Isaiah 6


Isaiah Chapter six is one the more well known chapters of the Book. There is a bit of controversy of whether or not this was the first vision Isaiah had that began his ministry as a prophet or if it was simply another vision from the Lord that came after he already been preaching for years to reignite his work as a prophet. Though the arguments on both sides of this issue are interesting, I am more concerned about looking at the details of his call to service than whether it was the first or the second.


Chapter 6 can be divided in to three short sections:

1. The vision of God (Isaiah 6:1-5)

2. Isaiah's cleansing (Isaiah 6:6-8)

3. Prophecy of Israel's hardening and rejection (Isaiah 6:9-13).  


In the Book of John, Jesus tells us that when Isaiah saw this vision, he saw the glory of Jesus.


John 12:37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,  38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?"  39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:  40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them."  41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.


Why is the significant? It shows that the preincarnate Jesus and the Father were present in this vision, which is why we see this phrase  in verse 8 “And who will go for Us?” We see this many times in reference to the Godhead where the plural word us is used.


Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.  2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"  4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 


It is hard to know for sure, but most believe that this is saying after the king died and not just the year he died in. King Uzziah died approximately 740-739 B.C. This was the king that chose to enter the temple and offered a burnt incense, which was unlawful for him to do and he was struck down with leprosy for the remainder of his reign. 


Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord sitting on the throne lifted up high. The train of His robe filled the temple. Some believe this was vision of God over Solomon’s temple, others believe this was a heavenly vision of God sitting on His heavenly throne in the heavenly temple.


We have our first and only mentioning of these six winged creatures called seraphim. However, there is another mentioning of six winged creatures in Revelation 4:8. According Mr. Coffman:


The three pairs of wings on each of the seraphim are believed to stand for reverence, humility, and speedy obedience to God's will.


The Seraphim are seen above the throne of God, with two wings covering their face, two wings covering their feet, and two wings were used to fly with. Ezekiel also mentions some of creatures called cherubim, but they are pictures at being at the foot of the throne.


The Seraphim are pictured as being ready to serve the Lord. They are praising God for His holiness and talking about how the earth is full of His glory.


I like how Lester Kamp describes the glory of Jehovah:


In nature, our text says the world is full of the glory of Jehovah, and David said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Psa. 19:1). And again David said, “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou are mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visiteth him” ( Psa. 8:3,4). No man can watch the twinkling stars at night or behold the budding trees in the spring without being impressed with the glory of God.


Nowhere does the holiness and glory of God become more obvious than in the realm of grace. When man had sinned an was worthy only to be punished eternally for those sins, God in His love, goodness, mercy, and grace gave His only begotten Son to die the shameful death on Calvary that we might be redeemed from our sins, purified from the defilement of our sins, be justified from the guilt of sin, and finally to be glorified in heaven to spend eternity in bliss.


These things are such a marvelous exhibition of the glory and wisdom of God that good men stand in awe and bow in reverence while beholding them, and even the angels of glory are anxious to look into them (Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12).


“O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth” (Psa. 8:1, 9). 


 In verse 4 of our text, we learn that the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of Seraphim and the house was filled with smoke, which represents the presence of God. This would have been quite an audio and visible site. 


Notice Isaiah’s response to what he saw:


Isaiah 6:5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."

It did not take long for Isaiah to see himself as a sinner and not worthy to be in the presence of God. Throughout the Bible others experienced a similar reaction such as Gideon (Judges 6:22), Job (Job 42:5,6), Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:28), Daniel (Dan. 10:5-10) Peter (Luke 5:8) and John (Revelation 1:17).


Though Isaiah has already expressed many woes on his people in the previous chapter, he now sees his own woe, and guilt has set in. He does not feel worthy to join in the praise of God and he does not feel worthy to deliver a message for the Lord. Though he admits to having unclean lips and living among those who have unclean lips, I do not believe he is saying that he just like his people because he had not fully rebelled against God like many of them had.


Those who like to look for contradictions in the Bible might say, how can he have seen the Lord of hosts and live when the Bible teaches that:


John 1:18  No one has seen God at any time.


The Bible also indicates that if you did look on God, you would die (Exod. 19:21; Jud. 13:22). First, there is a difference between seeing a manifestation of God and seeing God Himself. Second, though Isaiah is depicted as seeing the Lord of host it is in a vision and not actually Him. Nonetheless, it was certainly real enough for Isaiah to prick his heart. Just imagine how many people will instantly feel like Isaiah on the day of Judgment when they stand in the presence of God to be judged.


God has a solution to Isaiah’s sin problem:


Isaiah 6:6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.  7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged."  8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."


Whether Isaiah was seeing this happening in the earthly temple or in heaven, we just need to keep in mind that all of this was being seen in a vision. God’s solution was to purify Isaiah so his sin problem would not hinder him from serving God. David also understood this concept because he said in:


Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.  11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.  13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. 


For one to serve the Lord, they need to have their house in order. In other words, they need to have their life right before they can effectively teach others to make their life right. Isaiah understood that needed to take care of the sin in his life and God was the only one that could take care of his sin problem. Today, our sins are taken care through Jesus, and we must certainly be on the path of righteousness to serve God and not be one that is rebellious. Jesus also gives us an example of this same idea in:


Matthew 7:3 "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  5 "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 


The idea is once you have a handle on sin in your life by living faithfully to God, then you can begin telling your brother about that speck in his eye. Paul explains it to Timothy this way:


2 Timothy 2:21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 


Notice verse 8 again:


8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."


At that moment, Isaiah has been cleansed and is fit for service. So, when the Godhead asked who will go for Us, there was no doubt in Isaiah’s mind that it would be him, which is why he said "Here am I! Send me."


This should be the response of every Christian because we have all been purified by the blood of Jesus and we have been given the charge:


Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. 


As one unknown writer said:


All of us should have the attitude that Isaiah had. We should be willing to undertake any service which needs to be rendered to God. God is able to make us able to do His will. God does not expect us to do any service that we are unable to perform, but since God gives the ability to do that which he expects us to do, we  are all the more unjustified in our lack of willingness to serve Him.


Sometimes I think we forget what we signed up for when we became servants of the Lord. Instead of holding our hand up and saying pick me, we tend to point our finger at someone else and say pick them. Let us do our best to always follow the example of Isaiah and be eager to do the work of the Lord.


Isaiah 6:9 And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.'  10 "Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed."


One thing you will notice is that God says “tell this people” instead of “my people.” When God’s people would rebel against Him, you will see this same pattern repeated where God refers to them as “this people.” The reason for this is because they are not acting like His people because they are not following after Him.


Isaiah learns that the message he will be preaching will not turn them from their sins, but further separate them from God. Why? Because when God’s truth is proclaimed the rebellious Jews will digress even further because they do not want to hear the truth, they do not want to change their ways because they think they are fine the way they are. So, instead of having their hearts pricked, they will embrace the dark path even more.


Think about it this way. If you have ever went to a barn in the middle of the night and flipped on the lights, what you will see is that the rats and mice will run and hide into some dark recess. They feel at home in the dark, but run from the light because it exposes what they are. In a similar way, God’s message in the O.T. and in the N.T. has away of exposing people for what they are, but many will not be changed because they are at home in the darkness of sin.


Basically, God is telling Isaiah that the message he will preach will have very few if any that will listen to it and change. Does this sound familiar to you? Think about yourself being told by God to preach His saving message to that friend or that family member you know that is adamant about not wanting anything to do with God. How motivated are you going to be? Or imagine God sending you to an atheist convention and telling you to preach His Word to them, but that no one is going to listen? This is the reality of that Isaiah was facing, yet he preached on anyway, just like Jeremiah and Ezekiel.


One thing we must never forget as Christians is that we will not be judged based on how many people obeyed the gospel. Instead, we will be judged on how many seeds we planted and how many we watered. As Paul said:


1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.


Let us simply proclaim the truth and not worry about numbers, let God worry about that because His Word will do exactly what it is set out to do.


Isaiah 6:11 Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered: "Until the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, The houses are without a man, The land is utterly desolate,  12 The LORD has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land


Isaiah wants to know how long he is to preach the message, God answer is until they are destroyed. From this point in time it would be about 20 years until the northern kingdom was destroyed and it would be around 136 years before Judah was destroyed and taken into captivity, so that lets us know that Isaiah would be preaching his message until the day he died because Judah would not fall until many years after he was dead.


In a similar way, we know that Jesus is coming back one day, though we do not know when, we are to continue to proclaim God’s message to the world until he does. His return might happen in our lifetime, or it might happen 5 generations or more from now. Either way, like Isaiah, we must never stop proclaiming the message of the Lord because there will always be a few that accepts it and embraces it.


Our last verse is a little bit vague and there are different thoughts on its meaning.


13 But yet a tenth will be in it, And will return and be for consuming, As a terebinth tree or as an oak, Whose stump remains when it is cut down. So the holy seed shall be its stump."


First, I want to share with you Mr. Coffman’s thoughts on this verse, then I will tell you what I get out of this verse:


This statement is variously understood; but we find Lowth's comment on this fully in line with all that is known about it.


"This prophecy has been made so clear by its accomplishment (fulfillment) that there remains little room for doubt of the fulfillment of it. Nebuchadnezzar took into captivity the great part of the people; the "tenth" remaining in the land, of the poorer people, followed Gedaliah (2 Kings 25:12,22). Even these, fleeing into Egypt contrary to Jeremiah's warning, perished there ..." In the subsequent and more remarkable fulfillment in the Roman destruction (A.D. 70); after the great majority perished, the "tenth" remainder increased rapidly and became very numerous in the days of Hadrian, who, being provoked by their rebellions, slew half a million more, thus a second time almost exterminating the nation. Yet after such signal and near-universal exterminations, the stock of the old Israel still remains."F12


Furthermore, these repeated massacres and exterminations of Israel have continued throughout history and even down into current times when they were again repeated under Adolph Hitler in Nazi Germany.


Maybe I am trying to make the verse to simple, but to me all it saying is that after these Jews are captured that about tenth of them will return and this tenth will have to endure some hardships along the way. He then compares all the Jews as a nation being a mighty tree that has been cut down and only a stump remains, which is another reference to the small remnant of Jews that would return from captivity. Like many stumps, new growth will emerge and that small remnant will grow once again. Isaiah will talk about this holy seed or remnant of faithful Jews in Chapters 7 – 9.


In conclusion, Isaiah had this awesome vision where he saw God sitting on the throne and he saw the seraphim. Being in the presence of God made him realize he was a sinner, but God took care of his sin problem, which made him able to say “here I am Lord, send me.” He learned that he must proclaim a message that will cause the majority to push further away from God and he must continue to proclaim it till the day he dies. However, there was glimmer of hope for a small group of faithful Jews that would continue to survive, but it will not be easy for them. We would all do good to follow the example of Isaiah by recognizing when we have sin in our life, getting rid of the sin through God, and serving God with everything thing we have.