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DEVOTIONALS ON THE BOOK OF JOB

Studies by Dr. Gordon (Ernesto) Johnson

THE LIFE OF JOB – LESSONS IN HOLINESS AND HUMILITY   (17)

Isaiah, another Old Testament saint who "saw" God and was enriched 

Isaiah 6 and 2 Chronicles 26

Dr. Gordon Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

Isaiah has long been known as the foremost of the Major Prophets. His writings introduce the Major and Minor Prophets. He is foremost in his messianic prophecies:  "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: ‘Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel'" (Isaiah 7: 14). Isaiah 53 and its amazing prophesy of the Messiah's life, death and triumph could almost have been a historical narrative because it is so graphic and factual. 

Isaiah could be considered a later Job in that they both "saw" the Lord and then in brokenness were forgiven and rewarded. More than 1500 years separated the two men of God, but truth  remains eternal. To see a holy God is to see our sin and confess it openly as they did. Forgiveness followed with added blessings, hence the parallel between the two men.

I depart from the story of Job to underline the reality in both Testaments of the common truth of holiness and humility and to show how God works out His purposes today in us even as He did in their day. The common features of faith and ministry are indeed striking/

Isaiah had a singular style of ministry -- direct, graphic and visual.  His judgment on Judah under the then present kings was an indictment of judgment as well as of hope. "Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children are corrupters!  . . . I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. . . . Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1: 4,11,18).

He wrote in a lyrical fashion on the future Day of the Lord (Isaiah 2-4) and the Parable of the Vineyard, of God's care and provision for His people and their apostasy and coming judgment (Isaiah 5). Evidently these early chapters precede Isaiah 6 chapter and reveal the outstanding impact of Isaiah's vision of the Lord and then his obedience to his calling as a prophet.

"In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on His throne"    Isaiah 6:1

What follows immediately is an abrupt change of tone. "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim: each one with six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!' And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke" (Isaiah 6:1-4).

What follows immediately is an encounter, a "seeing " of the LORD of hosts that would change his inner being, his calling and the remainder of his ministry. I make a direct connection between what precedes and what follows. The juncture of the king's death and the vision could be taken as a mere coincidence of events but to understand the impact of the king's death and Isaiah's "seeing" God is no mere historical coincidence.

"Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jecholiah of Jerusalen [often if the mother is mentioned it is a sign of a good king]," and he did what was right in the sight of the LORD according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He sought the God in the days of Zechariah who had understanding in the visions of God and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper" (2 Chronicles 26:3-5). There may be an inference that with time the perils of leadership provided occasions for rebellious pride to develop.

In brief,  Uzziah had a long reign and began well but ended disastrously  While he had done much to strengthen Judah and increase his wealth and fame in his world, "his heart was lifted up to his destruction" (v.16). He audaciously sought to enter the temple to offer incense; the priest in charge with 80 priests opposed him; he became furious and in the crisis of confrontation, leprosy broke out on his forehead. They forced him to leave the temple and until the day he died, he was leprous, a direct judgment of God because of his pride and disobedience. "He dwelt in an isolated house (hospital)[1]'probably for a year or so and was not buried as the king of Judah (v.23).

One can only imagine the consternation that must have prevailed in Judah. Isaiah was God's voice to the people and now God's punishment had stricken their king who had begun well.  God's holiness was now openly portrayed in the face of his pride.  The sin of Uzziah was long in coming and in no way was like the unknown sin of the self-righteousness of Job; on the contrary Job was in full fellowship with God as priest of his family. Uzziah had sinned openly and God judged him openly before all. All of Judah, including Isaiah, must have re-lived this tragedy.

Isaiah's Response to God's Holiness Similar to Job's Response    Isaiah 6:5

Isaiah must have had, in this historical context, a sense of God's hatred for sin and His absolute holiness. God was about to meet Isaiah's unknown need. The vision of the throne room and seraphim by contrast must have had a profound impact on the faithful prophet with a much deeper need than what he ever realized.

"Then I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because 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.'" Take special note of Isaiah's personal and collective sin along with the people who were re-living Uzziah's death. The prophet's response is: "I am undone." Here is a deep heart confession of the prophet called and gifted to write and speak as he was.

Of curious interest in the Spanish version in which I most often work, he said: "Woe is me! Soy muerto" [I am dead or I died]. This is a most interesting insight, because precisely Paul said: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me"

(Galatians 2:20). Once again we see that it is God's work, not ours, to break the tyranny of our sin nature and the deeds of the body.

Victory in Christ is ours to take by faith though grace and "not of works lest anyone should boast." God in Christ did that work at the Cross once for all.  " . . . knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him [co-crucified] that the body of sin might be done away with [cancelled or set at naught], that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6). I never tire of returning to the basic truth of our death to sin and our union with Christ – a walk of faith and daily obedience

If Isaiah needed a deeper work of grace -- not a second work of grace or an "experience" -- but a deeper work of God's own doing, we do too. Ours is a walk of faith and daily obedience; what experiences He may send are of His choice and for our edification. But the essence of victory is believing what He did for us and to us at the Cross, our co-crucifixion, and embrace it in sanctifying faith.

God's Healing Coal from Off the Altar    Isaiah 6:7

"Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar, and he touched my mouth with it, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged'" If this had been a physical healing touch, can you imagine the pain of tongue and lips so burned!  There was indeed the healing but also the evidence of sin removed.  When God heals, we have the assurance of the truth that our

sin-nature need no longer rule us and that our secret sins are fully forgiven and fellowship with God restored.

The Chastened Prophet Receives a Renewed Commission    Isaiah 6:8-13

"Also I heard a voice of the Lord, saying; ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?'" "Then I said. ‘Here am I! Send me'" Isaiah is now re-commissioned with a message of truth and mercy.

 

The truths of the hardness of the hearts and the rejection of the people on hearing the message of repentance was to prepare Isaiah in his renewed covenant of being God's spokesman. Jesus reiterates the message in Matthew 13:13,14 as He began His ministry of teaching by means of parables. There was truth for those with eyes to see it and ears to hear, but condemnation of those with hardened hearts. The parable became the vehicle of Jesus' teaching revealing truth and showing a certain mercy at the same time.

Like Job restored with a double portion, Isaiah was God's spokesman, but now with a deepened sense of God's holiness and his humility; his personal unworthiness was now forgiven. What they had in common as God's servants was expressed accurately by Job: "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job. 42:5, 6).

In the Old Testament, and now in the New Testament, our relationship with God is the same as theirs -- a walk of faith and obedience coupled with a brokenness and repentance, even as it is attested to by the gallery of saints recorded by Hebrews 11. "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek  Him" (Hebrews 11:6). 

  



[1] C.F.Keil, the Books of the Chronicles (Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) vol.2, 1950. p.430.