Isaiah 6


‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, 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.” Isaiah 6:1-5

Isaiah’s Commission

Isaiah was to preach to people who were deaf or blind for an 18 year period and they would see the effect of Isaiah’s preaching, it is a very real setting. His preaching will last until they see all his pain and sorrow.

The vision is to prepare Isaiah for the seemingly fruitless efforts which he is going to expend, but above and beyond this, it is a vivid description of the glory and majesty of the Christ who in this chapter, sits on the heavenly throne which has been established in the closing events of Isaiah 4.

The previous chapter indicated that fleshly Israel cannot receive the blessings, and this chapter shows that the cause for their rejection is the hardness of their hearts, John 12:37-41. It identifies the prophet and his role and the people.

In highly figurative language, he describes the appearance of the deity. Compared with God, Isaiah considered himself a man of unclean lips, unworthy to speak God’s Word.

In the year 740 B.C. Uzziah was almost 70 years old and he reigned for 52 years. Isaiah received this vision after Uzziah had died, Isaiah 24:28.

Because of Uzziah’s presumptuous behavior in reference to the temple, he was cursed with leprosy, 2 Chronicles 26:16-21 / 2 Kings 15:1-7. At this point in time, Isaiah was trusting God, and he needed to trust God as the King.

God is portrayed as King sitting upon the throne, 1 Kings 22:19 / Ezekiel 43:7 / Jeremiah 17:12, and Isaiah sees God and His robe is filling the temple. Above the throne of God were seraphim, the burning ones, the flying fiery ones. These creatures are serpent like creatures almost like a dragon.

The word Seraphim is the plural form of seraph, in other words, you can have one seraph, but if there are more than one, they are known as seraphim. The word itself means ‘burning ones’ and sometimes they are called, ‘ones of love’ because their name might come from the Hebrew root for ‘love’.

It may come as a surprise to some people, that these heavenly beings, are only fully described in the Bible once, which is found here, when Isaiah is being commissioned by God to be a prophet and he has a vision of heaven.

According to Isaiah these heavenly beings have six wings, but they only use two of them for flying. The other wings are used to cover their face and feet. Why do they cover their faces?

One possible answer is that they cover their face because, they were so close to God, they would witness His full glory which would be too powerful to behold. Feet seem to be considered ‘unclean’ and so not worthy to be shown to God.

Notice that Isaiah doesn’t tell us how many Seraphim there are present but because he uses the word, ‘they’, we know it’s definitely more than one. Unlike the Cherubim who are always portrayed as beside or around God’s throne, these heavenly beings are here flying above God’s throne.

It seems as their main role is to constantly glorify and praise God, someone suggested that they may also God’s ‘personal attendants.’

The words they use, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory,’ have been used in hymns and choruses by Christians for many years to remind them of the holiness of God.

It’s interesting to know that in Hebrew, whenever the same word is used three times to describe, something or someone, it always means that the person or object is completely like the word. Hence here, calling God holy three times means that God is completely and perfectly holy.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The ‘repetition’ of a name, or of an expression, three times, was quite common among the Jews. Thus, in Jeremiah 7:4, the Jews are represented by the prophet as saying, ‘the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord,’ are these. Thus, Jeremiah 22:29 ‘O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord’, Ezekiel 21:27 ‘I will overturn, overturn, overturn,’ see also 1 Samuel 18:23 and Numbers 6:24-26.’

Make no mistake about it, this is a horrific sight for Isaiah as the seraphs are flying around saying ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty’, and the whole earth is full of his glory, Psalm 8 / Psalm 19. The temple shook and it was full of smoke, Exodus 13:21-22 / 1 Kings 8:10 / 2 Chronicles 5:13 / Ezekiel 10:4.

We must note that other than seeing the Lord, the One Isaiah saw in this vision isn’t specified. He isn’t identified specifically until John wrote centuries later concerning Jesus, ‘These things Isaiah said because he saw His, that is, Jesus, glory and spoke of Him.’ John 12:41. We never really see God but a form of Him because God is spirit, John 4:24.

Isaiah says, ‘he is ruined’, that is, he confessed his unworthiness, Hosea 10:15 / Zephaniah 1:2 / Hosea 4:6 / Isaiah 15:1, which is the natural response when confronted with holiness, Exodus 33:20. The closer we get to the presence of God, the more humble our worship becomes, James 3:2.

Isaiah felt really guilty because he knew he was and he knew who God was. In the presence of the king, he felt guilty and was guilty. He sees his own guilt and sees that he is beyond hope, Luke 5:8.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Notice that Isaiah’s consciousness of God’s presence resulted at once in his awareness of his own sins and uncleanness. Throughout the Bible, this reaction on the part of any person becoming aware of God’s presence is normal, indeed without exception. Examples of this are Gideon, Judges 6:22, Manoah, Judges 13:22, Job, Job 42:5-6, Peter, Luke 5:8, John, Revelation 1:17, and the thief on the cross, Luke 23:40-41.’

Isaiah saw the King, the LORD Almighty, he saw God, he saw Jesus before He added humanity to His deity, John 12:41. We must remember that God isn’t physical, He is a spirit, John 4:24, He hasn’t got a face any more than He has legs or arms.

The descriptions of God having eyes, arms and legs, etc, are metaphors which helps us understand God in human terms, Deuteronomy 33:27 / Genesis 6:8 / 2 Kings 19:16.

The point is that we can’t see Him with our physical eyes because He is invisible to the physical eye, Colossians 1:15 / 1 Timothy 1:17. There’s also a sense in which we can’t see God because we are simply too sinful, whereas He is just too glorious and holy, Isaiah 6:1-6. This is one reason why we need Christ to act as our Mediator, John 6:45-46 / 1 Timothy 2:5-6 / 1 John 2:1.

‘Then one of the seraphim 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.” Isaiah 6:6-7

All of Isaiah’s uncleanness was burned away by the coal. The seraphim didn’t by himself cleanse Isaiah but had to have a coal from the altar, Leviticus 6:12-13 / Leviticus 9:24 / Leviticus 17:11, this was divine fire.

The coal that touches his lips, is used to signify that Isaiah is now purified and fit to be a prophet. The coal came from the altar in heaven, so would have been very powerful.

Fire is also used in many religions and faiths as a way of purifying and cleansing something. God removes his sin, Psalm 51:12 / Psalm 51:14. Isaiah’s guilt was taken away when one of the seraphs touched his lips with burning coal.

This whole picture is in contrast with what Uzziah did in serving in God’s temple, 2 Chronicles 26:16-21. Because Isaiah’s mouth and heart were now cleansed of iniquity and sin, he can assume his destiny for God.

‘Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” ‘He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”  Isaiah 6:8-10

It appears that God wants a job done and Isaiah volunteers, ‘here I am send me’, Isaiah says. Obviously God knew that Isaiah would put himself forward to act on God’s behalf. It was the duty of Isaiah to deliver the message of God, Matthew 28:19-20 / Mark 16:15-16.

Notice the use of the words, ‘I’ and ‘us’, this is obviously the Godhead. It appears to be the same Person speaking in both the singular and the plural. It is the same Person, Genesis 1:26.

Isaiah’s mission was a type of the mission of Christ, who was to come. Isaiah preached more than 40 years and more than 33 years of that time was used to harden the people’s heart.

He is to tell the people and increase their un-spiritual awareness. He is bringing about their spiritual downfall because they have no intention of changing their minds, Matthew 13:14 / Mark 4:12.

God is telling Isaiah tell the people but they will not listen or understand but just do it anyway. God hardened their hearts as did with Pharaoh, Exodus 4:21 / Exodus 7:3 / Exodus 9:12, and those who refuse to love the truth, 2 Corinthians 4:4 / 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.

‘Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the LORD has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” Isaiah 6:11-13

Isaiah asks, how long he was to preach? God replies until the cities are ruined. Isaiah was to preach until the captivity but a remnant will return, Romans 11:1-10.

Isaiah would experience the fall of the Northern Kingdom, but not the fall of Judah. The land would be laid waste and the houses emptied, Isaiah 17:2 / Jeremiah 4:29 / Zephaniah 2:4.

But out of the stump, ‘the holy seed’ promise given to Abraham, would be continued through the Davidic seedline, Genesis 12:1-3. The remnant would emerge and remain and from that remnant One would come who would be a blessing to all mankind, the Christ.

This prophecy has been made so clear by its accomplishment, fulfilment, that there remains little room for doubt of the fulfilment 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 / 2 Kings 25:22.

The purpose of the vision was simply this, for Isaiah to trust God as King, to see that the true power lay with God, not other nations around and to show God’s holiness. God calls us so that we are a holy people, 1 Peter 1:16, but it all comes down to the heart of the individual.

Go To Isaiah 7


"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Hebrews 12:2