Posts Tagged "Isaiah 6:1-8"

Qadosh for a Reason

May 30, 2021
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this Trinity Sunday comes from our Old Testament text, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”  Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …

Qadosh. That’s the word that the seraphim are calling back and forth to each other as they flitter to and fro about YHWH’s smoke-filled temple/throne room. It’s a word that we translate as “holy,” and that’s a fine translation (probably the best we can do), but it means so much more than that. Qadosh is set-apartness. Separatedness. Wholly other-ness. It is exalted, perfect, high above. It is something beyond what the human mind can grasp, like nothingness or the fifth dimension or … a concept like the Trinity, maybe? Qadosh is the word the seraphim use to describe YHWH Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts, heavenly armies. They can’t see Him, as they have shielded their eyes with two of their six wings, but nevertheless, they cry out what they know of Him. He is qadosh, holy. Isaiah, however, is taking in the whole picture. And I don’t think there’s a word in English that adequately conveys the terror that fills him.

The seraphim have the right idea, guarding their eyes from beholding sheer holiness, but YHWH wants Isaiah to see. The throne room, too magnificent for words, filled with billowing smoke and the enormity of the flowing robe. The foundations of the thresholds of this holy place trembling at the sound of YHWH’s voice. But none of this splendor and glory and majesty … compares to seeing YHWH Himself. The literal picture of qadosh, holiness … and Isaiah can’t take it.

Oy-li! he cries, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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’s mama didn’t raise no dummy; he knows exactly what this interaction should mean. No one can look upon YHWH and live. That’s because he’s a sinner, and he knows he’s a sinner. He knows his sin, and the sins of the people from whom he comes, and he knows that sin cannot abide in the presence of God, of holiness. So, naturally, Isaiah assumes he is about to melt before the presence of the Holy One.

But that doesn’t happen. Instead, one of those fiery, flittering seraphim takes one of the live coals from the altar with tongs, sets it in his hand, brings it to Isaiah, and touches it to the petrified prophet’s lips. We’re not told if there was searing pain involved in this, as one may expect; we simply hear this proclamation from this seraph, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah … will not melt before the holiness, the qadosh of YHWH Elohim. Instead, he will be given a mission. YHWH Elohim speaks, and Isaiah hears, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” You can imagine the newly-forgiven, overjoyed prophet flailing his arms before the face of his beloved Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, Hineini! “Here am I! SEND ME!”

Isaiah saw something very few sinful humans ever have: the unveiled, unadulterated vision of the God of the universe, the Lord of heavenly armies, the great I AM. But it wasn’t for no reason that YHWH chose to bestow this incredible vision upon Isaiah. He didn’t show him the things of heaven just so the prophet could think back on it later in life and think, “Huh, that was pretty cool!” YHWH Elohim, the Lord of heavenly armies, the Triune God, disclosed this vision of His holiness, His Godhood, in order to prepare Isaiah for the mission ahead. His sins were removed, he stood blameless before God Almighty, and God charged him with bearing His message before His people.

 Does that sound familiar? It should. What happened to Isaiah in his vision of YHWH’s throne room is also what happened to you when you were baptized in the name of YHWH, the Triune God. No, a burning coal was not pressed to your lips, but as the pastor baptized you in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, God Himself made you a participant in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. The atonement, the payment for sins that Jesus paid on the cross was applied directly to you in those holy waters, and now God claims you as His own, with the promise that no one can snatch you from His hands. That water, combined with God’s Word of promise, His name, was poured out upon you, and what the seraph told Isaiah is now true of you, as well: “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” You are qadosh, holy, set apart, justified. How? By God’s performative proclamation that you are.  

Like Isaiah, you are not cleansed of your sin simply for you to think back later in life about something nice a pastor once did for you. Like Isaiah, you’ve been cleansed and thus called to the life of a Christian. This doesn’t mean that you can now stop yourself from sinning, but it does mean that you can freely run to your Father in heaven every time you do sin, ask for His forgiveness, and know that it is yours in Christ. It doesn’t mean that you are free to sin, but it does mean you are free to serve your neighbor and be served by your Lord Jesus with His gifts. It doesn’t mean that you are free from anxiety about sharing the Gospel with others, but it does mean that the Holy Spirit will give you utterance to bear witness before the world, as He did with Isaiah.

You’ve been saved from the just penalty for your sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. Your guilt is taken away, as far as the east is from the west, and your sin is atoned for through His blood. My fervent prayer, for you and for myself, is that we would not be blasé about this incredible, beatific good news, but that the Holy Spirit would work through us as He did through Isaiah. My prayer is that, when YHWH Elohim asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” like the prophet, we would all eagerly cry out, Hineini! “Here am I! SEND ME!”

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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