’t think your Sunday roast will burn, so we just might finish ahead.
I love verse six of the hymn Crown Him with Many Crowns, and its imagery is partly taken from Isaiah 6:
Crown Him the Lord of love, behold His hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above in beauty glorified,
No angel in the sky can full bear that sight,
But downward bend his burning eye at mysteries so bright.
In Isaiah 6 these seraphim (literally “burning ones”) are flying around the Lord on his throne, and Isaiah describes that each has six wings; with two he covers his eyes, and with two he covers his feet, and with two he flies around, shouting this refrain of God’s holiness and glory to the other seraphim.
Think of it- burning six-winged angels, the sort of beings which we would be tempted to worship if we saw now, cannot look at God. Why not? These are perfect beings. Isaiah’s terror at seeing God comes from the fact that he is a man of unclean lips, but the seraphim have no such problem. I think this helps us to understand what it means for God to be holy. God’s holiness is not simply an absence of sin- if this were the case, unfallen angels would be equal in holiness to God. God’s holiness is a positive quality, not the lack of a negative quality. God is totally other, totally unique, totally above- so much so that these terrifying fiery angels with all wings and who knows what else may not even look at him. This is amazing to me.
What is even more amazing is that when next we are in God’s presence, we won’t have to avert our eyes. We don’t have the same rules for etiquette that perfect angelic beings have when it comes to God. When I see Jesus, I will look him full in the face, right into those burning eyes, and I won’t be consumed.
I’ll see God, and I won’t be undone, I won’t be struck dead, I won’t even be ashamed- I’ll be complete. How about that.