Trinity Sunday: Onward Trinitarian Soldiers, Isaiah 6:1-7

Providence Church (CREC)

Trinity Sunday

June 7th, 2009, 19th sermon

Sermon: Onward Trinitarian Soldiers

Text: Isaiah 6:1-6

Pastor Uriesou T. Brito

Text: Isaiah 6:1-6 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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!”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Prayer: Holy! Holy! Holy! Father you are Holy! Son you are Holy! Spirit you are Holy! We praise You and give You thanks. Amen.

Sermon: People of God, there is a new aggressive atheism in our society. Christopher Hitchens with his winsome rhetoric; Richard Dawkins with his dogmatic assertions about the progress of science; Sam Harris with his persuasive appeal; and the ever insufferable comedian Bill Maher are only a few names that are part of this “New Atheism.” They are a passionate group of people with an open agenda to the world and their agenda is “to make god as imaginary as Zeus or the pink unicorn.” In light of their constant media appearances, they may actually be making a few converts on the way. But, of course, we in the evangelical world have nothing to fear. After all, over 80% of Americans believe in God. They fight vehemently to get God back in the government schools; they fight so that prayer will once again be re-instituted in these schools. They fight for the God-agenda. So, what have we to fear? The answer is everything, for if we fight in the name of an unnamed God, we are no better than the atheist. We may make a few converts on the way, but these converts will be like seeds which fall into the ground and are swallowed up.

As people of the covenant, we do not fight in the Name of an unknown God, but we fight in the name of the God of Scriptures. We trust in the One True God. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that demands allegiance from all His covenant people.

What we celebrate and proclaim this day is “that this one true God, the God of the Bible, is the Triune God, one God eternally existing in three persons.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from each other.  Each of them is fully God.  And yet there is only one God.”[1]

It is this confession that distinguishes us from every cult and every religious expression outside the confessional and apostolic Christian tradition.

Cultists will say to us that we have a mathematical problem. They will say: “How can your God be both Three and One?” Isn’t 1+1+1+=3? But you are saying 1+1+1=1. The cultists want you to rationalize the trinity. They want you to write it down in a formula.

Indeed if we are honest, we will also say that the doctrine of the Trinity is a difficult one to understand. We know that the Bible says that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God, but what difference does it make? Why don’t we just say that we believe in God instead of the Trinitarian God? It will do away with any complicated explanation.

Dorothy Sayers summed up how many people feel about the Trinity when she wrote this little creed:

Q.  What is the doctrine of the Trinity?
A.  ‘The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible.’  It’s something put in by theologians to make it more difficult — it’s got nothing to do with daily life or ethics.[2]

But as Trinitarian Christians, we know that the doctrine of the Trinity is not some obscure and irrelevant doctrine put in Systematic Theologies to confuse us. We know that our entire lives depend on the True God who is Father, Son, and Spirit.

Purpose: On this Trinity Sunday, I would like for us to see the reaction of a prophet with unclean lips as He sees a glimpse of His great God.

We have seen in the Pentecost Sermon that the problem with Babel was that their lips were unclean. They spoke words contrary to Yahweh. They spoke the language of idolatry. They intermarried and therefore their lips were unfit to speak for Yahweh. As a result, God scattered their lips, their tongue. Their lips were self-condemnatory. Babel experienced the flood of Noah’s day. Whereas in Noah’s days the bodies of the wicked were scattered, in Babel’s day the unclean lips were scattered.

At Pentecost we see a reversal of this. Pentecost marks the beginning of a new era in redemptive history. The lips of man are made clean by the cleansing power of the Spirit who baptizes man and capacitates them to be witnesses of the Triune God to the ends of the earth. The Holy Trinity is at work in empowering the Church to spread the fame and glory of the ascended Messiah.

In Isaiah 6, we find a similar pattern. Isaiah says in verse 5 that his lips are unclean. This is Isaiah’s response after hearing the seraphim praise Yahweh. The seraphim cry out: Holy, Holy, Holy! The seraphim have clean lips. Isaiah’s glimpse into that vision is a glimpse into holy and pure worship. At that moment, he recognizes that his lips are unclean. “The prophet must first of all be made conscious of his own sin and unworthiness before he can praise God as he should.”[3]

The lips of Babel were unclean. They could not worship Yahweh rightly. Yahweh is going to undo Babel through Isaiah. He is going to cleanse Isaiah’s lips. He is going to cleanse Isaiah of any false understanding of Yahweh.

What is taking place here? What is this all about? Why do Isaiah’s lips need to be cleansed?

This vision occurs in the year that King Uzziah died. Why is this year so significant as a foundational information in Isaiah’s vision? King Uzziah had a long reign of 52 years. His reign was one of basic peace and prosperity. Those were days of uncertainty;[4] days when anarchy might ensue.

Isaiah sees the Lord high and lifted up in the year that King Uzziah dies. But how did King Uzziah die? According to II Chronicles 26[5] King Uzziah was struck with leprosy when he tried to burn incense to the Lord at the temple. It was not the King’s duty to burn incense, it was a priestly duty. As punishment, the Lord struck him with leprosy. A leprous man was not able to enter the temple, the house of the Lord. King Uzziah became ceremonially unclean. He was cut off from the holy presence. This is why it is so significant for Isaiah to be made clean. The ceremonial uncleanness of the king led Isaiah to his vision of the purity of the heavenly temple where all lips are clean.

In that heavenly vision, Isaiah saw the true King of all creation sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. How can a man see God? John 1:18 tells us that no man has seen God at anytime; not in the Old Testament nor in the New. As E.J. Young writes: “In mysterious manner the power of God came over the prophet, so that he became unconscious to the outside, external world, and yet with the inner eye saw what God revealed to Him.”[6] It is proper to say that Isaiah saw a manifestation of God in a Person. It is so clear that he can see Him seated upon a throne. The throne is a sign of kingship and judgeship. God is the great Judge; the One who will put all the world’s injustices into right; the One who will punish the wicked. He is also the great and mighty King. There is no greater King. There is a sense in which God as the great and glorious King is preparing Isaiah for his commissioning, but Isaiah is not yet ready. He must cleanse and consecrate Himself. He must commune in the presence of God before he is prepared to proclaim God’s message to the nations.

Finally, his robe fills the temple. This is a solemn and exalted vision. “The long, loose, flowing train of his robe fills the heavenly temple. There is no room left for anyone to stand. Isaiah remains silent. His lips are sealed.

As the vision unfolds, God is attended by His heavenly court. The text says that the heavenly attendants were seraphim, which means “burning ones.” They cover their faces. They cannot look into the brightness of the Lord. The seraphim are “personal, spiritual beings for they have faces, feet and hands, they employ human speech and understand moral concepts.”[7] They are simply waiting a call to serve their Lord. They are ready, obedient servants.

Then the seraphim are said to cover their feet. Two wings cover their faces because the seraphim cannot look into the brightness of God’s face and then two wings cover their feet. There have been many interpretations of this, but the one that seems most likely is the interpretation that the angels are concealing their feet from Isaiah. Isaiah only gets a glimpse of the glory and majesty of God, so too, he only gets a glimpse into angelic worship. The text says that with the other two wings they fly. They are prepared at any moment to do the Lord’s bidding. They are servants of the Most High God.

And what follows is the seraphim’s favorite song of praise: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” “They are engaged in the task of chanting His praises.”[8]

This signifies the entirety of the divine perfection. This is proof that there is a separation between the Creator and the Creature. The early church believed that this three-fold reference was a reference to the Triune God as if to say: Holy is the Father; Holy is the Son; and Holy is the Spirit. Whether this is a reference to the triune God or not, what is significant is how this three-fold hymn of praise affects Isaiah. This becomes Isaiah’s favorite designation of God. He refers to God as “The Holy One of Israel,” throughout the rest of the book.

In this vision, the earth responds in two forms according to verse 4, the foundations of the earth shook and the house was filled with smoke when the voice was heard. God remains unshaken, but the earth shakes at the voice of adoration. Is this the result of pure God-exalting worship? Yes. Is this the worship of today’s church? No. Is this the God whose reverence the modern church has trivialized? Is this the man-upstairs as people refer to? No. No. This is the Lord of hosts! “The reason for this shaking is to be found in the voice which the criers make, as they chant the praise of the Holy One who sits upon the throne.”[9]

And smoke fills the house. In this vision, this is the sacrificial incense/smoke that rises into the presence of God. The cries of Holy, Holy, Holy produces a “solemn reverence and awe.”[10] Isaiah’s response is one of confession: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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!” Isaiah realizes that he too is unclean and cut off from the presence of God. He is just like those in Babel with unclean lips. He needs to be cleansed so he may ascend into the presence of God. Note the familiar sacrificial language of verse 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.” Isaiah like an animal about to be sacrificed is cut up, washed, cleansed and then purified by fire so he may become an acceptable sacrifice unto God. Fire always purifies; it is preparatory for proper worship.

Isaiah’s lips are made clean; his guilt is taken away and now he may ascend into the presence of God and commune with Him before he is commissioned by God.

How shall we then live?

What we have in Isaiah 6 is the total refutation of all childish, insincere, corrupted, trivialized and un-Trinitarian worship. Earlier I asked if it is enough to simply believe in God. The answer according to Isaiah is that only One God deserves honor. Atheism is successful because they stereo-type the God that most in this country proclaim: A weak, powerless and unworthy creation of human imagination. The American god is not enough! We need a call to true Biblical Trinitarian worship.

Isaiah gives us this great picture: First, we are called into His presence. Then we confess our sinfulness corporately. Thirdly, we consecrate ourselves by singing his praises, hearing the word, confessing a common faith. Fourthly, we commune with him by eating bread and drinking wine. Finally, we are as Isaiah, commissioned to be prophets of the most High-God and we go not alone, but with His great blessing. He will keep us, make His face to shine upon us and give us His peace.

If the people of God are going to cry out against the immoral acts of this nation, we must first cry out as the seraphim did in worship. So that when we cry out against the fools of this age, we will have not just any god on our side, but the True, Triune, Holy, Holy, Holy Father, Son and Spirit as our true King and Judge whose presence fills the temple, yes, even the whole earth. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] John Barach, personal correspondence. Sermon on John 1.

[2] From Barach’s sermon on John 1.

[3] E.J. Young, Vol. I, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, pg. 248.

[4] Some thoughts from Rev. Mickey Schnider’s notes.

[5] Verses 16-21

[6] E.J. Young, pg. 236.

[7] Young, 240-241.

[8] Ibid., 241.

[9] Ibid., 247.

[10] Ibid.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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