1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. 2 Winged creatures were stationed around him. Each had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew about. 3 They shouted to each other, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of heavenly forces!
All the earth is filled with God’s glory!”
4 The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”
6 Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.”
8 Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”
I said, “I’m here; send me.”
Isaiah 6:1-8 CEB
Do you remember the old Verizon Wireless commercials with the main character showing up in various places with a cell phone up to his ear, giving you the impression that he was talking to someone?
Whether he was in the city or out in a rural setting or someplace in-between, he would always ask the question, “can you hear me now?” Of course, the point that Verizon was trying to make was that their cell phone service was better than the competition.
I know some of you have experienced that in trying to talk with someone. Sometimes the person will sit there and smile at you and nod their head, and you know that they haven’t got a clue of what you said to them. Sometimes you see the frustration on their part as they struggle to hear what you are saying. They might even tell you to speak up. I had one person in the past who kept telling me to speak up, and I was thinking if I talked any louder, the neighbors are going to complain that I’m here yelling at you. Of course, it was all my fault as I was told they didn’t have a hearing problem; it was just that I was too soft-spoken for them to hear me.
The hearing problem that we so often get accused of isn’t something that going to a hearing specialist is going to fix. The issue revolves around a selective hearing loss, which isn’t a medical problem that a doctor can fix.
You know how it works. Your wife says, “honey, the trash can is full.” You mutter uh-huh, ok or something along that line, and go back to what you’re doing. What she was really saying to you was “get up out of your recliner and take the trash out now, I don’t care if it is a key point in the game or not, it needs to go out now.”
How about you’re watching your favorite sporting event, maybe a football game and she decides she wants to talk to you. You pretend to pay attention to what she is saying as she pours out her heart about all that has been going in her life. Your team suddenly scores a come from behind touchdown, and you start cheering loudly, and she heads out of the room, and she yells back at you that “you haven’t heard a word I said have you” just before she slams the bedroom door. And you’re left wondering why she’s so upset.
Selective hearing will get you into trouble.
Back when I was a Youth Pastor, I had two sisters in my youth group whose mom and dad were separated and threatening divorce. Mom and dad, even when they were getting along, didn’t come to church very often, but grandma did. She asked me to go and talk with her daughter, so I went for a visit, and I suggested to her that she and her husband arrange for some marriage counseling with our Senior Pastor. I talked with my Senior Pastor, and he told me I needed to handle it – I thought, oh great, I’m not prepared for this. I was still finishing up my course work towards ordination, and I think I had just taken the Pastor Care and Counseling course, so I guess he felt I needed to put what I learned into practice.
I set up a time for the mom and dad to come to the church and leading up to the meeting; I did a lot of praying about what to say and asking for wisdom. I didn’t know either of them very well, so I was questioning things just to try to get to know them. I had a strong impression from God that I needed to ask them about what it was that attracted them to each other, which lead to their marriage in the first place.
Since guys don’t typically like to share their feelings, I started with the mom. I made them sit looking at each other, and she shared those things that first attracted her to him. It was his turn, and I have expected just a short response about how beautiful she was or something along that line. But he began sharing from his heart, and it was at that moment that they realized that they hadn’t been hearing each other or, more importantly, they hadn’t been listening to each other.
I never got the chance to say any of the profound things that I wanted to say. God, the Holy Spirit, was already at work in their lives, and that day began the healing of their marriage. I’m so glad that I heard God speak to me and that I not only heard Him but listened to Him as I guided the conversation so that healing could begin.
Just like in a marriage, so it can be in our walk with God that we don’t hear what God wants to say to us today.
I believe that we need to hear from God again today! I don’t mean that we need to listen to another sermon but that we need to have a life-transforming revival from the Holy Spirit of God in our lives individually and in the church and our nation.
In this Scripture passage, Isaiah hears from God, not only does he hear from Him, but he is confronted by all his senses as he experiences being in the very presence of God. He is confronted by the Holiness of God.
Isaiah opens this chapter by stating something significant that we’re highly likely to skip over because we know what comes next. He wrote: “In the year that King Uzziah died.” Why is that significant? Well, for those who like to keep track of facts, it helps us put a date to when this event occurred. King Uzziah died in 742 B.C. – 742 years or so before the birth of Jesus.
You might be thinking, “big deal, who was King Uzziah after all?” This encounter that Isaiah had with God comes at a significant turning point in the national life of Israelites who lived in the Kingdom of Judah.
To learn about King Uzziah, you need to go back to 2 Chronicles chapter 26. The Scriptures tell us that when he was 16, he was made King of Judah following the death of his father. We learn that he reigned for 52 years. The writer of the Chronicles tells us in verse 5:
He sought God as long as Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, was alive. And as long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.
Note what is said there. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success. As long as he listened to God he had success.
The writer of the Chronicles goes on in the chapter to describe all the great things that were accomplished during Uzziah’s reign as the King of Judah. I would encourage you to read that chapter. Uzziah accomplished a great many things, and Judah grew to a great powerful nation because Uzziah listened to God.
But something happened to Uzziah along the way to all this success, and it’s described beginning in verse 15:
And so Uzziah’s fame spread far and wide because he had received wonderful help until he became powerful.
But as soon as he became powerful, he grew so arrogant that he acted corruptly. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God by entering the Lord’s sanctuary to burn incense upon the incense altar.
Do you see what happened to him? He became so powerful, and it went to his head. Some smart person said that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Somewhere along the way, Uzziah allowed all the power and fame to get to him, and he became proud of all the success that he had achieved.
The writer tells us that he entered the Temple, and he was going to burn incense on the altar. This really must have been some scene. I can almost picture in my mind the King and his entourage leaving the Palace and heading to the Temple because you know the King doesn’t go anyplace by himself. At the Temple, the Priests hear that the King is coming, so the Chief Priest and 80 other priests meet him and follow him into the Temple where they confront the King.
Uzziah heads right to where the censor is kept, and with it in his hands, the Priests confront him and tell him that he is not permitted to assume a role that is reserved for the priests. They remind him that the priests have been consecrated to perform that duty. And then notice what they tell him in verse 18:
you have been unfaithful! The Lord God won’t honor you for this.
I wonder if at this point had Uzziah handed over the censor and left the Temple, it might have turned out better for him, but notice what happens. The writer tells us that while he was raging at the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead. Did you catch that?
Uzziah didn’t listen to God, and he didn’t listen to the priests. In fact, did he not only not listen to the priests that he lost his temper and went into a rage. I can almost hear him screaming and yelling at him about how as King, he had the right to burn incense in the Temple because of all he had done.
And while he’s having his fit of rage, leprosy breaks out on his forehead. You can almost imagine the look of shock that comes over the priests and members of the King’s entourage as they look at his face and see what is happening. The writer tells us that the Priests hurry him out of the Temple and then closes out the chapter relating to us that the King lived the remainder of his life in a separate house. His son moved into the Palace and took over the day to day responsibilities of the government. In fact, when Uzziah died, he wasn’t even buried in the same cemetery as his ancestors, but instead, he was buried in a field adjacent to the royal cemetery.
What a devastating end to a man who had been so blessed by God. Somewhere along the way, he stopped listening to God and started listening to himself and those around him about what a great job he was doing.
What a reminder to us that not listening to God and allowing sin in our lives that it will cause us to end up in a place in our life that we never dreamed we’d ever be.
So here we have the prophet Isaiah dealing with this national tragedy as their King who had accomplished so much, and for the bulk of his life he did in honor of God is now dead. Amid the grief Isaiah writes:
In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord
Wow! Really, Wow! Isaiah was given a glimpse into heaven, and he sees God and not only sees Him, but he hears Him. Here in this scene, Isaiah sees the holiness and the glory of God, and he is convicted of his own unrighteousness, and he cries out in verse 6:
I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”
Oh, that God and His Holiness would so confront us and that we would see a great revival break out in my life, in your life, in our church.
You can’t be in God’s presence and not be changed. You might think that you’ve never heard and never will hear God speak to you. If you are a Christian today then God the Holy Spirit has indeed spoken to you. If you’ve experienced the Sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in your life, then God has spoken to you. God’s probably not going to talk to you like He did Isaiah, but God does speak to us today. The danger, just like for King Uzziah, is that we can become spiritually hard of hearing.
In the parable of the sower that was read to us early, Jesus tells the story of the farmer going out and planting his crop, spreading the seed that falls in various places around his fields.
Some of the seed falls on the pathway, and it just gets trampled by those walking. Jesus describes it as those who hear about salvation, and Satan comes along and takes away the word. They never get a chance to believe and respond to salvation.
Some of the seed falls among the rocks and sprouts, but there is no soil to hold the moisture, so the plant withers and dies. Jesus describes it as those who hear with joy and receive salvation, but they don’t have any root, and when life gets a little tough, they fall away.
Some of the seed falls where the weeds and thorns grow and get chocked out. Jesus described them as hearing the word, but there is way too much going on in their life, and they never mature in their faith. There is nothing worse than someone who claims to be a Christian for 20 or 30 years or more, but they’ve never grown in their faith.
Then Jesus tells about the seed that falls on the fertile soil and grows, and the farmer harvest a crop. He’s describing the Christian who not only hears from God and responds but goes on and grows and matures and produces fruit in their life. That’s the kind of Christian I want to be.
Now you almost think that Jesus is done talking with his disciples, but he goes on and talks about lighting a lamp and putting it out on a stand and not hiding it, and then he says something curious. He says in verse 18:
Therefore, listen carefully. Those who have will receive more, but as for those who don’t have, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them.
How well do you listen to God?
It would seem that from what Jesus is saying that this listening is not just a one-time thing, but it is an ongoing process. Thinking back on Isaiah, his life wasn’t lived out on a one-time hearing and experiencing God. It was a daily walk with God, and it’s all a part of that consecrating our entire being to God, including our hearing, our listening.
Way too often, we reverse this when it comes to church and hearing from God. We evaluate the message and the messenger and not sit and listen to the one who sends the message.
You know how it goes, we leave the church, and we ask ourselves or maybe others, “How was the Sermon?” That means we’re just evaluating the preacher. We might say well, he was a little boring today, or he was long-winded today, or he didn’t meet my needs today. I know because I’ve sat and done and said those very things.
Wouldn’t it be much better and Biblical to listen to what God is trying to say to you through the message? Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching.” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Too many times, we’re more concerned about what time it is while we’re sitting in the service. We worry if the preacher is going to preach past the time the service should be over. What am I going to have for lunch when I get out of here? I promised my family I’d be there at 12:30, I hope the preacher finishes early today because I have to run home first before meeting them at the restaurant.
Is our company going to get that new contract, or will I be out of a job? Am I going to have enough money to pay my bills? Will I be able to take that vacation?
How much better would it be for us to push those distractions away and say like the young Samuel said when God called him, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
For those of us who are Christians, God has called us to be Holy. How can we even possibly hear that call if we allow so many distractions into our life that we never hear Him? How can we possibly hear from God if we never take the time to listen to Him?
Jesus said to consider carefully how you listen.
It’s one thing to choose not to listen to gossip or lies or something that would draw us away from God. That should be obvious and a given in our life. It’s an entirely different thing to so order our lives so that they are attuned to what is holy and pure so that we hear and not just hear but truly listen to what God is saying to us.
In His holy and glorious presence, our holiness begins. Not only does the holiness of God call out the Christ who can redeem us, but it also gives us the promise that we can be imprinted with His character. “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16) is not an optional command.
God desires that we be holy as He is holy.
God, our heavenly father, being holy, wants us, His children, to be holy like Himself.” After entering into the awesome presence of the Holy God with Isaiah, we can only sing the prayer,
Teach me to love Thee
As Thine angels love,
One holy passion,
Filling all my frame.
The baptism of the heaven-descended Dove,
My heart an altar,
And Thy love the flame.
McKenna, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1993). Vol. 17: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 17 : Isaiah 1-39. Formerly The Communicator’s Commentary. The Preacher’s Commentary series (108). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.