1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.Isaiah was privileged to see the Lord at the temple with a whole retinue of attending seraphim. He heard them saying to each other how holy the Lord was. (They didn’t just say the Lord was holy, but “holy, holy, holy”, which is the ancient middle eastern way of expressing the superlative form, just like we would say “holiest”.) He saw the temple doorposts quaking at the sound of the Lord’s voice and saw the cloud that veiled his presence from the people around.
2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 ¶ Then said I, 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 mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah 6:1-5)
What was Isaiah’s reaction? “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Undone seems like an old way of saying a person is humiliated, eternally cast off, unworthy, unclean, and lost to the respect of reputable people.) In the middle of this incredible vision Isaiah became profoundly aware of his own sin. “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” It’s hard to believe that the prophet Isaiah could have been a person with a foul mouth, but that was the case. He must have realized the Lord knew all about him and he couldn’t hide anything from the Lord. All he could do was lament the unworthiness of himself and his people.
And then something amazing happens.
6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:It seems incredible that Isaiah would have a hot coal from the temple’s altar touched to his lips by an angel to take away his sin, but the action was profoundly symbolic. The altar was where the sin offerings and burnt offerings were burnt, symbolizing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world. To have a coal from the burning mass taken and applied to that body part that he had just been lamenting the filthiness of would teach in an unforgettable way that because of his faith, the future sufferings of Christ were being applied to his sin and purifying him because of his godly sorrow.
7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. (Isaiah 6:6-7)
Then something even more amazing happens.
8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.The Lord asks who He can send to be a servant of heaven. And Isaiah volunteers for the job of going to tell his people about God.
9 And he said, Go, and tell this people… (Isaiah 6:8-9)
This is very significant, because it shows that once we have repented of our sins and they are purged away, the Lord immediately puts us to work doing good where before we were sinning. Isaiah used bad language, and once he repented and was forgiven, he volunteered to use his language for the Lord’s work of sharing the gospel. (For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. [1 Corinthians 6:20])
This scripture teaches me that when I repent, I must expect not only to stop doing what was bad, but I must be willing to do good things instead. The amazing thing about the Atonement of Christ is that it makes that possible, by taking away our desire to do evil and substituting a desire to do good. I have experienced this in my life and I want everyone to experience it.