“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.”Isaiah 6:5
It was because Isaiah had just seen the holiness of God that he realised his own exceeding sinfulness. That is how it always will be for people. We tend to think we are pretty good until the Lord allows us to see His holiness. That is when we become aware of our exceeding sinfulness. We are inclined to turn away from that which makes us aware of our sin but that is the very opposite of what we should do. It is the realisation of our sinfulness that is meant to drive us to the foot of the cross of Jesus and His shed blood for cleansing and forgiveness.
Isaiah was cleansed with a live coal from the altar. The live coal represented the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Isaiah still had knowledge of his sinfulness but now he also knew that he had been washed clean by the free grace of God. Now he was ready to serve the Lord.
Isaiah is given a mission; a message to speak to Israel. It isn’t one that they will like and he is told that they won’t receive it in the short term. Not surprisingly he asks how long before they will receive it. His message will be preached in Israel until they respond to the Lord’s chastisement (vv 11-12). It is being preached in Israel today although the key chapter 53 is neglected except among the believing remnant. That day is still future.
Within the professing church there are those who hear the Gospel of Christ over and over but because they believe they are good enough they refuse to accept that they are sinful and need Christ’s forgiveness and cleansing. Even in difficult times they will often remain stubborn and unteachable. When the holiness of God draws near through the preaching of God’s word or the presence of one already cleansed they feel unclean. Instead of welcoming Christ’s cleansing they build a barrier in an attempt to remove the sense of guilt. They miss the blessing that Isaiah received, “Your iniquity is taken away” (v 7).
Only Jesus can take away the guilt of sin and that is because He became sin for us. How foolish to turn away from the Lord’s holiness when He is both willing and able to make us as He is, holy (cf. 1 John 3:2). That is why He draws near to us.