Last Sunday we had a guest preacher, a young man named Chris Nye. You can check out his blog here. He is a youth minister at another church in our area and had preached for our church a few times as we have been going through the process of calling a permanent pastor.
The text Chris was preaching from was Isaiah 6, which begins like this:
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.
“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.”
The message Chris shared was simple: “If we could see God for who He really is we would be sinless.” In this passage of scripture we hear of how Isaiah saw God for who He is and was deeply humbled. John had a similar vision as recorded in Revelation 4 with a similar reaction. Seeing God for who He truly is reveals to the heart of man who he is by comparison, and the result is immediate awe and obedience. Upon seeing God, our response should be as Isaiah’s: “Woe is me!”
The problem is we don’t really understand who God is. We see “the fringes” of His glory and majesty, but fail to grasp the whole picture. Many people never even try, preferring to create a God of their own making, one who is much less majestic and worthy of awe.
Even those of us who desire to see Him, all of Him, fall short of a complete understanding. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV). But still, as we gain more knowledge through the study of His Word and through prayer, seeking Him, we grow closer to that sinless state we would find ourselves in if only we could see fully. Slowly we are transformed, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
But this is not really what I had thought to write today. There was another message that came to me as I read along with the passage from Isaiah in church on Sunday. This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, but something occurred to me that I had not thought of before.
Isaiah describes the seraphs that attend God’s throne, noting that they covered their faces with two of their six wings. The footnote in my NIV Study Bible says this is because they could not gaze directly at God. I have always accepted this as the most logical reason for why the seraphs cover their faces, but I wonder if there is another reason.
It seems to me that if Isaiah, a mere man, “saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted,” then surely the seraphs who attend the throne could look at the Lord and see Him, too. As I ponder seraphs, I imagine they are some of the most beautiful creatures that God has ever created. Could any lesser creatures attend His throne?
Perhaps the reason the seraphs cover their faces in Isaiah’s vision is so that all focus will be on the Lord Almighty and Isaiah will not be distracted by their beauty. Surely they know that any beauty they have is only because it is a gift of God and that all glory belongs to Him alone. Perhaps it is their humility that leads them to act as they do.
I wonder if we could ever do the same? God has gifted each of us with a beauty all our own, but it is not ours to boast in or show off. It is for God’s glory that He has given us our gifts, talents, and beauty, and yet we take pride in them as if we had anything to do with obtaining them. We forget that we are nothing and have nothing apart from our Creator.
Which I suppose, brings me full circle to Chris’ message. “If we could see God for who He truly is” then we would give all glory to Him alone. We would want all focus to be on Him, just as the seraphs calling, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty” wanted Isaiah to see only God and His majesty.