A New Day: My Eyes Have Seen the King, Part 3

What do you do with a God so holy, so “other?”

Isaiah gives us a good example, one that is a stark contrast to the pride of Uzziah.

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!”

Isaiah 6:5

In response to this vision of the Holy One of Israel, Isaiah confesses his sin. Rather than acting out of pride, as Uzziah did, Isaiah says, “I am a man of unclean lips.”


I remember the first time I said a curse word in front of my parents. I remember it because it was also the LAST time I said a curse word in front of my parents. We were driving over to visit my grandparents. To get to their house you had to take Highway 231 North out of my hometown of Lebanon, Tennessee and cross the Cumberland River. As a child, I was always awestruck by the view from the bridge as we crossed the river. So one day, we were headed to my grandparents’ place; my Dad was driving the car, Mom was in the passenger seat and I was in the back — not wearing a seatbelt, because it was the wild, wild West of the 1980s when you didn’t do that sort of thing. We’re going over the bridge and I’m staring out at all that water and I decided that this would be a good time to use a couple of the new words I’d recently heard on the playground at school. I had just started using some of those words anytime I wanted to express surprise or dismay — I’d learned that there were all kinds of words people used in those kinds of situations. So I just let fly with a couple of those four-letter words without thinking anything of it.

Until my mother popped me on the mouth with the lightning precision of a ninja karate chop. She popped my mouth with her bare hand — not hard enough to draw blood but hard enough to stun me into silence.

She pointed her finger and me and her eyes narrowed as she said, “We do NOT talk that way.”

And I knew I was a young man of unclean lips.


So has Isaiah been running around saying four-letter words? Is that it?

No, I don’t think so.

But in the presence of the holy God, Isaiah is struck by the profanity of his life. He realizes that he is thoroughly polluted and he must confess. Yes, he says he’s a man of unclean lips, but he could’ve just as easily said, “I’m a man with an unclean heart, with unclean thoughts, with impure motives sometimes.” And he knows that his fellow Israelites are equally polluted by sin. So in response to our question, “What do you do with a God so holy?” Isaiah gives us a good answer: you acknowledge your lack of holiness. You confess your sin.

Isaiah tells the truth when he says that he lives among a people of unclean lips. Immorality was rampant throughout the land of Israel in Isaiah’s day. Much like their King Uzziah, the people had ignored God’s commands and developed their own standards of right and wrong. Isaiah would go on to pronounce this word to the people on behalf of God:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

Isaiah 5:20-21

This is what God says to His people.

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A New Day: My Eyes Have Seen the King, Part 2

The time stamp of Isaiah 6 is also significant. All of this occurs in the year that King Uzziah died.

Uzziah was king in Jerusalem for over 50 years. (You can read his story in 2 Chronicles 26.) By most human standards, Uzziah was a pretty good king. He subdued Israel’s longtime nemesis, the Philistines. He built up Judah’s military and expanded her economy. Most importantly, he learned the fear of the Lord from a teacher of the Law named Zechariah. And God granted the king much success; in fact, the writer of 2 Chronicles says that Uzziah’s fame spread far throughout the land. It seems that Uzziah was something of an international celebrity.

But this popularity eventually went to Uzziah’s head. 2 Chronicles 26:16, But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. Uzziah’s pride led him to do something terrible: he desecrated the temple of God. In an act of supreme arrogance, Uzziah marched into the temple to burn incense on the hoy altar. This might not seem like a big deal, but this was an affront to God, who commanded that only the priests were to burn the incense. Eugene Peterson says of Uzziah, “He decided to take charge of his own soul and put God to his own uses. He went to the holy altar of incense…and proceeded to run things according to his own tastes and desires.”

Azariah and eighty of the other priests stood up to the king and told him that this was forbidden. But this only angered Uzziah all the more. The Bible says Uzziah had a censer in his hand, presumably to make the incense offering. The way the story is told, it seems as if Uzziah had decided to completely ignore both the word of God and the rebuke of God’s servants. And that’s when Uzziah was suddenly struck with leprosy on his forehead as a visible manifestation of God’s judgment upon him.

You see, Uzziah thought he was truly sovereign, the captain of his own ship. In his pride, he thought he could make up his own rules, no matter what God had commanded. But that is sacrilegious. It’s not an exact parallel, but imagine someone entering the church with a can of spray paint and desecrating the communion table and the baptistery and the cross with the words: “There’s a new sheriff in town. We’re doing things MY way now!” That’s essentially what Uzziah has done in the temple.

And so Uzziah spends the rest of his life in isolation because of this leprosy, his life serving as a cautionary tale of the danger of sinful pride. And we would do well to heed this cautionary tale in our day.

Worship is about the life of the holy God, not the prideful preferences of sinful man.

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A New Day: My Eyes Have Seen the King, Part 1

Can you imagine what it would be like to talk to someone who had actually seen God? If someone claimed to have seen God, would you be interested in what that person had to say? Would you lean in a little closer to hear their story?

Isaiah 6 records the firsthand account of someone who saw the living God with his own two eyes. Isaiah had an encounter with the Holy One of Israel; in his own words, he says, My eyes have seen the King! And what he saw was glorious.

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

Isaiah is unequivocal when he says, I saw the Lord. Now, it’s true that no one can see God and live; we learn that truth in Exodus 33:20. When God says this to Moses, the idea is that the fullness of God’s glory would be too much for us — it would kill us if we were to glimpse His face unmediated. That’s how glorious God is! But God apparently dialed down His glory enough that Isaiah could catch a glimpse of Him and live to tell about it, much like He did with Moses all those centuries earlier. One commentator calls this “a gracious condescension” on God’s part. It is an act of grace that Isaiah receives this vision.

And what Isaiah sees is majestic, glorious, and — most of all — holy.

Isaiah hears the seraphim calling out to one another. “Seraphim” literally means “burning ones.” Apparently these are angels of fire with six wings and it seems that Isaiah sees them hovering over the throne of God. And the seraphim are calling out these words of praise:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!

In ancient Hebrew, repetition was often used as a way of denoting something of a superlative nature. But scholars have noted that this is the only time in the OT you find a quality being “raised to the power of three.” So when the angels say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts,” they are essentially praising God’s infinite holiness. God is completely, totally, absolutely holy. One scholar puts it this way: “God’s holiness means that he is separate from everything that is sinful, utterly removed from the profane world, and glorious in majesty.” Isaiah catches a transformative glimpse of the holy God. Throughout the rest of his prophetic career, Isaiah’s favorite way of describing God will be to refer to Him as “the Holy One of Israel.”


It is worth noting that Isaiah receives this vision while worshipping God at the temple. The Israelites believed that heaven and earth met at the Temple in Jerusalem and Isaiah’s vision brings this to bear. He looks up into heaven to see the Lord sitting on His throne but the train of his robe filled the temple. And when the seraphim praise God for His holiness and His glory, the doorposts begin to shake and the room fills with smoke. It really is an awesome scene.

This is what worship is really about. Worship ushers us into the presence of the infinitely hoy God. We come in awe before the glorious throne of God. In worship, we confess God’s holiness but we also confess our sinfulness — which Isaiah does in the next verse. Worship is intended to capture our hearts and our imagination as we ponder the holiness and the majesty and the grandeur of God. How sad, then, that the meaning of worship in our day has been reduced to something as superficial as “song style” — but that’s what has happened.

Our worship is about the life of the holy God, not the preferences of sinful man.

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2020 NFL Playoffs: Week 1 Picks

Each year, our family makes picks for the NFL playoffs. Here are our picks for the opening weekend, including the NCAA Championship Game as well.

Sunny: Bills over Colts; Seahawks over Rams; Bucs over Washington; Titans over Ravens; Saints over Bears; Browns over Steelers; Alabama over Ohio State.

Jason: Bills over Colts; Seahawks over Rams; Bucs over Washington; Titans over Ravens; Saints over Bears; Browns over Steelers; Alabama over Ohio State.

Joshua: Bills over Colts; Seahawks over Rams; Bucs over Washington; Titans over Ravens; Saints over Bears; Browns over Steelers; Alabama over Ohio State.

Yeah, we all made the same picks, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

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Meditation: January 8, 2021

It’s been a difficult week.

There was turmoil in Washington D.C. this week as a group of violent protesters stormed the Capitol building, wreaking havoc. It seems they thought they were taking something back. But lives were lost, as was another fiber in the perilously frayed bond that once held us together as a people.

I honestly wonder how much of this bond is left.

I was talking to a friend as we watched the images of anarchy in the House chamber and my friend said, “I’m afraid we’re heading toward Civil War.” Ordinarily I would scoff at such a comment. But the fact that it even seems like a possibility — no matter how remote — is telling.

Some have started saying that we live in “two Americas.”

More like 328.2 million Americas.

That’s what happens when truth is up for grabs. You can make reality whatever you want. We’ve seen this already. Early reports showed elected officials seemingly encouraging the crowd to “fight” to take back the election, their rights, etc. etc. And within hours of the violent display at the Capitol, some of those same officials were quick to tweet that you shouldn’t trust everything you hear. Things were immediately spun by every side to the point that you simply don’t know what to believe.

Were these protesters Trump supporters?

Antifa?

QAnon?

White supremacists?

Who knows?

We live in a time when it’s difficult to trust what we see with our own two eyes. This is what we’ve lost in a culture that has been described as a “post-truth” society.

Truth is whatever you want to make it, whatever you choose for it to be.

How lamentable.

All of this drives me back to what I know to be true — one of the only things I know to be true, actually. Today I find solace in the enduring, eternal Word of God.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:8

Take heart in His eternal truth, for this is the essence of our faith.

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A New Day: The Lord Has a Day, Part 4

So is the coming Day a good day or a bad day?

It all depends on whether you’re part of God’s repentant remnant.

For those who turn away from their idols and put their trust in God and His Messiah, this will be a day of deliverance and salvation.

But for those who put their hope in something else — in anything else — it will be a terrible day of calamity and darkness.

In the words of Isaiah, the Lord has a day. Are you ready for it?

If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.

Isaiah 7:9

May God’s people be firm in faith — firm in our trust in God’s Messiah, the King, the Servant, and the Savior.

The Messianic King brings judgment. Jesus loves us too much to leave us in our sin. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus issues judgments upon anger, lust, breaking your promises, retaliating, hating your enemies, greed, worry, and more. And to trust in Him is to trust in His judgment — for His judgment is just and true.

The Messianic Servant brings comfort. Jesus loves us too much to leave us uncomforted. He speaks words of consolation to those who are broken by their sin. In the Gospels, Jesus has compassion on the crowds — for they were like sheep without a shepherd. To trust in Him is to trust in His comfort — for there is no comfort like the Lord’s comfort.

And the Messianic Savior brings hope. Jesus loves us too much to leave us in our disillusionment. He gives us hope of a coming day when all of our enemies are defeated once and for all. And to trust in Him is to hope in Him — for He is truly the hope of glory.

If you’d like to begin this new year by placing your trust in Jesus — by confessing His lordship in baptism — you can reach out to us at praye@mayfair.org and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Though my sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow when I turn to Him in repentance.

The Lord has a day. Are you ready for it?

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord who makes all things new, he who has ears, let him hear.

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A New Day: The Lord Has a Day, Part 3

But remember, we said Isaiah is like a song with three verses. And in these opening chapters, amid these pronouncements of judgment, we also find words of comfort and hope. Here are some words of comfort that remind us of the work of the Messianic Servant.

After comparing the people to Sodom and Gomorrah, God says this:

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, 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 become like wool.

Isaiah 1:16-18

What words of comfort! Although the people’s hands are full of blood, God grants them an opportunity to be washed, to be made clean, and to live the kinds of lives that bring Him glory and honor. The picture here is one of total forgiveness: sin has stained them scarlet red, yet God’s power to remove sin is complete, as evidenced by the fact that He promises His people will be white as snow.

You know that mistake you made? The big one? If you’re like most people, you probably have a couple of mistakes that Satan loves to remind you about. You probably have a hard time forgiving yourself for what you did or what you said. But they key to forgiving yourself is found in hearing the judgment of the King. We hear the King judging sin as having no place in His Kingdom. And then, the judgment of the King leads to the comfort of the Servant as we realize that He makes is possible for us to be purified. We find hope in the Savior — the One who went to the cross to atone for our sins. He is mighty to save, mighty to deliver, making us white as snow once again! I can’t think of a more comforting thought!

And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness.

Isaiah 1:26-27

The reversal continues here, as the faithless city is restored to her former position. Two phrases beautifully capture this mighty work: “as at the first” and “as at the beginning.” These words tell us that God’s judgment is redemptive. He is able to restore His people once again. This will be the great work of the Messianic Servant — Jesus Christ. And you can bet we will be talking a great deal about this over the course of this series.

His judgment leads to repentance — and this is a major theme not only in Isaiah but also for the entirety of the Scriptures. Isaiah has much to say to the remnant — those who will remain faithful through the coming judgment of captivity and exile. God always preserves a remnant. And as we’ve seen in this passage, the remnant is made up of the repentant. God says, Zion shall be redeemed by justice and those in her who repent, by righteousness. Repentance is the fulcrum here. The Day of the Lord is a terrible day for the unrepentant. But for those who fall on His grace and mercy, it is a day of deliverance, a day of salvation.

The Messianic King renders judgment; the Messianic Servant brings comfort by taking our place, by being pierced for our transgressions as Isaiah says in Isaiah 53. But then we find hope as the Messianic Savior delivers us from our idols.

And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. And the idols shall utterly pass away….In that day mankind will cast away their idols of silver and their idols of gold, which they made for themselves to worship…

Isaiah 2:17-18, 20

Isaiah sees a day when the Messiah, the Savior, brings us hope. He will be victorious over the idols that are always vying for our allegiance. I like the way one scholar puts it: these “ungods” will utterly pass away when our Savior is through with them. We find strength in the knowledge that the Day of the Lord will be a day of victory — God’s Messiah will once and for all cast aside all the idols that have plagued us since the Garden of Eden.

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A New Day: The Lord Has a Day, Part 2

For the LORD of hosts has a day…

Isaiah 2:12

Early on, Isaiah introduces this concept that the Lord has a special day in store — elsewhere referred to as “the Day of the Lord.” Isaiah describes this day repeatedly throughout his preaching ministry. One of his favorite phrases is “on that day,” which is oftentimes his shorthand reference to the day of the Lord that he sees just beyond his horizon.

And as we noted earlier, for some, this will be a day of great judgment and calamity. You can see this theme at the beginning of the book of Isaiah.

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children I have reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know me, my people do not understand.”

Isaiah 1:2-3

The people have rebelled against the Lord. He says, “Beasts know their masters, yet my people have forgotten me.”

They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

Isaiah 1:4

Judah is like a lost child, separated from his parent. Or in the terms of covenant, Jerusalem has forsaken her vows. She shows contempt for the Holy One of Israel with her unholy ways. And thus, the Day of the Lord will be as a King rendering judgment upon His wayward subjects.

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers.

Isaiah 1:7

The invasion Isaiah describes here eventually takes place in 701 B.C. as King Sennacherib of the Neo-Assyrian empire conquers 46 of Judah’s cities. But what’s really interesting here is this word “overthrown.” The word for “overthrown” has strong associations with Genesis and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. (You can read all about that in Genesis 19.) In the very next verses, Isaiah refers to the rulers of Judah as “rulers of Sodom” and the people as “people of Gomorrah.” The NT book of Jude tells us that these two cities were destroyed for their sexual immorality and their perversion — and the Judah of Isaiah’s day is being compared to these two cities! This is an indication that the coming day will be a day of desolation and destruction for those who have rebelled against the Lord.

There are still others in Judah who seem to think that they have nothing to fear because they continue to appease God with burnt offerings, even though their behavior is far from righteous.

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings…I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats….Bring no more vain offerings….When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.

Isaiah 1:11-15

God points out that although these individuals make the proper sacrifices and say their prayers, they have overlooked the plight of the poor, the widow, and the fatherless. This is the blood that is on their hands that makes their offerings vain.

See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her — but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.

Isaiah 1:21-23

What a heartbreaking word of judgment! The faithful city has become faithless, Jerusalem is a wayward bride who has forsaken her marriage vows. Isaiah compares Judah to choice wine that has been diluted — saying that she has been “watered down” because of her spiritual adultery. The leaders are corrupt and they ignore the needs of the widow and the orphan.

Ultimately, God’s Day of judgment will come about as a result of idolatry, Isaiah says.

Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.

Isaiah 2:8

I know this is heavy, but I just want to show you what God’s Word says. We should hear Isaiah’s words as a warning against forsaking our commitment to the Lord. We should guard against anything in our lives that might be taking on too much importance. Judah’s false gods were “gods” of their own creation and we are just as susceptible to this kind of idolatry today.

Is there an idol in your life today?

Who or what is the real king in your life?

So we find the King speaking words of judgment against all of this. And the Day of the Lord will be a terrible day, a humbling day for some.

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A New Day: The Lord Has a Day, Part 1

I hope you’re enjoying a Happy New Year so far. It certainly feels like a new day has dawned. After 2020, I know we’re all grateful to see a new year and the possibility of better days ahead.

Isaiah was one of God’s prophets and he lived through some difficult days as well. But Isaiah was given a vision of a new day — and this vision caused quite a stir in the land of Israel. For some, this new day would be a day of salvation and deliverance. But for others, it would be a day of judgment. Isaiah saw this new day just beyond the horizon and he devoted his life to telling people about it — warning those for whom it would be a day of judgment and encouraging those for whom it would be a day of salvation.

We’re kicking off 2021 with a new series entitled A New Day: Isaiah’s Vision of Hope and we’ll be focusing on Isaiah’s message and this new day he sees out on the horizon. If the Lord wills it, we will be studying the book of Isaiah together over these first few months of this new year. I’m really excited about this series and I invite you to join me in this study.

This first post will provide some background material that will prove helpful to our study. Tomorrow, we’ll dive in to the text of Isaiah 1 & 2.

A Song in Three Verses

The author Eugene Peterson says that one way to think of Isaiah is to think of it as a song with three verses. And the themes of these three verses are repeated throughout Isaiah. Here they are:

  • Judgment
  • Comfort
  • Hope

As we study Isaiah together, we’ll come across these themes repeatedly. But we’ll also see the interplay between them, their inter-connectedness. In Isaiah, God’s judgment is followed by God’s comfort; and God’s comfort is strengthened by His words of hope. As we study through Isaiah together, take notice of how these themes mingle together, sometimes within the same chapter or even the same verse!

Three Messianic Portraits

Another scholar, Dr. Alec Motyer, has identified three pictures of the Messiah that loom large in Isaiah’s prophecy. These three Messianic portraits dominate each of the three major sections of Isaiah. I’ve slightly modified Motyer’s language and chapter designations, but here are these three pictures of the Messiah in Isaiah:

  1. The Messiah as King (Isaiah 1-39)
  2. The Messiah as Servant (Isaiah 40-55)
  3. The Messiah as Savior (Isaiah 56-66)

Isaiah’s New Day

We can combine the themes Peterson identifies and the Messianic images Motyer identifies into a helpful way of thinking about Isaiah’s message. There is a new day coming when…

  1. The King will rule in judgment over His people.
  2. The Servant will bring comfort to His people.
  3. The Savior will bring hope by defeating the enemies of His people.

Keep these images in mind as we work our way through Isaiah.

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Christmas 2020: Wonders of His Love

I wrote this a few weeks back as my contribution to a twelve-day devotional series that our ministry staff put together for our church family. I share it with you today as a final Christmas meditation this season. Merry Christmas!


Wonders of His Love

“Joy to the World” was written by Isaac Watts, one of the great hymn writers in church history. The song was originally published in his collection of hymns and poems entitled The Psalms of David in 1719. Over the last three hundred years, “Joy to the World” has become a beloved Christmas carol and the most published hymn in North America.

The final stanza of the hymn concludes with the refrain, “and wonders of His love.” King David has a similar word of praise found in Psalm 17.

Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.

Psalm 17:7

The Hebrew word David uses – translated as “great love” – is the word for “covenant loyalty.” David has found refuge in the salvation of God. Therefore, he praises God for keeping His promises, for His enduring faithfulness, and for His steadfast love. David seems in awe of the depth of God’s eternal love. Channeling this text in “Joy to the World,” Watts sees God’s faithful love as similarly wondrous, a true marvel in a world of falsehoods and broken promises.

I love Christmas because it is a time when people around the world – Christian or otherwise – reflect on the wonders of God’s faithful love. Songs like “Joy to the World” fill the airwaves with the message of God’s steadfast love. During this season, we celebrate the arrival of the One who left the throne room of heaven to take on flesh. We can scarcely comprehend the needless God willingly becoming a child, completely dependent upon the care of his mother and father. What a wondrous story indeed! And all of this is best understood as an expression of God’s steadfast love, as the work of a God who promised to never leave nor forsake His people. His love is relentless and fierce and without limit, a wondrous and eternal love that assures us that The Story we are living ends in glory!

So let earth receive her king,

The one who rules with truth and grace.

And let every heart prepare him room,

Far as the curse is found.

For the Lord is come, the Savior reigns!

Let heaven and nature sing and repeat the sounding joy:

The wonders of his great love.

In Him,

Jason

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