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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 6

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Verses 1-4


Before the announced judgments (Isaiah 5:26-Amos :) are carried out, the Holy Spirit now takes time to describe Isaiah’s calling to be a prophet. Its purpose is to show that a believing remnant is always spared when the LORD is about to judge (cf. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4). This remnant humbles itself under the discipling hand of the LORD and trembles at His word (Isaiah 66:2). Isaiah himself is a type of this believing remnant.

Isaiah Sees the LORD in the Temple

This chapter is closely connected with the previous chapter. The sad state of affairs described in Isaiah 5 exists during the reign of King Uzziah. In 739 BC, the year of death of this king, Isaiah gets a vision in which he sees the glory of the LORD, the eternal King. We see here directly the great contrast between an earthly king and the LORD. Earthly kings come and go and die, changes of thrones take place, but the LORD is King on His throne forever.

The whole scene Isaiah sees is full of holiness. That forms a sharp contrast with the condition of the people on earth. Isaiah sees “the Lord [Adonai, the absolute, sovereign Lord] sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted” (Isaiah 6:1). The Gospel according to John tells us that Isaiah sees the glory of the Lord Jesus here (John 12:37-Mark :). Of that glory Isaiah can only mention the “train of His robe”. The train, the lower part of His garment (cf. Exodus 28:33-Nahum :), fills the temple.

It refers to the Lord Jesus on earth. In Him God has become visible, Whom we cannot see according to His Being, because He “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16). He covers Himself “with light as with a cloak” (Psalms 104:2) and fills His heavenly dwelling, just as the cloud of His glory once filled the tabernacle (Exodus 40:35). When Moses and the elders saw the God of Israel, they could only describe what was under His feet (Exodus 24:9-2 Samuel :).

Three times these verses talk about ‘filling’ and ‘full’, each time using the same Hebrew word male (Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 6:3Isaiah 6:4). Twice it is connected with the temple and once with the earth. Here we see on the one hand the supreme sovereignty of God. On the other hand we also see how He is present in what is His. That He transcends everything does not mean that He is at a great distance from it. He is present in His temple and in His creation. His exaltation above everything and His involvement in everything are always in perfect balance in God’s Word.

The “seraphim” (saraph = fiery or burning), the fiery guardians of the holiness of the LORD (Genesis 3:24), dare not behold this glory (Isaiah 6:2; cf. Hebrews 12:29). Therefore, as a sign of awe, they cover their faces with two of their wings. In the light of this glory they further indicate the humility of their exalted service by covering their feet with two other wings. With two more, moving wings, they show the continual readiness to perform that service.

We also see first the wings with which they cover themselves and then the wings of the service. This indicates that service can only happen if we forget ourselves, cover ourselves as it were. That is the case when we are in the presence of God.

In their reverence for the holiness of the LORD, they call one another a triple ‘holy’ (Isaiah 6:3; cf. Revelation 4:8). The three times ‘holy’ is possibly an allusion to the Divine trinity. A triple use of a word indicates in Hebrew the highest form, the superlative. The fact that they call this to each other, one to the other, points to the complete unanimity they have about it. There is no difference. In heaven all the inhabitants of heaven are in perfect agreement about the holiness of God. They are not concerned with themselves, but with His glory and holiness. This should also be the case with us (Ephesians 5:19).

The sight of this triple holiness has such a tremendous effect on Isaiah that it will also characterize his service. ‘Holy’ means ‘to take a separate place in relation to something else’, and not only in relation to evil. Thus the seventh day is ‘sanctified’, i.e. set apart from the other days (Genesis 2:3). The LORD is also holy with respect to the holy angels, that is, He is utterly exalted above them in glory and majesty.

The angels also proclaim the counsel of God, which is that His glory fills the whole earth (Numbers 14:21; cf. Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14). In so doing, they proclaim a prophecy, for the time is not yet come. The glory of the LORD will be seen and acknowledged worldwide, which is not yet the case (Jeremiah 31:34; Philippians 2:11).

The Hebrew word for “glory”, kabod, is used for God in His revelation to His creatures. The essence of His Godhead is unfathomable, but something of His glory can be seen if it pleases Him to reveal it (Exodus 33:17-Isaiah :; Ezekiel 1:28). In a perfect way, that glory has become visible to believers in the Lord Jesus (John 1:14; 1 John 1:1-Numbers :).

The effect of this tribute is overwhelming. There is movement at the entrance of the temple (Isaiah 6:4) and the dwelling place itself is filled with the smoke (Exodus 19:18) from the altar of incense, the symbol of worship. It speaks of the personal glories of the Lord Jesus. His glory fills the house.

This also has meaning for us. When the Lord Jesus died, He accomplished the work of God completely. Because of this, heaven is opened for redeemed sinners, so that they can approach God in worship. The throne of God has now become “the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). This tremendous fact of opening heaven for people has been accompanied by the trembling of the earth (cf. Matthew 27:51). When believers enter the sanctuary to honor and plead with God, there can also be such a powerful effect (Acts 4:31).

Also filling the house is something we can experience. When God’s Spirit comes to the assembled disciples, He fills the whole house (Acts 2:1-Exodus :). This happens because they have all expected this event from God. They have looked forward to it, without being distracted by so many things in the world. If we come together in that spirit and look forward to the revelation of His glory, we can experience it. Then, like Mary, with our worship we will fill the house with the fragrance of it (John 12:3).

Verses 5-7

Sinfulness and Forgiveness

As matter moves when the glory of God is revealed, the hearts of God’s people remain hard and motionless. But not that of Isaiah. The vision causes him to fall down before the LORD. The LORD is “a consuming fire” (Isaiah 33:14; Hebrews 12:29). In this overwhelming light he sees himself as as doom worthy as the people.

He is going to realize that his fate does not depend on an earthly king (Isaiah 6:1), but on the LORD, the heavenly King, the three times holy God. That is why, after the six woes about the people in the previous chapter, he now pronounces a “woe” for the seventh time about himself (Isaiah 6:5).

It is the ‘woe me’ of a believer who learns to see himself in God’s presence. It is not about certain sins, as with the people, but about his sinfulness. That is a deeper work. Peter also comes to the conviction of his sinfulness in the presence of the Lord (Luke 5:8). We also see it with Abraham who feels the same way in God’s presence when he intercedes for Sodom for the sake of Lot (Genesis 18:27; cf. Job 42:6). We see the same with Ezekiel when he is called (Ezekiel 1:28), with John on Patmos (Revelation 1:17) and with Saul when he is on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:3-Numbers :) when they come face to face with the Lord Jesus in His glory.

In each of them their further service is characterized by this appearance and encounter. We do not get these visions, but have them in the Word. By reading the Word we will have the same experience. We will behold the glory of the Lord with the eyes of our hearts and be changed into that image, just as they have been changed by it. We will be overwhelmed by the reading of God’s Word in the same way as Isaiah and the others.

With the exclamation “woe is me” Isaiah makes himself one with the sinful people. He feels unclean in the presence of the LORD. He knows himself spiritually in the same unclean condition of leprosy as in which King Uzziah, mentioned in Isaiah 6:1, ended up through pride (2 Chronicles 26:19-Ecclesiastes :; Leviticus 13:45). By acknowledging the judgment that he is worth, Isaiah escapes the judgment that God must bring to the whole people. Self-judgment is always the way to personally escape the judgment with which God must strike the whole. For God is always ready to grant salvation. Isaiah now participates in the certainty of the forgiveness. In this he is a type of the believing remnant in the future.

This is how it should always be with us. The more we understand the characteristics of Christ’s atoning work and the glories of His Person, the more we will become aware of our sinfulness. The closer we are to the Lord, the greater our awareness of our unworthiness will be. Therefore, we will learn to identify ourselves with the condition in which our fellow-members of the body of Christ have come if they have become unfaithful and go a sinful way. We will learn to confess their sins as ours. Ezra and Daniel have learned and done this (Ezra 9:1-:; Daniel 9:3-Isaiah :; cf. Nehemiah 9:16-Haggai :). Only in this way can we, like Isaiah here, be called and used by the Lord as a true blessing for others.

For a contrite heart there is immediate grace (cf. Isaiah 57:15). A seraph brings Isaiah into contact with what lies on the altar (Isaiah 6:6). Because of what the altar represents – Christ, Who offers Himself to God, which gives God the opportunity to offer forgiveness (2 Corinthians 5:20-Ecclesiastes :) – Isaiah is assured of the forgiveness of His sins (Isaiah 6:7). Through the application of a coal from the altar of incense, he is made fit for his service. He can now go out, surrounded by the aroma of the altar of incense (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:14-Nehemiah :).

In this section we find both a throne and an (incense) altar. This refers to the glory of the Lord Jesus as King and Priest. In Israel king and priest are always separated. When king Uzziah asserts himself to fulfill a priestly task, he becomes leprous (2 Chronicles 26:19). Only the Lord Jesus, like Melchizedek, can be both King and Priest.

Verses 8-10

Call and Command

Isaiah is now fit to bring his serious message. He hears “the voice of the Lord” (Adonai, Isaiah 6:1) with the question of who He will send (Isaiah 6:8). The “Lord”, who is speaking here for the first time, is God the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25-Daniel :). At the same time it is also the Lord Jesus, as we know from the already quoted text from John 12 (John 12:41). This explains why the first question says “I”, singular, and the second question “Us”, plural. The plural “Us” (cf. Genesis 1:26) assumes that the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is speaking here.

The question is not so much a general consideration, nor is it addressed to superiors, but is addressed to the heart of Isaiah personally. It is clear that the question has not been asked to the angels in heaven. If that were so, the whole heavenly host would have immediately come forward and exclaimed: ‘Send me, send me!’ However, the angels remain silent. No one but Isaiah has been made fit to answer this question. He is the vessel that is cleansed and therefore useful to the Master (2 Timothy 2:21).

Isaiah answers directly. He has no questions or objections and says: “Here am I. Send me”. None of “His angels … who perform His word” (Psalms 103:20) can be sent to sinful people for this service. Only a man whose lips are unclean at first, but have now been cleansed, can be sent to a people whose lips are unclean. With the same goal, we too are on earth.

There is nothing that prevents the fellowship between Isaiah and the Lord. When everything that stands in the way of our fellowship with the Lord Jesus is removed, we can fulfill every task He commands us to do in His power. Then nothing that He asks of us will be too heavy for us. Here we see the order:
1. first being convinced of our own unworthiness in God’s presence, then
2. cleansing and then
3. sent out in the service of God.

The command Isaiah receives is a very heavy one (Isaiah 6:9). He has to go to “these people” and bring them the judgment of hardening. By calling the people “this people” – and not speaking of “My people” – the LORD takes distance from His people (Isaiah 6:9-2 Samuel :; cf. Exodus 32:9; Exodus 32:21Exodus 32:31; Numbers 11:11-2 Chronicles :).

The message of hardening that Isaiah is to bring (Isaiah 6:10) will later also be brought to the people by the Lord Jesus (Matthew 13:10-Ezra :). At the same time, this makes clear why this judgment of hardening must come deeply to the masses of the people: because they reject the Lord Jesus. This rejection is clearly evident in attributing the work of the Spirit in Christ to “Beelzebul the ruler of demons”, that is to Satan himself (Matthew 12:22-Jonah :).

Still later, this verse of Isaiah will also make clear that the people reject the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the mouth of Paul (Acts 28:25-Daniel :). With this they will seal the judgment of hardening.

They have persisted so much in their sin of rejecting the LORD and are so stubborn in their refusal to return to Him, that the possibility of conversion and healing is now over. They will hear the preaching, but they will not understand its spiritual meaning. They will think that they see, they will even boast that they see, but their rejection of the Lord Jesus will be proof that they are blind and that their sin remains (John 9:39-Mark :).

Whoever falls under the judgment of hardening is from that moment on no longer accessible to the Word of God. The heart has become of stone. It is indeed true that someone can no longer come to God if God no longer draws him (John 6:44). Then God has surrendered him to himself and his lusts because he himself has chosen to do so (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26Romans 1:28). This is the judgment on Israel.

That judgment of hardening has not come over the whole of Israel, but over a part of it (Romans 11:25). That part is the mass. It is the unbelieving mass that is in the land. Since that time, evangelizing among orthodox Jews has been almost without result, because of this hardening. Jews do regularly come to repentance, there is always a remnant, even in this time (Romans 11:5), but these are exceptions. The mass is hardened.

At the beginning of Zionism, in the nineteenth century, there seemed to be a national revival among the Israelites. Many returned to the land. Some also came to repentance. There came faith in Jesus as the Messiah. On the basis of their own Scriptures it was and is explained that the Messiah had already come. But the vast majority of those who live in Israel don’t like the Messiah Jesus at all and rely on their own strength and follow their own insights to face the problems.

Verses 11-13

Until …

Although Isaiah is willing and wants to obey, he feels the weight of this announcement. His reaction also shows his mind. He is not going to bring this message with joy. He asks how long this blinding or hardening will last (Isaiah 6:11; cf. Zechariah 1:12). In the question “Lord, how long?” we hear the confidence he has in the LORD that He will not send away his people forever (cf. Exodus 32:9-2 Chronicles :). In this we recognize the intercessor.

In the answer of the LORD we indeed hear of an “until”. But first the judgment must have its full effect (Isaiah 6:11-2 Kings :). This lasts until the land is destroyed and depopulated. What remains then, “one tenth”, which we recognize in the returnees from the Babylonian exile, is destroyed again (Isaiah 6:13). This happened, for example, in the year 70 by the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem and massacred its inhabitants. Many fled to Iraq, which was outside the Roman Empire.

Later, too, many fled the land for all kinds of oppressors, including the islamic ones. The land has become more and more depopulated and also more and more devastated. The lowest point is around the year 1800. The number of Jews in the land at that time is estimated at only five thousand. But there has always been a remnant in the land, with which the globally scattered people have always been connected.

Then comes the era of Zionism, with a first wave of Russian Jews returning to the land at the end of the eighteenth century. That return continued. As a result, around three million Jews from all five continents have returned to the land. Not only the inhabitants have been driven out over the centuries, but the land has also been destroyed for centuries.

In the end time, the time that is now coming, land and people will be destroyed again. When Israel goes through the great tribulation, there seems to be nothing left. But the remnant will blossom again. It will be “like a terebinth or an oak” from which all branches have been cut away and only a stump is left. However, there is life in the stump and therefore it will sprout.

This sprout will be “the holy seed”, a seed completely dedicated to the LORD. This refers to the remnant that the LORD has preserved for Himself. This corresponds to the name of the son of Isaiah, Shear-jashub, which means that a rest or a remnant will return, will convert. It is amazing that the LORD uses for the remnant the same word “holy” (qodes) as the Holy Spirit did for the LORD Himself in Isaiah 6:3. Thus the connection between this remnant and the LORD is strongly expressed.

Above all, “the holy seed” refers to the Lord Jesus, Who will be born out of a remnant returned to Jerusalem (Isaiah 11:1). He is “the holy one fathered” as it is literally said to Mary (Luke 1:35). The “holy seed” Israel is holy through his union with the true holy seed, Christ.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-6.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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