By Jeannette Haley
“And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.” – John 12:20, 21
Through the years whenever we visited or ministered in a church for the first time, our foremost desire was the same as the Greeks who inquired of Philip to see Jesus. If a church is man-centered rather than Christ-centered, then you know that the Holy Spirit is not going to be recognized or welcomed, and the presence of the Lord will be missing. If the leader or leaders are full of pride, you know that God is resisting them, and if the music stirs up the flesh and lacks anointing, then you know that it is unholy and vain. Those seeking to see Jesus in such a church will suffer the pain of disappointment, and leave feeling worse than when they first came.
The seeking soul who longs to see Jesus wants, more than anything else, to know that there is nothing between him or her and the Lord. The way must be clear. And that brings me to one of the most powerful passages of Scripture. When you read it, it shines straight through your very being. I am talking about Isaiah 6:1-4, which says,“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. 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. And one cried unto 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 moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.” In verses two and three we see all capital letters in LORD meaning Isaiah saw JEHOVAH, the Covenant-keeping God.
Isaiah didn’t say, “I think I saw the Lord,” or “I was practicing my occult contemplative meditation,” or “Maybe I saw the Lord,” or “I hope I saw the Lord.” No! He stated it as an undisputable fact: “I saw also the Lord.” Note the lower case used in Lord which indicates he saw Adonai, or the pre-incarnate Christ. “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up and his train filled the temple. He then reveals his reaction, “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 had no hesitation or doubt whatsoever of Who he saw, and what he saw. His immediate response is the normal outcome of any mortal who is suddenly in the presence of the holy Majesty in the heavens. Isaiah was suddenly overwhelmed by the magnitude of what he saw along with the instant realization of the transparency of his own soul, and the great gulf between his state of being and that of the King, the LORD of hosts. All he could do was earnestly and humbly cry out in recognition of his total unworthiness, helplessness, uncleanness, and the uncleanness of the people around him. “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: 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” (vs. 7).
This breathtaking encounter with the Lord should cause us to pause and consider all that is contained in Isaiah’s outburst of “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.” His first reaction, when he came face to face with the living God, was natural fear due to his own lack of holiness and purity. This brings to mind the parable Jesus taught of the Pharisee and the Publican, and the “publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” Luke 18:13. There can be no fellowship or communion with the Lord of glory as long as any sin clouds our relationship with him. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” There must be nothing between the Lord and ourselves, nothing that would cause us to run in fear and “hide among the trees” as Adam did.
I find Isaiah’s confession for being “undone” because of “unclean lips” very interesting. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” Luke 6:45. Isaiah also confessed that he lived among people with unclean lips, and he knew, because he had seen the KING, the Lord of hosts, that none of them could stand before Him in such a state without being judged. But the beautiful thing is, when he had thus confessed his unclean state, the seraphim purged his lips with a live coal from the altar. Then there was nothing between Isaiah and the Lord. His lips had been purified, his iniquity taken away, and his sin purged. In that instant, nothing of this world, nothing within himself, no thought, no desire, no emotional burden, no bondage—nothing clouded, confused, or corrupted Isaiah’s clarity of sight. What a glorious moment that was in the life of this prophet of God!
Concerning this passage of Scripture, A.W. Tozer wrote, “In Isaiah 6 we see a clear portrayal of what happens to a person in the mystery of the Presence. Isaiah, overpowered within his own being, can only confess humbly, ‘I am a man of unclean lips!’ I remind you that Isaiah recognized the ‘strangeness’—something of the mystery of the Person of God. In that Presence, Isaiah found no place for joking or for clever cynicism or for human familiarity. He found a strangeness in God, that is, a presence unknown to the sinful and worldly and self-sufficient human. A person who has sensed what Isaiah sensed will never be able to joke about ‘the Man upstairs’ or the ‘Someone up there who likes me.’”
Thus, Isaiah’s lips were purified by fire from the altar of God: purified to be a vessel of honor to serve the Lord, to proclaim the Word of the Lord, and His judgments. God’s Word is pure and holy, and therefore it should never go forth from profane lips, and Isaiah knew it. Again, Isaiah’s iniquity was taken away, and his sin purged. When God forgives and cleanses, He does a thorough job. When He “cleans the house” of the broken, humbled and repentant sinner He doesn’t just wash the windows and shampoo the carpet while leaving dirty dishes undone; He doesn’t leave dark secrets from the past hidden in a dusty attic; He doesn’t ignore the clutter of the world that is stashed in the basement; and, He doesn’t leave other rooms in disarray and then proclaim it ‘clean’! No, no, no! He does a thorough job from top to bottom. The born-again soul is a new creation in Christ Jesus. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
There has to be an exchange of the old life for the new life, of filthy rags for a robe of righteousness, from self-serving lust to selfless love, and from the pursuit of the world to the pursuit of God and His righteousness. For those of us who long to see God, Jesus promised, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” Matthew 5:8. Ezekiel 44:23 says, “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” If we would see God, and teach others how to discern the difference between the holy and the profane, the clean and the unclean, then, as stated before, there can be nothing between us and the Lord that is offensive to Him.
It is also interesting to note that there were three other Old Testament prophets whose mouths were touched, or purified by the Lord including Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Jeremiah 1:9 says, “Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” As for Ezekiel, he had a different experience. The Lord God told him, “But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee. And when I looked behold, an hand was sent unto me; and, lo, a roll of a book was therein; And he spread it before me; and it was written within and without: and there was written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. MOREOVER he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll” Ezekiel 2:8-2:1. Ezekiel said that it was sweet as honey in his mouth. Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Are God’s Words sweet to you?
In Daniel 10:16 we read his experience, “And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength.” In 1 Peter 1:15, 16 we are admonished, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” Hebrews 12:14 says, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Do you want to see the Lord? I think most of us wish we could see Him, “high and lifted up” like Isaiah did. But I have to ask myself, what would happen if suddenly and unexpectedly He appeared? Is there anything that would be between myself and God that needed to be purged and cleansed by fire? After all, Jesus is returning for a church (assembly of called out ones) that are without spot or wrinkle. Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”
At this point it is encouraging to remember that the church that Jesus is building is not a certain religious affiliation, denomination, organization, building, or any other man-centered entity. His church is the universal Body of Christ made up of born again, redeemed, sanctified overcomers all over the world whose names are written in the Book of Life. True Christians are never satisfied or comfortable if something comes between them and God. The world, the flesh and the devil are the sources for such interference and constantly war against God’s people. Concerning the world, the Apostle Paul said, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” Galatians 6:14. Concerning the flesh, he wrote, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” 1 Corinthians 9:27. And, concerning the devil, Paul wrote, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” Ephesians 6:11.
After Isaiah had received his cleansing we read, “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” Isaiah 6:8. Isaiah’s response is a powerful example for those Christians today who are so eager to “giddyap go” and fling themselves into what they perceive to be “ministry!” Having zeal without knowledge, they look around at the post-modern mega churches and all their gawdy and loud outward show of glamor and glitz, elevated platforms and stages with streaming beams of light, reverberating drums, and hype that rivals anything Hollywood can put out. The wannabe church “motivational speaker” who thinks more highly of him or herself than he or she ought to think visualizes being in such a setting with buckets and bags of money pouring in. God has warned us, “seekest great things for thyself? seek them not” Jeremiah 45:5.
God could entrust Isaiah to be a faithful servant because he had no “visions of grandeur” concerning himself or ministry. He was void of any personal agenda or cause and He knew and feared God. He was humble, willing, and obedient. Thus, the Lord could use him for His glory. There is a cost, a price to pay as anyone who is in real ministry can testify to. Granted, there is nothing more important than serving Jesus, and nothing more important than making a difference in the lives of people for eternity, but real ministry (servanthood) is anything but easy or glamorous. Jesus said to “count the cost.” Paul wrote, “I BESEECH you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” Romans 12:1, 2.
If we would have nothing between us and God, nothing to hinder a clear vision of Jesus in His Word, nothing to deafen us to the voice of the Holy Spirit, then we must believe (and meditate on) these words of Jesus, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3, 4.
It’s very human, but very wrong, to conclude that we must at least somehow struggle and strain to make ourselves “great” in order to “see” the King in all of His glory. We assume that only the very elect (or elite) in the religious realm have earned the privilege of being “closer” to God where they have an “in” with Him. Too many sheep today are looking up to a “shepherd” who has gone through all the right doors and jumped through all the right hoops to be “ordained,” and “licensed” and “stamped with a ‘seal of approval’” to preach and tell others what to believe, and how to think. Multitudes turn their brains off and quietly submit to whatever is dished out to them from the pulpit while Great-grandma’s old family Bible collects dust; or, if they have a New Age version, they thumb through it and grab something that might fit their mood.
Climbing your way to greatness is the way of the world. You can see it every day—people grasping the corporate ladder, politicians scheming their way up the political ladder, the rich and famous buying their way up the ladder of success, and misguided church leaders scrambling to climb their way to the perceived pinnacle on the top. The truth is, however, only the wise know that the way up is down, and that the ladder Jacob saw in his vision was not there for him to climb, but for the angels of God to descend and ascend upon. Jacob’s day would come after many years of struggle, suffering, and loss. His was a tough process, and the same is true for the real Church of Jesus Christ. Jesus told his competitive disciples, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” Matthew 23:11.
To have nothing between you and God comes out of a broken and a contrite heart, not great achievements. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” Psalm 51:17. Isaiah 66:1, 2 says, “THUS saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Therefore, when you grow weary with it all, when you feel “down and out” and oh-so- small in the scheme of things, and when in your heart of hearts you just want to “see” the Lord, to feel His presence, to worship and adore Him, to be filled with His Spirit, to have your heart enlarged by His everlasting love, then know that “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” Psalm 34:18; and, never forget that, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” Deuteronomy 33:27a.