Our next reflection, based on Isaiah's personal account of his prophetic calling (16 mins), is entitled "Here Am I—Send Me!"
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Chapters 1-5 = Introduction. The next section, 6-12, begins with the cleansing of a single sinner, and end with the song of a redeemed community. Isaiah is a prophet, priest, and statesman. He lived during the final years of the northern kingdom of Israel (8th century BC) and during the reigns of four kings of the southern kingdom (Judah): Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. He was also a contemporary of the prophets of social justice: Amos, Micah, and Hosea. His calling is not related in chapter 1. For Moses, Jeremiah, Ezekiel the call is recorded early. Isaiah’s call comes only in chapter 6. The call scene functions for Isaiah the same way Rev 4 and 5:8-14 do for the Apocalypse of John. For background on the life and message of Isaiah, please listen to the O.T. Character study Isaiah.
Vs.1-2—The vision takes place at the end of the reign of Uzziah (d. 740 or 736). See Ps 11:4. Hechal can mean either temple or palace. Heavenly council setting seems more likely than the Jerusalem temple, or a heavenly temple. Uzziah had overstepped the bounds of grace (2 Chron 26). Seraphim – Angelic Beings (angels, cherubim, seraphim, powers, demons).
Re: The year that King Uzziah died: “The book of Isaiah is interested in the theme of the death of kings. Uzziah’s death is noted in 6:1. Assassination is threatened for Ahaz in 7:6; Hezekiah’s mortality is in theme of chaps. 38 and 39. Nebuchadnezzar’s death is the theme of the taunt in chap. 14; Sennacherib’s death is reported in chap.37” (John D. W. Watts, Word Biblical Commentary 24, Isaiah 1-33, 118).
V.3—Holy x 3 –Weyaqqra’ zeh el-zeh qadhôsh qadhôsh qadhôsh YHWH tseva’ôth… Quite naturally, many Christian commentators have construed this as a reference to the Trinity. Jewish commentators: heaven, this world, and the world to come. Consider the famous hymn, Holy, holy, holy! Lord God almighty! / Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee / Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty! / God over all, blessèd Trinity. Hosts = heavenly armies. Glory: See Isaiah 40 and Psalm 19.
V.4—Shaking: see Exodus 19:18. “Woe is me!” (’ôy li).
Vs.6-7—Unclean lips—the sinfulness of God’s people has been amply illustrated in the previous 5 chapters of Isaiah. Key to effective Christian service: conviction of our own sinfulness. (Not just of others’ sinfulness!) Incense altar—points to Uzziah’s presumptuous sin. (He had just died, after spending his final years as a leper in seclusion.) See Ps 120:4 for a possible connection with the cleansing of Isaiah’s lips.
V.8—Now cleansed, Isaiah is ready for action! Parallel in Ps 51:10-13: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. And yet, as we shall see, Isaiah is told he will not be successful in his mission.
V.9-10—“This people”—instead of “my people." Heart = seat of intellect. The passage is quoted in Matt 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39-31; and Acts 28:26-27. Only the willing will respond in obedience. Not even Jesus could compel the crowds to love God and obey him!
Vs.11-13—“How long?” suggests Isaiah’s love for his people. Devastation (v.11) is on the way, and it is unavoidable. Exile (v.12) – displacement of the population. Seed (v.13): There is a hopeful future—through the Messiah and his followers, not through national Israel, even though fleshly Israel gets once last chance in the return from exile (538 BC). (Do not be deceived by the claims of the modern movement known as “Messianic Judaism.”) See Isa 41:8; 43:5; 45:25; 53:10; 59:21; 65:9, 23; 66:22.
Next reflection: Faith or Fear?
ROUGH OUTLINE OF ISAIAH
1-5 – Background: the sinfulness of God’s people
6-12 – Contrast between apostate king and perfect king
13-27 – the Lord rules the world, not any human king.
28-37 – Deliverance from the Assyrian threat
38-55 – Reliance on Babylon = rejection of God’s covenant. Exile and return.
56-66 – The return under Cyrus. Anticipation of the day when God’s covenant people (Jerusalem) will be the center of the earth.