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October-November 2021

Celebrating 100 Issues of ONE Magazine


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Marc Chagall, Prophet Isaiah (1968), Wikimedia Commons, Fair Use

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INTERSECT: A Momentous Moment


Isaiah 6:1-8

As the years (or magazine issues) fly by, with all their changes and challenges, it is encouraging to know we hold to the unchanging hand of God. As the old song says:

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

We find one of these momentous moments in Isaiah 6. The chapter simply begins with the statement, “In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD.” While this timestamp carries little significance for us, it held great consequence for Isaiah and the nation of Israel. King Uzziah came to power at the tender age of 16, when the people made him king. From 2 Chronicles, we know he ruled well, following in the godly footsteps of his father Amaziah. As Uzziah sought the Lord, God made him prosper. He built cities, fortified the army and military power, and with each new accomplishment, his fame spread. Sadly, at the end of Uzziah’s life, we encounter a major shift in his story. After disobeying God’s command, he was crippled by leprosy and died. Sadly, he did not finish well.

I always find it striking Uzziah reigned over 50 years. It is hard for Americans to grasp a half-century reign in a political system that elects political leaders every few years. With a new ruler for the first time in 50 years, we can be sure Israel was experiencing a major time of transition. A milestone. A turning of the tides. Yet even in this time of change, Isaiah caught a vision of Someone who doesn’t change. And, as a result, his entire life changed. While none of us are prophets, this passage helps us navigate our own milestone moments, often followed by great change.

When confronted by change, behold the revelation of God. In sharp contrast with Uzziah, who had passed off the scene, Isaiah had a vision of the LORD, seated on a throne. God’s unchallenged and unchanged position is one of absolute power and authority—no election, no passing the gavel, no coronation. He is seated on His eternal throne above all earthly thrones and powers.

The angelic beings in Isaiah’s vision further illuminate the nature of God. These beings, called seraphim, have six wings—two covering their faces because of the unapproachable light of God’s glory, two covering their feet as an expression of humility, and two flying to do the bidding of God. We probably have been conditioned in our thinking about angels from television shows like Touched by an Angel, where angels are beautiful, funny, even bumbling at times. When people encountered angels in Scripture, they usually experienced so much glory and splendor they were terrified or tempted to worship. In Isaiah’s vision, these majestic, terrifying, angelic beings bowed in awe and wonder before the overwhelming majesty of God. They cried continually “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.”

When we express superlatives we say, for example, fast, faster, and fastest. Or good, better, and best. With each word, we use a different word for increasing emphasis. In Hebrew, sometimes emphasis is based on repetition. So, the threefold emphasis from the angels is the way of “underlining in bold,” saying in the strongest way possible that God is holy, utterly righteous, and perfect in all His attributes.

How can we behold the revelation of God today?

Read the Bible. We no longer need a vision like Isaiah. We have the written Word of God, all the revelation of God we need. Within its pages, we can discover for ourselves what God is really like.

When confronted by change, experience the redemption of God. In response to the revelation of God, Isaiah had a breakthrough moment. This breakthrough came because he gained an accurate view of God, and as a result, he began to see an accurate picture of himself. The blazing light and glory of God revealed Isaiah’s own darkness, and he immediately became deeply aware of his own sinfulness and guilt. He reacted with a cry of agony: “Woe is me!”

As the old saying goes, “You have to get people lost before they can be saved.” In other words, a person must become aware of his or her own sinfulness and condition apart from God. And this awareness brings a sense of being undone and helpless without the grace of God.

Isaiah further confessed he was a man of unclean lips and lived among a people of unclean lips. He had a personal problem with sin, along with everyone else around him. Verses 6 and 7 describe Isaiah’s cleansing when one of the seraphim touched his lips with a burning coal, cleansing his sin.

Guilt can only be removed through atonement. And the ultimate atonement for guilt—not just for Isaiah but for all mankind—was provided by Jesus at Calvary. Isaiah himself later prophesied regarding the suffering servant who would “bear the sins of many.” He described the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The old gospel song describes it this way:

What can wash away my sins?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

When confronted by change, join the mission of God. We certainly don’t have the same commission as Isaiah. He was a prophet, and you and I don’t receive the call to be prophets in the strict sense of the word. But his calling is relevant, for the moment we receive Christ and our hearts are washed clean, just like Isaiah we receive a commission. The Great Commission to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.”

This is our mission, and it is the mission of God. How astonishing that He invites us to join Him in His work! The Apostle Paul described us as co-laborers. We work with other Christians but also with God. He is always working in the world, and He invites us to join Him.

However, we must be willing to embrace the mission. Isaiah heard the voice of God in the question, “Who will go for us?” And he immediately volunteered for service. “Here am I; send me.”

Even as we mark this important milestone for ONE Magazine, we must remember it is only a moment. Life continues, and with it comes change and transition, sometimes good, sometimes difficult.

About the Columnist: Barry Raper pastors Bethel FWB Church near Ashland City, Tennessee. He is associate dean of Welch Divinity School.



©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists