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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 6:1

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Isaiah’s Commission

6 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. (NIV)

Isaiah has been telling Judah: This is who you are. You have been a rebellious nation calling down God’s judgment on your heads. Now he adds: This is who God is.

It was 740 BC. Up to this time, young Isaiah had been the recording secretary of the events in King Uzziah’s reign (2 Chronicles 26:22). For the next 22 years, the northern tribes of Israel would be threatened, bullied, exiled, and obliterated by Assyria. The new Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III, had come to power just five years before and he was itching to expand his empire. Judah would last another five or six generations beyond that before falling to Babylon, but the end of Uzziah’s 52-year reign was the beginning of the end for Judah. God called Isaiah to proclaim repentance and the coming of the Messiah while there was still time to preach.

The vision Isaiah saw was a testimony to the people to rely on God. God, whom no one has ever seen (John 1:18) sometimes wraps himself in a visible form. Here God clothes himself in a robe which Isaiah is just able to stand to look at, but God himself is described only as being “high and exalted.” Isaiah’s line of sight will focus instead on the angels in the verses that follow.

The symbolism in the vision (we shouldn’t be surprised that visions in the Bible are full of symbolic meaning) will take root in our minds if we let it sink in and don’t hurry past to the next thing: The train of God’s robe—just the fringe on the edge—“filled the temple.” The temple was the place where the people came to the Lord with their sacrifices; where the priests and the high priest said their prayers, and it was where the forgiveness of sins was spoken over the people on the great Day of Atonement. But the Lord was not contained in the temple like some little yellow idol. Solomon’s temple, for all its great majesty and glory, was completely filled by the hem of God’s robe. God himself transcends our understanding.

And his forgiveness goes beyond our understanding, too. The temple, the sacrifices and even the festivals of the Jews all pointed ahead to Christ. They were like the shadow of a man walking around the corner of a building. Before the man arrives, you can see his shadow coming. You can tell something about him—his build, the way he walks; whether he’s wearing a hat. But once the man appears, there’s no need to look at the shadow anymore. The man is there.

And so it is with Christ. Isaiah’s message was still about the shadow (Isaiah’s message contains some of the most vivid shadows of Christ in the Old Testament) but his message was also: Look to Christ. When he comes, he will accomplish everything for us. And he did.

He gave us the peace of God, which also transcends our understanding. It guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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