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Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory

By Horatius Bonar

      Isaiah 6:1-13

      WHETHER this vision records Isaiah's first call to the prophetic ministry matters not. It is either the introduction to his whole ministry, or to a new section of it, probably the latter; the first five chapters describing Israel as ripening for judgment, and the sixth as receiving the sentence. Let us take up the chapter under the following heads.

      I. The vision. It was a temple vision, a vision of glory, the glory of Jehovah of hosts, as such, the glory of the King and the Priest, of the throne and temple; and all this when Uzziah the king lay dying or was dead,--the earthly king passing away, the heavenly King shewing himself. It was truly a royal and glorious vision,--Jehovah himself the centre of it,--King of kings and Lord of lords, true King of Israel and of the earth, true Melchizedek, a Priest upon his throne. In connection with this King are the seraphim. Probably these are the same as cherubim, as they are almost identical with those described in Ezekiel and John. In Genesis and in the historical books they appear as cherubim, "figures"; in Isaiah as seraphim, or "burners"; in Ezekiel and John as "living creatures." Here they stand upon the train of the royal robe which filled the temple. They have six wings. Two cover the face,--as if the glory were overwhelming to them (as Moses hid his face, Exodus 3:6); two their feet,--to hide their whole person, body ("their bodies," Ezekiel 1:23), and feet from the brightness; two they fly with, as if ready to go forth on the errands of this mighty King. Is not this the true posture of every saint of God? Solemn awe in presence of the divine majesty, as unfit to look upon the glorious One; profound self-abasement, as unfit to be looked upon by one so holy; readiness to do the work of God, to go forth on his service on the wings of faith and love.

      II. The voice. It was the voice of the seraphim, a responsive song,-- "one cried unto another." Their song was, (1.) Of Jehovah of hosts and of his three-fold holiness; (2.) Of earth,--the whole earth,--earth filled with His glory. Thus the voice interprets the vision. It is a vision of latter-day glory,-- when the Lord alone shall be exalted, when holiness to the Lord shall be seen and heard everywhere, when the glory of the Lord shall fill the world. What a contrast the state of things thus revealed to that in the day of the prophet! This holy glory was to him exceeding marvellous,--a holy glory in connection with Jehovah of hosts as King of all the earth. It is the times of restitution of all things, when the Lord alone shall be exalted.

      III. The shaking. The posts of the door, or foundations of the threshold moved, or shook, at the voice of the seraphim, and the temple was filled with smoke. The foundations of God's own house are moved at the voice of the marvellous song, and the house is filled with that which symbolises Jehovah's holy anger against sin (Psalm 18:9). The vision seems to be that of God coining down in his holiness, to shake the earth, and to express his hatred against sin, and especially against Israel's sin, in His own sanctuary (Isaiah 65:5). He is spoken of here as arising to shake terribly the earth,--beginning at His own temple, but not ceasing till He has shaken all that can be shaken, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. When God's anger waxes hot against sin, then all the earth shall be as Sinai,--when the mountain shook, and was covered with smoke from the presence of the holy Lord God. The "battles of shaking" for our world are yet to come (Isaiah 30:32).

      The Prophets alarm. (verse 5) His cry is, "Woe is me"; nay, "I am undone." The reason of his alarm is a new and deeper view of his own sinfulness, from a new view of Jehovah's holiness. "A man of unclean lips am I;" nay, "among a people of unclean lips do I dwell." He gives the reason,--" the King, Jehovah of hosts, mine eyes have seen." Thus the nearer God comes to us, the more are we made aware of our uncleanness (even that of our lips, and feel the uncleanness of a world of unclean lips in which we dwell. The vision of earth filled with holy glory, and with the presence of its glorious King, has overwhelmed him. As in the case of Daniel (10:8), and John (Revelation 1:17). The more we realise a present God, and an earth filled with his glory, the more shall we feel our own unholiness and cry out in fear, even though we be saints. We feel the awful contrast between our unholy lips and the holy lips of those who are singing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts." It was Israel's "unclean lips" that cried, "Crucify him"; and for the words of their unclean lips they are now suffering the woes of God.

      God's cure for this alarm. A live coal from the altar applied to his lips,--that special part which he felt impure, and in which purity was specially needed by him as a prophet. A prophet is a man like ourselves, yet God must purify his lips that he may speak. He does this by fire and blood; for the live coal was from the altar of burnt-offering. Thus the blood makes clean and the fire purifies,--"the spirit of burning." This application of fire and blood to his lips removes, (1.) his fears; (2.) his personal uncleanness; (3.) national uncleanness; for the fire and blood were meant to apply to "the people of the unclean lips" as well as to himself. Thus the sense of uncleanness is removed. Thus the terror which the nearer presence of God produces is removed by that which assures the sinner of pardon and cleansing. The man's terrors are dispelled; he feels that he can now act and speak for God.

      VI. God's inquiry for a messenger. Jehovah's voice is heard; its utterance is two-fold, (1.) "Whom shall I send;" (2.) "Who will go for us." It is an errand of hardship, painfulness, danger, shame; from which flesh and blood would shrink, as did Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel. Still God in every age is looking round and asking for a messenger,--for evangelists, for missionaries, for ministers, Spirit-called, Spirit-filled, Spirit- sent messengers. The work is great, the field is large, the message is judgment as well as mercy. Whom shall I send; who will go?

      VII. The prophet's answer. "Here am I, send me." He answers the second question first; but he answers both explicitly. He does not shrink. He is ready for shame, for prison, for death,--as indeed he found at last. The spirit is willing and the flesh has overcome its weakness. The fire and blood have removed the terror, and made him bold. Thus it was with Whitefield.

      VIII. The message. It is one of judgment; (1.) For the people, the worst of judgments, hear on and understand not, look on but see not. A hard heart, an insensible and impenetrable soul, a seared conscience, given over to a reprobate mind; (2.) For the land,--to lie waste and desolate, its fields untilled, its cities forsaken. This is the message of double judgment,-- complete and terrible ruin. This is the end of the people of "unclean lips."

      IX. The promise. All Israel's judgments have a promise mixed up with them,--a hope appended to them. They are not forever. Their unbelief is not forever. Their land's desolation is not forever. There is a holy Seed or root, in which the blessing lies hid, even in the midst of the curse; and out of this seed, or root, or stump, the future tree is to arise, more glorious than the first. Israel shall blossom, and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit. Here is the gleam of hope in the midst of despair and darkness. But how terrible the history through which Israel passes to this! How fearfully God avenges unbelief and rejection of his grace! Yet the day dawns at last! The King comes in His glory.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Old and New Creation
   Chapter 2 - The Link Between Being and Non-Being
   Chapter 3 - A Happy World
   Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence
   Chapter 5 - Man's Fig-Leaves
   Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance
   Chapter 7 - The Blood of Sprinkling and the Blood of Abel
   Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain
   Chapter 9 - The Man of Rest
   Chapter 10 - Going Out and Keeping Out
   Chapter 11 - The Shield and the Recompense
   Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service
   Chapter 13 - The Day of Despair
   Chapter 14 - The Blood of Deliverance
   Chapter 15 - How God Deals with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 16 - The Fire Quenched
   Chapter 17 - The Vision from the Rocks
   Chapter 18 - The Doom of the Double-Hearted
   Chapter 19 - Be Not Borderers
   Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History
   Chapter 21 - Divine Longings Over the Foolish
   Chapter 22 - What a Believing Man Can Do
   Chapter 23 - Song of the Putting Off of the Armour
   Chapter 24 - The Kiss of the Backslider
   Chapter 25 - The Priestly Word of Peace
   Chapter 26 - Human Anodynes
   Chapter 27 - Spiritual and Carnal Weapons
   Chapter 28 - Divine Silence and Human Despair
   Chapter 29 - Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Blessing
   Chapter 30 - The Restoration of the Banished
   Chapter 31 - The Farewell Gift
   Chapter 32 - God's Dealing with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 33 - God Finding a Resting-Place
   Chapter 34 - The Moriah Group
   Chapter 35 - Diverse Kinds of Conscience
   Chapter 36 - The Soul Turning from Man to God
   Chapter 37 - Man's Dislike of a Present God
   Chapter 38 - True and False Consolation
   Chapter 39 - Gain and Loss for Eternity
   Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God
   Chapter 41 - The Two Cries and the Two Answers
   Chapter 42 - The Knowledge of God's Name
   Chapter 43 - Deliverance from Deep Waters
   Chapter 44 - The Excellency of the Divine Loving-Kindness
   Chapter 45 - The Sickness, the Healer, and the Healing
   Chapter 46 - The Consecration of Earth's Gold and Silver
   Chapter 47 - The Gifts of the Ascended One
   Chapter 48 - The Speaker, the Listener, the Peace
   Chapter 49 - The Believing Man's Confident Appeal
   Chapter 50 - The Love and the Deliverance
   Chapter 51 - The Sin and Folly of Being Unhappy
   Chapter 52 - The Book of Books
   Chapter 53 - The Secret of Deliverance from Evil
   Chapter 54 - The Voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom
   Chapter 55 - The Love that Passeth Knowledge
   Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory
   Chapter 57 - Man's Extremity and Satan's Opportunity
   Chapter 58 - The Day of Clear Vision to the Dim Eyes
   Chapter 59 - The Unfainting Creator and the Fainting Creature
   Chapter 60 - The Knowledge that Justifies
   Chapter 61 - The Heritage and its Title-Deeds
   Chapter 62 - The Meeting Between the Sinner and God
   Chapter 63 - God's Love and God's Way of Blessing
   Chapter 64 - Divine Jealousy for the Truth
   Chapter 65 - Divine Love and Human Rejection of it
   Chapter 66 - God's Desire to Bless the Sinner
   Chapter 67 - The Resting-Place Forgotten
   Chapter 68 - The Day that Will Right all Wrongs
   Chapter 69 - The Glory and the Love
   Chapter 70 - False Religion and its Doom
   Chapter 71 - No Breath No Life
   Chapter 72 - Every Christian a Teacher
   Chapter 73 - Work, Rest, and Recompence
   Chapter 74 - Human Heedlessness and Divine Remembrance
   Chapter 75 - Lies the Food of Man
   Chapter 76 - The Love and the Calling
   Chapter 77 - The Anger and the Goodness
   Chapter 78 - Darkness Pursuing the Sinner
   Chapter 79 - Jerusalem the Centre of the World's Peace
   Chapter 80 - Jerusalem and Her King
   Chapter 81 - Looking to the Pierced One
   Chapter 82 - The Holiness of Common Things
   Chapter 83 - Wearying Jehovah with our Words
   Chapter 84 - Dies Irae


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