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What Isaiah Saw – Part 2

Isaiah Saw God’s Forgiveness

Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

If all one had to evaluate Isaiah was this verse, one might guess that he was a terribly wicked person.  However, I expect that this would be an unfair assessment.  I expect that his pitiful outburst is prompted not so much by his conspicuous wickedness, but by his previous comparisons with other men rather than with the Great Judge of all the earth.  Upon understanding God’s greatness, he sees that he is ruined by sin. In this passage Isaiah is caught red-handed, “without one plea”; with no viable excuse for his actions.

David is struck with just such an understanding of his wretchedness in Psalm 51:3-4.  This Psalm was apparently written soon after he was confronted by Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba.  Prior to this intervention David acts as if he is in a spiritual fog.  However, Nathan’s accusation poleaxes David, and out of the depths of despair he records the following:

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight,

So that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.

Technically, David’s statement about sinning only against God is not accurate.  He had also sinned against his wives, Uriah, the nation, the child that lost its life, and even against Bathsheba.  But in this Psalm, his affront to God’s holiness is all he is considering.  He is a broken man because he has broken faith with God.

Isaiah’s reference to his nation and himself sinning with their lips is obviously just one of the many flaws in the Judah of his day.  But the mouth is a powerful indicator of one’s spiritual health.  As Jesus would later say, “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matt. 12:34).  It hurt Isaiah to know that the perfect God he had just witnessed saw into the dark depths of his soul.  He was stunned when he understood that he and his God were poles apart.

In order to truly understand the salvation that God has for us, we all must see our own unworthiness.  This can only come by beginning to fathom the great gap between God’s greatness and our own poor performance.  This must also be accomplished by clearing away all comparisons with others, because being best in any group of human beings does not recommend us very highly.  Like Isaiah, we must come to see our unworthiness.  Like the publican Jesus describes in Luke 18:13, we must all come to the point where we are ashamed to life our eyes to heaven, beat our breast, and say, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”