Isaiah is the first of the major prophets in the Old Testament. He was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah and his ministry spanned the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Isaiah 6 says, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” Recorded in these verses is the call and commission from the Lord on Isaiah’s life.
It is interesting to note that Isaiah 1:1 says, “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem” yet the call and commission from the Lord is not recorded until chapter 6. From chapter one through chapter five, Isaiah is speaking about the sinful condition of Judah and how they have abandoned the Lord. He speaks of their need to repent. And as always with the Lord, He has a word of hope for those in the last days and the future in store for them.
Then in chapter five, Isaiah points his prophetic finger and proclaims six woes on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He accuses them of disregarding the Lord, becoming proud, sinning, calling evil good and good evil, becoming wise in their own eyes, just to name a few. He claims they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.
On the surface, Isaiah is being the good prophet and speaking the word of God to the people. He is in ministry and God is giving him these visions so that he can warn the people to repent and turn back. But in chapter six, a strange thing happens. Isaiah sees the Lord in all His holiness and realizes that he himself is a man of unclean lips. He is overwhelmed with his need to repent. The “woes” that he had been giving out to the people of Judah in chapter 5 have suddenly become a “woe” that applies to him equally well.
God in His grace has one of the seraphim take a burning coal from the altar and with it touch the lips of the prophet. He declares that his sins are taken away and forgiven. Then Isaiah responds with the familiar mantra, “Here am I. Send me.”
We believers often are unaware of our need to repent of all the sins we have accumulated over the years. It’s easy to become oblivious to the sin in our own lives while, at the same time, preaching to others about theirs. The turning point in Isaiah’s ministry was when He saw the Lord in all of His glory. This is not a privilege reserved solely for Isaiah. We, too, can look up and see the Lord in all His glory. The living God is ready to touch our lips with a coal from His altar, to take away our iniquity and forgive every single sin in our lives.