Gospel For Life

Training and building disciples for Christ

The Three Essential ‘Chords’ of True Worship (Isaiah 6:1-8)

In our culture of mass consumerism; we live with the incessant demand to match needs with people and products – this destroys interest in the transcendence of God (David Wells). 

 

As a result; so much of religion has been tainted with marketing; and squeezed through the ‘die of consumerism’.  I’m reminded of ancient Tyre; the marketplace of nations; the prototype of economic Babylon—Tyre was an international shopping mall where one could buy everything from jewelry to slaves to fleets of ships to mercenary armies. 

 

The stench of pride from the city of Tyre ascended all the way to heaven—the king of Tyre made his heart like the heart of God (the Scripture says).  The city was a breeding ground for the pride of life—its citizens made their living off of satisfying every imaginable wish of consumers. 

 

Like Tyre of old; so much of our culture is addicted to mass consumption—consumers sit as king—they vote with their dollars—the rise and fall of corporations hangs upon our spending habits. 

 

Consumers (flattered by constant advertising) live the illusion that they are meeting their own needs through human resources.  But what is normalized in our society; a culture that worships consumption; is a monstrous aberration.  Bunyan called it what is really is; the City of Destruction hurtling into hell.

 

Churches have not been unaffected by the idol of consumerism. To stem the exodus of members—many have tailored Christianity to consumerism.  We have full-service churches competing for members—people choosing on the basis of who delivers the goods in the most efficient and winsome manner.  In the process, the “otherness” of God is domesticated; He is reduced to harmless.  God is no longer understood as standing outside the sinner, summoning him to repentance.  By contrast, the God of Scripture calls the sinner to repent and (by the knowledge of Almighty God), be emancipated from the deception of external appearances (appearances which the unbeliever regards as reality).

 

Is this a dream or a nightmare to be in church as a religious consumer? As Bible-believing Christians; I think your answer would be the latter.  Consumerism has reshaped worship.

 

Because modernity is appalled by the great things of God; worship has been redefined—it is no longer the humbled sinner falling at the feet of his Savior in wonder; love; awe; and repentance—it is about the self; my experience of worship; my fulfillment; my security; my blessing; my psyche salved and comforted.

 

Dear people I’m telling you what you already know—no one has ever come as a consumer to God—and then truly worshipped.  God cannot be used—consumer and worshipper are antithetical terms. What distinguishes a worshipper from a consumer?  A true worshipper knows God as He truly is. 

 

Isaiah 6 puts into bold relief the three notes (or chords) that comprise true worship:

 

1.) God is majestic, transcendent Creator.

2.) He is the Holy One, Lawgiver, righteous Judge.

3.) He is merciful Redeemer.

 

There is an echo of all three of these in true worship (wonder at His majesty, reverence for His holiness; and awe at His redeeming mercy).

 

ISAIAH 6:1-8:

 

1 In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out 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 trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.

5 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."6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth {with it} and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven." 8 Then 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!" (NASB)

 

Isaiah’s vision was granted at a significant turning point in Judah’s history.  The prophet Isaiah served under the reign of four different kings of Judah; Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.  The vision given to Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 6 took place around the last year of Uzziah’s life (6:1).   

 

Under the reign of Uzziah there had been a period of great prosperity in Judah (2 Chronicles 26:5-15).  Once Uzziah’s fame had spread afar after so much help from God, the king’s heart became proud (2 Chronicles 26:15-16). 

 

His pride led him into corrupt actions; He presumed upon the Levitical priesthood.  Though not a Levite; he took to himself the sacred privilege of burning incense in the temple; Uzziah broke the type of Christ depicted by the priests; he sought unmediated worship of God.

 

In so doing, the king exposed his own polluted, leprous and tainted being.  In affect his actions said, “I do not need a Savior!”  (As believers safe in the New Covenant the formula for our worship is still, “through Him,let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (Heb 13:15a).

 

Eighty-one courageous Levites confronted Uzziah concerning his sin (2 Chronicles 26:17, 18).  As a divine judgment, leprosy broke out on the face of the King during his prideful act.  Subsequently the king was cut off from the House of the Lord and lived in a separate dwelling until the day of his death (2 Chronicles 26:19-21).

 

On Uzziah’s sarcophagus reads the following Aramaic inscription, “Hence were brought the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah, and not to be opened.”  The final prohibition in that epitaph is a mute testimony to the danger and disgrace of leprosy (in modern vernacular, warning would read, biohazard!). 

 

Uzziah’s end marked the passing of a golden age of both physical blessing and spiritual vigor in Judah. Isaiah saw that such a decline in leadership would lead to the moral decay of the nation.  In addition, the Syrian threat was already edging the people toward panic (Isaiah 7:2).  Those foreboding circumstances weighed heavily upon the discouraged prophet.

 

It was a signal mercy that Isaiah was granted a life-transforming vision of the majesty of God (Isaiah 6:1).  For the heavy-hearted prophet knew he would have to face a spiritually weak and decaying Judah.  As the prophet kneels in prayer at the temple in Jerusalem, God graciously gives to him a life-changing vision of His glory.  Such a vision of God’s majesty must have assured the prophet that Yahweh reigned in omnipotence from His heavenly throne.  Worshipped by mighty angelic beings, God was seen as executing His government with perfect wisdom and power.

 

What a comfort this must have been to the prophet who was witness to the apparent triumph of wickedness on earth. 

 

Isaiah’s vision opened up the prophet’s understanding to the overpowering holiness of God.  So great was the impact of God’s holiness upon Isaiah that subsequently it becomes a frequent theme in his message.  (So much of the book of Isaiah is the cure of spiritual declension by the sight of God’s majesty. The counsel of the divines to their understudies still applies today; read and re-read the book of Isaiah until you have a sight of the majesty of God.)

 

Subsequent to his vision; the prophet loves to speak of “The Holy One of Israel.” This divine title is used 26 times in the book of Isaiah.

 

Isaiah 6 is a record of the prophet’s vision; of his interaction with God’s throne room. Though not an exact model to be reproduced in the saint; much of Isaiah 6:1-8 does contain the three elements common to biblical worship (outlined in Scripture). 

 

During his vision, Isaiah moves from reverent spectator (6:1-4) to confounded responder (6:5), to grateful recipient (6:6,7), to eager servant 6:8).  Each of these spiritual postures exhibited by the prophet demonstrates the outworking of both God’s holiness recognized and God’s person contemplated. 

 

There are Principles of worship and Prayer That Flow From a Proper Contemplation of God.  It is not possible to worship God aright unless He is contemplated as He truly is (John 4:24).  “[True] religion begins when we realize our dependence on the absolute, infinite Being, the eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient God” (Geerhardus Vos).    

 

As the prophet Isaiah lifts his soul to God, three distinct notes make up the chord of his response to God’s attributes.  These three “notes” are essentials of true worship; God’s majesty as Creator/Ruler; His burning holiness; His redeeming grace.

 

I. The first of these three notes is enraptured contemplation of God’s perfection(s) (6:1).  The phrase, “The high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity,” is a phrase from Isaiah 57:15 that encapsulates God’s transcendental or metaphysical attributes.  As finite creatures, we are to reflect upon this unfathomable subject of God’s transcendence.  Though it is impossible for us to adequately think out the concept of God’s greatness, it is the first essential element in the contemplation of God.  It was the first note struck in Isaiah’s vision.  And it is the first step in stirring his soul to deep worship.

 

We could say that this first essential note of worship is ‘cosmic’ – for we are to contemplate God in His transcendence and grandeur; namely that He is above time, space, and nature.  He says of Himself, “I am that I am.”  In that statement to Moses; God is saying that He cannot be equated with anything on earth.  He is self-existent; self-determined; self-contained; and self-defined.  He gives meaning and existence to all other things in the created order.  (How infinite the gulf between self-existence and finite creature!)

 

We are His thought stamped upon clay.  We have no independent foundation in our own being.  God, by constant command, holds all things together.  He sustains the principle of life in all living things.  If He withdrew His Spirit; there would be an immense collective sigh as every living thing perished and returned to the dust from which it came.  (For from Him, through Him, and to Him are all things.)

 

In coming to God in worship it is incumbent upon the believer to affirm the creature-Creator distinction.  For we are not adequately humbled until that infinite gulf between flesh and Spirit is reverently considered (Isaiah 40:6; Psalm 100:3).  It is our work in worship to bring our hearts low before Him.

 

Dear people, we tend to put God in a religious compartment – we are gradually  blinded to His majesty; we cease to see Him as Lord of the cosmos; Lord of history and providence.  At times it takes a crisis – God breaks into the little hut of sticks we have built; He seeks to deliver us from that deadening habit of bringing your religious self to the small God we have shrunk to fit in religious compartment.(EXAMPLE: without theexpanded vision of seeing God’s majesty; our vision is narrow—like trying to look at the Milky Way through a keyhole—you only see a few stars.)

 

A fresh sight of God’s majesty is all about perspective and vantage point; about the recovery of Divine View Point.  Consider the view from an airliner – at 20,000 feet you can see individual vehicles; but you cannot see people—when flying I try to get a window seat to remind me of how I would look from 20,000 feet – totally insignificant!

 

Regarding the grandeur of God—recent images back from the Hubble telescope have shocked even the most seasoned astronomers.  One was heard saying, “We are seeing structures more fantastic than we could possibly have imagined” There are massive fingers of glowing gas and dust—if you traveled at the speed of light; you would not traverse them in a lifetime.

 

If this is God’s “finger-work,” then surely in His predestinating wisdom and counsels; He has written the prayers of His people, and the answers to those prayers into His eternal decree.  Surely He has cast His attributes and faithfulness into the promises of the Gospel.  Surely He has woven the tears and sighs; losses and crosses of His blood-bought people into His master plan to conform us into the image of His Son.

 

Says author David Wells:

 

Today we are afflicted with a cultural Christianity that is for the most part blind to divine majesty.  Divine transcendence has been abandoned for immanence which produces a “faith” of little consequence.  Modernity is appalled by the great things of God.  There is trauma in retaining the God of grandeur. The cost of retaining the knowledge of God is ongoing repentance.

 

In our repentance; we’ll need to cultivate a sense of wonder concerning God’s grandeur. There are countless access points to the grandeur of God; the Psalms are full of them.

 

It’s difficult to think of a believer with more negative circumstances than Job.  He lost family; possessions; health; and the loyalty of friends.  Yet when God is about to heal and restore him; He begins by giving him a sight of divine majesty.

 

He asks Job questions about hawks, whales; mountain goats, ice, geology, and thunderstorms (Job 38-41). God ‘heals’ Job’s troubled spirit by a sight of His majesty.

 

In our own meditations; we are plunged into a sense of wonder when we take the time to ask questions about God’s creation and His rule over it: Consider the multitude of finely tuned parameters that permit life on earth—our planet’s size, distance from sun, ratio of gases, axis, length of day, ratio of elements, percentage of water, depth of the atmosphere.  Change even one of these and there is no life as we know it. 

 

I ask myself; when was the last time I was lost in awe, wonder, love and praise when contemplating the grandeur of God?  (EXAMPLE: Only God could make a lumpy caterpillar into a multicolored creature that sips nectar and rides the wind. – we are jaded by our media-saturated culture; and by over-scheduled lives; we need to recover a sense of wonder at the works of God in order to ‘see’ His majesty again.)

 

When you walk and pray; and come upon an insect; a bird; a lizard; ask, “Lord how does this little creature in front of me recognize its food; its mate; its enemies; its hiding places—all without training?  How is its body constructed in secret from a tiny speck of an egg?  Say along with Job, “These things are too wonderful for me”(Job 42:3).  I quickly reach the end of competence when I try to figure them out.  Lord, I joyfully bow before your infinite wisdom. 

 

The majesty of God overturns any residual attempts on our part to come to God as consumers.  (We’ve seen our first chord of worship—divine majesty; that worship begins with the spiritual sight of God’s majesty.)

 

II. The second note struck (of the three) is the contemplation of God’s holiness or moral majesty (vv. 6:2-5).  God’s moral glory (or holiness) is the ground of His being.  His holiness is synonymous with His divinity.  “God’s glory is His holiness made manifest.”

 

The angels do not call out, eternal, eternal, eternal, or, faithful, faithful, faithful.  The angels who called out “holy, holy, holy,”—they were sinless creatures yet they covered their faces and feet. (6:2,3). Holy angels did not look at God eye to eye; their eyes did not meet their Creator’s – the message is God must bring us to Himself.  He is unapproachable in the sense that no creature has seen or will see His full glory—they couldn’t bear it.  God allows proximity (or closeness); but never full revelation. 

 

God’s holiness is revealed in the exercise of every single attribute—in every action, in everything He decrees, in every contact with His creatures, whether mercy or judgment, His holiness is manifested (Psalm145:17).  God has no degree of holiness, His holiness is absolute.  There is an infinite moral gulf between creature and Creator.  Moral majesty is innately His; by contrast the most holy creature has only aderived or created holiness. 

 

The quaking temple filling with smoke (6:4) is reminiscent of the manifestation God made of Himself on Mt. Sinai.  The congregation under Moses in the wilderness at the base of smoking Sinai was deeply affected; they trembled in terror, but not in awe and reverence. 

 

Says Warfield, “It is pre-eminently the holiness of God that constitutes the terror of the Lord . . . .  Sinful man cannot be incited to holy activity by the sight of holiness; it begets no longing in his heart but to hide himself away from it.”

 

Edwards makes a similar observation, “Only redeemed men see the beauty of God’s moral perfection.  The first glimpse of God’s moral glory shining into the heart produces an affect that nothing can withstand. Natural men may be greatly affected by God’s greatness; but it is only saints and angels that see the beauty of God’s holiness.  He who sees the beauty of God’s holiness must necessarily see the hatefulness and evil of sin.”

 

Often believers make a habit of beginning their prayers with no acknowledgement of who God is.  Where such a spirit of haste, and unpreparedness exist; there is often little incentive for worship and confession of sin.  We need to begin with the contemplation of who God is in His majesty and holiness.   David Wells addresses the problem,

 

The Church is enfeebled because it has lost the sense of God’s holiness and sovereignty.  God rests tooinconsequentially upon the Church – His truth is too distant, the gospel too easy, Christ too common.  God’s redemptive presence in truth and holiness are found only on His terms, not ours.  We must have God transcendent in holiness, or we do not know Him! 

 

Since the Fall, God’s holiness is the attribute of God most hated by the apostate creature.  Fallen man has enmity toward God’s holiness—sinners wish to depart from the intensity of the light of God’s moral majesty. It is unbearable to sinners that God eternally hates sin and that He has manifested His holy character in His laws.  The ungodly man dreams of a land without God’s laws; he dreams of a permanent moral vacation (some clever copywriters have turned this heart sentiment of sinners into ads for Las Vegas).

 

By contrast; the child of God has holy longings; he is attracted to holiness; ravished by it; amazed by the beauty of God’s holiness; drawn to its light.    

 

The foundations and thresholds of the temple trembled at the voice of him who called out; and the temple was filling with smoke (v. 6:4).  Smoke speaks of fire; of the burning purity of God’s holiness. 

 

Oh consider that God is a consuming fire; He is determined to consume as a furnace—everything and everyone that is not like Him in holiness.  Grace is not a plan to get you to heaven without holiness.  Sin makes the wicked highly combustible.  It makes the wicked into grapes of wrath to be tread down; intothorns and chaff to be burned. 

 

And what are we to make of the shaking?  The present created order will remain ONLY until God’s purposes are complete.  Then God will shake to powder every human institution so that His Son (with the redeemed) might inherit a Kingdom which cannot be shaken; a kingdom in which righteousness dwells. 

 

Notice in our text that God’s holiness is incredibly invasive to the soul of a man.  When His holiness invades; there is trauma (6:5).  Isaiah’s response is personal devastation.  He pronounces woes upon himself; a curse upon himself.  His conscience is burdened by a sight of his Creator’s holiness. 

 

This is more than the weight of guilt alone; it is the devastating consciousness that the moral life he lives before God is offensive to divine holiness. Put yourself in Isaiah’s sandals for a moment, “I thought I was doing o.k.; I imagined that in my religious self I was a profitable servant; that my religious duties were acceptable to God.  But I have looked over the brink; I have caught a glimpse of the infinite gulf between God’s holiness and my own deformity.  I am undone, annihilated; destroyed – a cumberer of the earth waiting to be swept from God’s creation like some unclean thing.  My lips are too impure to utter the words the angels are uttering; if I were to say them—it would be like pouring spring water from a garbage pail.” 

 

Understanding God’s holiness is a prerequisite to understanding the heinousness of our own sin and our need for redemption through Christ.  

 

Have you ever come face to face with the fact that your religious self fights against the trauma of God’s holiness?  We steer away from the trauma of holiness by lowering the market—by allowing our hearts to set up a religious standard that is achievable in the flesh; Why? Because we are unwilling to be smitten by the sight of God’s holiness.

 

The contemplation of God’s holiness may produce a devastating awareness of personal sin.  Isaiah’s response to the sight of God’s holiness was personal devastation and self-condemnation. He pronounced woes upon himself (6:5).  The prophet’s conscience was burdened by the sight of God’s holiness. The knowledge of divine holiness brought trauma with it.  “No man begins to assess his own moral deformity until he is presented with God’s moral majesty” (Stephen Charnock).

 

Isaiah’s sense of personal unholiness terminated upon his organs of speech, the lips (6:5).  After beholding God’s holiness, he assesses himself a moral wreck who deserves to be swept from God’s universe along with all other things that are corrupt and impure.  His mouth is unfit to join in the angelic song.  

 

Beholding God’s holiness involves an attitude of penitence that invites God’s examination of us (Psalm 139:23,24).  Our natural desire is to shield ourselves from a sense of judgment and moral failure.  The whole bent of our nature is to lower the standard of righteousness to a humanly achievable level.  But, beholding God’s holiness in worship devastates our craving for personal merit—it withers our self-righteousness. It casts us upon God in Christ for all our standing before Him (Philippians 3:9).

 

In order to abandon our twig hovels of dead works; we will have to be rocked; staggered; even devastated by the sight of God’s holiness.  Calvin remarks concerning this poverty of spirit, “It is necessary that the godly should be affected in this manner, when the Lord gives tokens of his presence, that they may be brought low and utterly confounded.” 

God meets the humble and contrite.  That posture of heart is vital in worship; God has promised to manifest His presence to those who come to Him in a lowly and penitent spirit (Isaiah 57:15).  Isaiah entered the dark tunnel of personal devastation over his sin.  God met him there, revived his spirit.  He was lifted to a place of awe and joy.  God graciously brought His servant out of that dark tunnel (He will do the same for you).

Our responsibility is to see that the heart postures of humility, contrition and fear of God are formed in us (Isaiah 66:1,2).

Geerhardus Vos is so helpful here, “God has chosen the conditions of humility and contrition to prepare a man to receive the presence of God in his soul.  These conditions have no merit in themselves.  They merely constitute the godly response to the loftiness, holiness, eternal glory, and divinity of God.”

What a contrast to shielding self from judgment. The devastation that the natural man assiduously shuns, the spiritual man is willing to experience.  The godly are willing to feel ruined, devastated, and undone over their sin.  They welcome deep conviction of sin knowing that God delights in drawing near the contrite and in reviving their spirits (Psalm 147:3; 57:15).

Isn’t it ironic that those who seek to be constantly happy by avoiding lowliness and contrition should find that true joy is unattainable.  By contrast, the contrite believer proves as Isaiah did that God is able to melt dread into love and to bring reverence, awe and adoration out of devastation (Isaiah 6:6-8).

Let us be honest about what holds us back from contemplating God’s holiness.  We wall off our sin and defeat and pronounce ourselves spiritually sound because we have the grace of God.  We take solace in the fact that we are Reformed in doctrine, hold to believers’ baptism, practice the regulatory principle of worship—our orthopraxy is precise; we are icons of correctness. 

But the real truth is that we will not worship aright and enjoy the sense of His presence if our sin stays in place.  Unconfessed “Christian” sins such as resentment; an unforgiving spirit; gossip; a critical spirit; grumbling; joylessness; pride; doubt and unbelief; selfishness; and pettiness must be confessed—not walled off—if we are to draw near to God.

 

Dear people; those willing to be devastated by a sight of divine holiness have the assurance that they will be personally comforted by God Himself (Is 57:15).  Confession and repentance are acts of worship. Isaiah’s right apprehension of God provides the correct apprehension of himself.  Repentance comes from contemplating your sin in the light of God’s holiness.

 

There is much encouragement in this passage; God never leaves His precious child in that dark tunnel of contrition—God takes delight in reviving the spirit of the contrite.  Those who descend into humble broken-hearted repentance over sin are personally comforted by God.  The fact that God consumes all that is not like Him in holiness drives us to Christ (fleeing for refuge in Him).   

 

A willingness to be confounded over divine holiness and personal sin is the very opposite of self-shielding; self-protection; and self-justifying behavior. You see those are the activities of the “religious self.” 

 

The religionist is always about the business of protecting himself from God (and using religion to do so)—it is evidence that he never really makes it a habit of taking full refuge in Christ.  By contrast, the true worshipper revels in God’s moral majesty.  We have seen the first two chords of true worship: divine majesty; and divine holiness.

 

III. The third note struck in the 3 chords of worship is self-surrender to God’s redemptive mercy

The contemplation of God’s holiness may produce a devastating awareness of personal sin.  Isaiah’s response to the sight of God’s holiness was personal devastation and self-condemnation. He pronounced woes upon himself (6:5).  The prophet’s conscience was burdened by the sight of God’s holiness. The knowledge of divine holiness brought trauma with it.  No man begins to assess his own moral deformity until he is presented with God’s moral majesty (Charnock).

Isaiah’s sense of personal unholiness terminated upon his organs of speech, the lips (6:5).  After beholding God’s holiness, he assesses himself a moral wreck who deserves to be swept from God’s universe along with all other things that are corrupt and impure.  His mouth is unfit to join in the angelic song.

Once Isaiah condemned himself at the sight of God’s holiness (6:5), God’s redeeming grace hastened to meet his need.  The red-hot coal applied to Isaiah’s lips (6:6,7.)  The coal originated at the altar of blood sacrifice according to Leviticus 16:12.  Therefore, that burning coal symbolized the total significance of the altar from which it came.  That is, the penalty of his sin had been covered by the bloody death of a substitute (Leviticus 1:3, 4, 4:20, 26, 35)—the coal ultimately symbolized the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice.

 

The blessedness of redemption received is contained in the marvelous truth that God actually proposes to share His holiness with us (Hebrews 12:10).  Never did divine holiness appear more beautiful than in the redemption accomplished through Messiah’s death (Stephen Charnock). 

 

“God draws back the veil and exhibits His holiness to His children.  In so doing He incites them to be holy also, holding His own holiness as the standard which they must strive to attain (1 Peter 1:16).  By exhibiting His holiness to us in redemption, it is a pledge that His children shall certainly attain to it” (B. B. Warfield).

It is God’s redemptive grace we must appeal to in prayer as we pursue holiness (Hebrews 4:16).  For His love, compassion and initiative in sending Christ is the warranty of all future grace promised to the saint (Romans 8:32).

The contemplation of redemption produces overflowing gratitude and thanksgiving in the child of God (Colossians 1:12-14, 2:6, 7).  This attitude of thanksgiving is to fill all of our worship and prayers (Colossians 3:17).

God’s constraining love and compassion are seen in His promise to send Messiah ( Isaiah 53).  God’s incarnate son would span not only the infinite ontological gulf that exists between Creator-creature (self-existent God and created flesh); but also the infinite moral gulf between God and sinner (Isaiah 9:6, 53:6). 

 

Through the redemption found in Christ the sinner becomes acceptable to God and is thereby enabled to delight in the beauty of God’s holiness (Revelation 4:1-8).  God has bared His holy arm in our salvation (52:10).  Oh we will never grow weary of the incredible theme that God has chosen to reveal His awful uncompromising holiness in the recovery and restoration of sinners through Christ.

 

God’s holiness is most beautiful to us in the death of Christ—God was pleased to bruise Him; crush Him; make Him a curse for us; to make Him sin for us that we might be right with the God of all holiness.  In the propitiation of the cross; God’s holiness is beautiful to us—it ravishes our souls.  Christ melts our dread of God into love; He brings us near for all eternity.  By His cross He makes blood-washed sinners acceptable to God and He makes God’s holiness beautiful to us.  From the blessed safety of Christ’s wounds; God’s people will forever gaze upon the beauty of God’s holiness.

 

In the Gospel we discover that God has passed a portion of His perfections to the creature. (Note the passages that speak of God imparting a portion of His perfections to the redeemed: 2 Peter 1:4 we are partakers of His divine nature; Hebrews 12:12 we share in His holiness; 2 Thess 2:14 we gain the glory of Christ Jesus). 

 

God is giving Himself to us in Christ.  The ongoing reception of Christ produces a reflexive love and worship back to God.

Beholding God’s holiness ought to be accompanied by an attitude of penitence that invites God’s examination of us (Psalm 139:23,24).  Our natural desire is to shield ourselves from a sense of judgment and moral failure.  The whole bent of our nature is to lower the standard of righteousness to a humanly achievable level.  But, beholding God’s holiness is an aspect of worship that is accompanied by a willingness to be smitten by the sight of God’s burning purity—it’s never an academic exercise; never the activity of a consumer or a spectator. 

Such a view of God flattens our craving for personal merit and withers our self-righteous contamination of duty.  It casts us upon God alone for all our standing before Him (Philippians 3:9).

Calvin remarks concerning such poverty of spirit, “It is necessary that the godly should be affected in this manner, when the Lord gives tokens of his presence, that they may be brought low and utterly confounded.”

God meets the humble and contrite.  Such a posture of heart is vital in worship, for God has promised to manifest His presence to those who come to Him in a lowly and penitent spirit (Isaiah 57:15).  Isaiah entered the dark tunnel of personal devastation over his sin.  God met him there, revived his spirit.  He was lifted to a place of awe and joy.  God graciously brought His servant out the other side of that dark tunnel.

Our responsibility is to see that the heart postures of humility, contrition and fear of God are formed in us (Isaiah 66:1,2). “God has chosen the conditions of humility and contrition to prepare a man to receive the presence of God in his soul.  These conditions have no merit in themselves.  They merely constitute the godly response to the loftiness, holiness, eternal glory, and divinity of God” (Vos).

The discomfort that the natural man assiduously shuns, the spiritual man is willing to experience.  The godly are willing in their contrition to feel ruined and undone over their sin.  They welcome deep conviction of sin knowing that God delights in drawing near the contrite and in reviving their spirits (Psalm 147:3).

If we seal off and wall off our moral failure and spiritual defeat—it will not come in contact with the blood of Christ.  We all know what that building material consists of that we use to shelter our personal sin (deadness; selfishness, lovelessness)—we conceal our sin behind our orthodoxy; our theology; our outward morality.

 

Isn’t it ironic that those who seek to be constantly happy by avoiding lowliness and contrition find that true joy is unattainable.  If you want everything sunny and bouncy; joy will evade you—for joy is a byproduct of God’s holiness holding sway in the conscience.

The contrite believer understands this; he proves as Isaiah did that God is able to melt dread into love and to bring reverence, awe and adoration out of devastation (Isaiah 6:6-8).  

If holiness slips from a central position, then the centrality of Christ is lost.  One cannot enter the knowledge of the Holy as a consumer, ONLY as a sinner.  Sin, grace, and faith are emptied of meaning apart from the holiness of God.

 

The blood of Christ is not a commodity that exists separate from His Person.  Those who flee to Christ’s blood for daily cleansing are dealing with Christ Himself—communing with Him; willing to be searched by Him; subject to Him; ruled by Him; consenting to His love; walking in the light of His countenance; craving to know Him better; striving to please Him; and animated by the awareness that they are utterly beholden (obligated) to Him forever.

 

This third chord of worship is lived out as surrender to God’s redemptive purposes in a man’s life.  The members of your body; your faculties of soul and heart are happily captive of God’s will and commands. God’s cause—to glorify Himself in the Church, is your cause.  God’s cause to prepare a people in Christ for glory is your cause.

 

Isaiah’s response to confession and cleansing of sin is eagerness for service to God.  Through confession and cleansing of sin, Isaiah was equipped for praise, for intercessory prayer and for the proclamation of God’s Word. 

There is an unspeakable sense of peace and joy when a man’s conscious life is rightly adjusted to the nature, the claims and the purposes of God (Vos, p. 264). 

 

Isaiah’s overflowing gratitude made him willing to serve God from the heart.  As E. J. Young observes, Isaiah 6 illustrates why so few are willing to serve God.  They lack the conviction of sin.  This lack precludes both confession of sin and service to God.  “Only when a man has been convicted of sin and has understood that the Redeemer has borne the guilt of his sin is he willing and ready joyfully to serve God.” 

 

A. W. Tozer makes a similar observation, “[Fruitfulness results from] the plowed life . . . that has, in the act of repentance thrown down the protecting fences and sent the plow of confession into the soul.” 

 

Isaiah’s worshipful response to God is no doubt a grateful reaction to God’s forgiving grace.  The phrase “who will go for us . . .” (6:8) makes it clear that the prophet is accepting not a single opportunity to serve but the challenge of a commitment to service.

 

Ongoing contemplations of God’s majesty equip a man for worship

and service.  The transforming power of God’s majesty is impressed upon the soul by meditation and prayer.  It is evident from Isaiah’s preaching that the vision of God’s majesty was an enduring theme in his meditations (Isaiah 26:7-13; 40:12-21; 42:5-9; 43:1-21). 

 

Vos notes just how fully Isaiah was consumed with the majesty of God.  “What else but the great thought of God supernaturally introduced into the soul of this man produced that untold wealth of spiritual power which even the world hostile as it is to divine truth, cannot help honoring when it puts him with the most illustrious examples of religious genius in all ages?”  

 

“Isaiah’s devotional life was exemplary, for “his mind was filled to overflowing with the thought of God. Isaiah’s warm spiritual glow so uniformly present in all his preaching [was] kindled at the altar-fire and kept forever burning in his soul by this vision of the divine glory”  (Vos).

 

“The things of true religion take hold of men’s souls only to the degree that they engage the affections.  The God Isaiah contemplated was the God Isaiah loved (Isaiah 61:10, 11).  The message he preached of God’s infinite majesty, holiness, wisdom, goodness and mercy was addressed to the affections” (Edwards).

 

Isaiah presents his readers and listeners with the divine vantage point.  The book of Isaiah, like no other, raises the reader to behold the majesty of God.  The prophet’s message has the profound ability to inspire awe of God. 

 

Conclusion:

We’ve seen what the sight of God’s majesty does to the saint—and how true worshippers long to have their hearts tuned to God by these three essential chords of worship.  Will you insist on these three chords in your own worship of God? – that heaven might say of you,  “That man; that woman worships in Spirit and in Truth.”

We’ve seen that the three chords: God in His majesty; Almighty Creator and Ruler; God the Holy One of Israel; and God in Christ reconciling us to Himself complete the three notes found in true worship. 

We must behold God as He truly is if we are to worship Him in Spirit and Truth. In beholding God in His Word; a man’s conscious life becomes “adjusted” to God’s nature; claims; and purposes.  It takes us off ourselves; lifts us above self-interest, animates our worship.  How we need the perspective of God’s throne room as our vantage point.  

All of our blessedness, well-being, and happiness are advanced by divine holiness taking hold of the creature.  Thus we constantly affirm—He makes us happy by making us holy.

We love and honor Him by pursuing holiness.  His command to us to be morally perfect is argued from our gaining a sight of His perfections; His holy character.  Manifest the purity of My nature by holiness in your lives – 1 Pet 1:15-16).

There must be an echo of holiness in those who approach God.  That echo manifests itself in separation and consecration unto God.  God’s holiness is intrusive to the inner man. To approach God’s holiness is to have the life of the inner man invaded by light that exposes everything.  But those who worship in contrition have the precious promise that God will dwell with them; revive them; and make His presence known to them:

 

“For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose Name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

 

Amen!