Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts!

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 am I! Send me.”

—Isaiah 6:1-8

In times of great trials, affliction and suffering, a loved one passed away, a friend enduring a terminal disease, heart-wrenching experiences—we cry out to God in equally great desperation. We cry out to God for His mercy. We beg for His help to deliver us. We seek God so desperately in these moments, often promising that we would surrender our lives if He would save us in those crisis moments. We cry out to God, His love, His mercy, His grace, in that, the God of love would help us in our time of great need. This happens so often that the idea of God being a God of love and mercy has been so burned into what Christianity is that it has somehow become God’s primary attribute.

There was a church in the United States of America that started a series of messages based from an album of John Lennon of the Beatles. The reasoning behind this decision was because since God is a God of love, and that God is love, it must therefore follow that songs that exalt love are songs that exalt God. Interesting, in our desperation for love and mercy, we exalt these concepts so much as to elevate them to undue heights of reverence. Love is no longer an attribute of God, it is now the attribute of God. So much so that God is no longer just love, but love itself is now God.

We talk much of verses like John 3:16 (as great and as blessed as those verses are) that speak of God’s love for the world in His desire to save a people for Himself. We enshrine these verses that mark the attribute of God’s love and allow it to define the very root of our thinking.

Now that emphasis of love being equated to God Himself is outright heresy. Surely God is love, but love is not God. We have this view of God that sees Him as only loving, not judging; only merciful, but never wrathful. We have a view of God that leaves no room for holiness, no room for justice, wrath, sovereignty and His supremacy.

Holy, Holy, Holy

And yet dear beloved, where do we learn of a God of love? Where do we learn and read that God is a God of love? In Afghanistan? In a cancer ward? On the bedside of a loved one, whose body is twisted in unimaginable pain, a breath away from Hell? Where do we learn of that God of love? Is it not true that the same place we learn that God is a God of love is in the same place we find out that God is a holy God?

Does not that same inspired text of Scripture that tells us of the love of God tells us of a God that is perfectly holy, perfectly just and perfectly righteous (Isaiah 6:3)? That same place that tells us of a God whose wrath furiously burns against sin and sinners (Rev 19:15)?

In the book of Isaiah, in the 6th chapter, we read:

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.

—Isaiah 6:1-4

In this passage we see one of the most distinct displays of the glory and majesty of God in all of Scripture.

The year that King Uzziah died, a year wherein a monarchical reign that lasted for 5 long decades had met its end. Can you imagine that? A child would be born and Uzziah was king. That same child would grow up to marry and Uzziah was still king. That same child would have children of his own and Uzziah was still king. That same child would have little grand-children and Uzziah still was king.

And suddenly, this seemingly invincible king dies. It was a time of great loss and bereavement for the nation of Israel, the time of great instability and uncertainty for the future. In this period of great mourning of the death of a King that ruled for 52 long years, suddenly Isaiah was brought to see the true King seated on the throne, alive and well, high and lifted up, the Sovereign of all that is and all that was and all that ever will be. The earthly king, Uzziah was dead. The Lord, God of all Creation is alive and ever living and Isaiah is brought before His presence.

This, for Isaiah, was a crisis moment. A moment in his existence when his whole life will be radically changed. The office of a Prophet is not exactly a contractual office. Complete your 15 year contract and you’re free. No. It is a lifetime calling that defines the very existence of that person called.

Here Isaiah was brought not to confront a burning bush. Neither was he confronted by the singular sound of the voice of God. Not an angel or a messenger on high. No walls. No mediums. No veils. No divisions. He was brought before the presence of the living God Himself; before the throne of God, high and lifted up.

He was brought into the presence of the Holy.

And at the end of this passage in the fourth verse, Isaiah recounts, “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.”

After the seraphim sang to one another that heavenly chorus, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” the foundations of the thresholds of the heavenly temple shook. The foundations of the great temple where God Himself resides, indestructible and utterly glorious, as magnificent and other-worldly as they were, shook at this declaration, the declaration that God is “Holy, holy, holy.”

What was so special about that declaration? Surely we read it often in the Scriptures, declarations of God’s holiness. Often we find characters in the Word of God exalting certain attributes of God. At times we see God’s mercy and steadfast-love magnified. At other times we see God’s justice and righteousness glorified by men. But what is it in this specific declaration of God’s holiness that makes it so special?

In the English language, we have certain tools we use when we want to call emphasis to certain words and phrases. We can underline the word, italicize it or write it in bold type print. Or in speaking, we can raise the tone of our voice on certain words to make known the importance of that particular word. The Hebrew culture has a similar tool as well. It is the simple tool of repetition.

In the gospels in the New Testament, we see Jesus when speaking to His disciples, He would preface a number of His teachings with the words, “Verily, verily”, or “Truly, truly.” Now, everything that Jesus had to say is important. We know that every single word that rolls out from the lips of the Son of God is tremendously important. But even Jesus when He speaks, has certain things that He says is of greater and deeper importance than the other things He has said. It is one thing for the Lord to say, “Truly I say unto you.” It is quite another thing when He says, “Truly, truly I say unto you.” He is saying, “This is truth of very truth! Listen to this!”

Going back to the vision of Isaiah, the seraphim did not cry out to one another that God is “Mercy, mercy, mercy.” Neither did they declare that God is “Love, love, love”, or “Justice, justice, justice”, or “Pure, pure, pure.”

The seraphim did not simply declare that God is “Holy.” Nor did they say that God is “Holy, holy.” But what they did cry out is that God is “Holy, holy, holy!” From the mouths of angels, there is no other attribute of God raised to the superlative degree. God is “Holy, holy, holy!”

And at this call, this declaration of the superlative excellence of the Holiness of the God of all Creation, the foundations of the temple shook! Do you see the significance of that? Inanimate objects, things that are deprived of personality, thought and spirit, had the good sense to tremble before God. They were moved at the sheer presence of the Holy.

Dear beloved, how can you and I, men and women created in the image of God be left unmoved in His presence? How can we, in the great majority of instances of our lives, be left bored and indifferent before Him?

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