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. 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. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 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!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” -Isaiah 6:1-8
Our devotional book, written by the folks of base camp, started on day 1 with this passage from Isaiah. On our last day, I returned to it. It was a fitting book end. The Lord’s holiness and glory is what compels us to do what we are doing. The devo and many conversations with base campers have imparted to me such wisdom from this passage. There is more to this passage than a glimpse at the glory of God. There is a progression here that is vital to see.
- The glory of God is seen. In Piper’s book, “Let the Nations Be Glad”, he says missions exists because worship does not. The kind of worship he describes is a complete satisfaction in God through Christ. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Where worship does not exist, God’s glory is not being proclaimed. Everything God does in existence is for the purpose of glorifying God. The completeness of His glory is found in the praise of creation.
- In encountering God’s glory, Isaiah expressed woe and lostness. Man is so far from God that His glory is unapproachable. His holiness would utterly destroy us in our depravity. If one thinks about the magnificence of the temple that the throne of God resides in, how much more is the holiness of God that this part of His character can shake its foundations? We are unclean in our sin and we are surrounded by uncleanness. In terms of the Eastern culture were in, we brought shame to our Creator in our sin, and nothing we can do can restore that honor.
- From the glowing embers of the altar of the Lord of Hosts, to the lips of Isaiah, here we see that God makes us clean. There is no indication that Isaiah can make himself clean. The seraphim flew to Isaiah, touched his lips with the coal, and announced his sin atoned for. His shame was removed by God. This is an act He initiated. I see the compassion and love of God, and the foreshadowing of Christ. From seeing the glory of the Most High God, to despairing in our utter depravity, to being made able to stand clean in His presence…
- And then the voice of God calls for obedience. And Isaiah responds with willing eagerness, to be sent by God to fulfill His will. Our satisfaction in God is found in an obedience of faith that makes Him look good and brings about His glory to the ends of the earth. That is His design. Apart from the seeking of His glory, we will be dissatisfied. The base campers’ consistent message is that they serve out of the overflow of the fullness God has given them. Perhaps we find ourselves lacking in obedience because we are not allowing God to fill us to overflowing. A passion for God is what fills us and if that is lacking, there is no passion for going because there is no overflow from which to serve and go. But the abundant life Jesus spoke of is just this: being filled–that’s our joy–and overflowing.
The seeking of the glory of God is the going with the proclamation of the gospel. Everything associated with this mandate–the suffering, the sacrifices, the weaknesses, the struggles–compels us toward God and away from the world, in order to find our satisfaction in Him. We encounter His glory, we recognize our depravity, we receive His grace, and we go in obedience. This is what the Holy Spirit has revealed from this passage and what I believe Piper is trying to communicate in his book–the reason why the motivation for missions is tied intimately to the glory of God.
I find my satisfaction in God through Jesus. I’m not even talking about having satisfaction in the gifts and blessings God gives. I’m talking being satisfied in God Himself. That’s it! We need to think about every single thing we have–material, intangible, relationally–and if we can be satisfied without it because we have God. The person who has Jesus and nothing else has everything. Jesus clearly explains the costs, including possessions, lands, family, money… anything. Will it feel like no sacrifice at all to give these things up because He is our satisfaction?
I’ll say it again. If disciple-making does not make sense, if missions seems like it is for someone else, then what else is satisfying you? Are the fears and possible sacrifices driving you away from God, or are they causing you to rely on Him? Because I have found the only response, when it’s not about me, to an encounter with the glory of God is joyful obedience, just like Isaiah discovered. That’s the place where I can receive His blessings that are for my good and for His glory. He fills me with joy and grace and mercy when I live the way He says I should. And then He gives more so that I start overflowing, and by which I give to others. Praise God.
He reveals Himself through His Word and that is why we must dedicate ourselves to the daily intake of the Word. Simply letting a preacher and a Sunday School teacher feed it to us will not produce the growth or the greater understanding of God’s character that is required to move from taking in milk as babies, to eating meat as spiritual adults. We’ll hold on to our children in safety rather than shoot them out as arrows into the darkness. We’ll sit back in the comfortable walls of our churches continuing to keep God for ourselves. We’ll miss out on the privilege of being considered worthy to be used by God to spread His Name. And we’ll find ourselves caught unawares at His return, ashamed that He found us asleep rather than being about the work that He left us to do.
I used to think heaven sounded like a drag, to be honest. It wasn’t a picture of sitting on fluffy white clouds with halos and harps. But it was something that I really wondered if I would enjoy, kneeling and worshiping God forever and ever like a slave forced to bow to His master. How awful my thoughts were. That is, until I began to understand being in the presence of the glory of God and how absolutely amazing that sounds! He showed me the true nature of His love and compassion, and now I can’t wait to get there and see His face! Not only that, but I’ll be there with every tribe, tongue, and nation singing His praise! Oh come, Lord Jesus, and let us finish this task to hasten Your return!