Holy in His Mercy

Isaiah 6:5-7 “’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty. Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Does Isaiah’s reaction to seeing God seem strange? How many people aren’t desperate for such an encounter? Some practically demand visible evidence before they would believe in God. Maybe you have wished to see him for a few moments yourself. We could set aside living by faith and promises. Instead we could take in the visible glory of God.

It’s not that the Lord hasn’t given little glimpses of his divine glory from time to time. But have you noticed how people react when he does? Jesus showed his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Father spoke from heaven, Matthew tells us, and the disciples fell face down in terror. When Jesus appeared in glory to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, again Paul falls to the ground before him. Isaiah’s reaction is similar. Why?

Isaiah understood himself and his sin. Perhaps he should have joined the angels in their words of praise, but he knew he was unworthy. His lips had been used to gripe and complain, to mock and insult, to lie and deceive, to curse and condemn. He associated with people just like himself. How could such a holy, high, and majestic God stand to have him in his presence, much less voicing his praise?

Let’s consider the question ourselves. How often aren’t we a people of unclean lips! Consider how far we fall short of the holiness of our majestic and all powerful God. Until we feel the agony over our sins that Isaiah felt, we will neither fully appreciate, nor understand, what the Lord did for him next.

“Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Imagine how Isaiah’s heart must have raced when the angel came flying at him with a hot, burning coal! Imagine his surprise when that coal didn’t burn his lips, but warmed his heart and lit up his soul. Imagine his relief when the seraph announced that Isaiah’s sins were no longer Isaiah’s, because God had taken them away.

Of all the ways in which our God is holy, different from every other being, none is more clear than this: The Lord of hosts is holy in his mercy. He forgives freely and instantly. Isaiah didn’t have to jump through hoops. He did not have to perform a long list of good works. He did not have to prove himself first. Neither do we. Our sins, like Isaiah’s, were taken away and atoned for when Jesus took them upon himself and died for them on the cross.

This is the one thing about the Christian faith which is absolutely unique. It also makes the holiness of our God most visible. He does not operate a performance based religion. We do not find our way into his favor by the way in which we serve him, like every other religion in the world. He favors and forgives us because of the way in which he has served us.

It may be true that when we look up at God in his glory and majesty, we are only tiny specks. But when he looks down at us, he does not consider the smallest or the weakest insignificant to him. Just because he is so powerful and majestic he can know and love each one of us individually. He reaches down to us as our friend and Savior. He is holy in his mercy.

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