Sermon: The Up Side of Worship: Praise - Isaiah 6

It seems that our concept of God is changing. That is exactly where we find the prophet Isaiah in our text. He saw the same transition happening during his lifetime. In fact, he made three observations that parallel today.

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-4

Introduction

What comes to mind when you think about God? A.W. Tozer wrote, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." ["Knowledge of the Holy", 1]

According to a 2006 Baylor Religion Study, Americans have evolving views about God.

  • 5 percent are atheists
  • 16 percent believe in a distant God who is neither involved with us nor inclined to be angry
  • 24 percent believe in a critical God who will show His displeasure by punishment in the hereafter
  • 31 percent believe in an authoritarian God who is very involved in our lives and apt to be angry when we don't do what He wants us to do
  • 23 percent believe in a God of goodwill who is not inclined to be angry

In another study conducted in 2007, Barna Research found several other interesting aspects of Americans belief about God.

  • 3 percent believe that there are many gods, each with different powers and authority
  • 4 percent believe that everyone is god
  • 7 percent believe that God is a state of higher consciousness that a person can achieve
  • 8 percent believe that God is the total realization of personal, human potential
  • 69 percent believe that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfect creator that rules the world today

It seems that our concept of God is changing. That is exactly where we find the prophet Isaiah in our text. He saw the same transition happening during his lifetime. In fact, he made three observations that parallel today.

1. The concept of God was devolving in the national conscience [5:13]

2. God's people had loss their worship, wonder and awe of God. Worship was reduced to mere ritual [3:8 - see Chapter 1].

3. The national moral conscience declines in response to a diminished understanding of God [5:20].

In response, he writes to call a nation back to God by calling God's people back to a high view of God. Our thesis is simple: We will deeply worship when we begin to see God as He is.

Most commentators consider this text the record of Isaiah's call to ministry. But it is more than just a calling - it is a vision of God. Isaiah was like the men in a dungeon during the middle ages. Their cell had a narrow opening at the top of the room. So they formed a human ladder while one man looked outside. Once down, they asked him, "What did you see in the light?"

Isaiah had a unique vision of God. Here he tells us what he saw while he was in the light. Hopefully, what we see in this passage will help us to worship and adore God. This is not an explanation of how to worship, but a declaration of why we should praise and worship our Lord and God.

So, what did he see in the light that would prompt us to worship the Lord?

I. God's gracious self-revelation

He desires to have a relationship with us.

"I saw the Lord" - 6:1.

When we say "self-revelation" we mean His disclosure of Himself. God's self disclosure is all about relationship. This experience reminds us that:

A. God initiated a relationship with us

Isaiah did not initiate this vision - God did. God sought out Isaiah. But why? Simply put, God desires a relationship with us. This reminds us of a great truth: We could not know anything about God apart from God's self-revelation. He has revealed Himself to us in three ways.

1. By His handiwork-creation [general revelation]

Romans 1:19-20 " . . . What can be known of God . . . God has shown it to them. From the creation of the world, His invisible attitudes, that is His eternal power and divine nature."

This knowledge of God through nature is open and available to anyone who will seek Him.

2. His Word [special revelation]

The Scriptures teach of specific things about God such as His names, characteristics, mercy, and purposes [2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17]. But this knowledge was given to foster a proper relationship to God.

3. His Son [self revelation] John 14:9, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:1-3

In John 14:9, Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." Later Paul added that Jesus is the "image of the invisible God" [Colossians 1:15]. But the question is this: Who initiated the coming of the Son of God? It was God the Father.

B. God invites us to a relationship with Him

This text indicates that God extended an invitation to Isaiah to follow and serve Him [see 6:8]. Think of the great honor that God bestows on humans that He invites us to know Him.

C. God illustrates His love by His self disclosure

We only know what we know about God because He wanted us to know. And what does He want us to know? He wants us to know that He loves us.

One author illustrated as follows. "Let's suppose an artist sent you a picture of himself that he had painted. The picture would tell you something about him, give you a glimpse of his knowledge and ability. However, if he sent you a long descriptive letter explaining his innermost thoughts and feelings, you would begin to feel you really knew him. And finally, if he decided to send to you his son who possessed the same features as he and was like him in ability and character, this would reveal the father to you much better. "The only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" (John 1:18)."

II. God's great sovereignty

He deserves our adoration and praise.

"sitting on a throne" - 6:1-3.

God's people need to rediscover the wonder of God. Warren Wiersbe noted, "The church today is imperiled by what it thinks it understands." [Real Worship, 42] To say it differently, our understanding of God has waned in the face of competing interests. A recovery of worship will occur when we see Him as "high and lifted up." Notice the attributes of God that Isaiah saw while he was in the light.

A. His "throne": Reminding us that God is all powerful

Maybe we should ask the question, "This is the throne of what?" It is, of course, the throne of the entire cosmos. But the throne reminds of authority and power.

B. His "train filled": Reminding us that God is immense

How big is God? Just consider the size of the universe. When we say that God is everywhere we mean that God is at all places at all times. He is immense. But He is also personal.

C. His testimony: Reminding us that God is "holy"

Compare this vision in Isaiah with those in the Revelation. In Revelation, the angels are still singing the same song, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty." This is His testimony among both the angels and the redeemed [see Revelation 4-5].

The old hymn "How Great Thou Art" captures the sense of worship that should grow out of our understanding of God's greatness.

"O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder.
Thy hands throughout the universe displayed"

"Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior, God to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art."

III. God's glorious splendor

He displays His immutable nature - 6:2-4.

The contrast in verse 6:1 is stark. "King Uzziah" died, but "God" is "sitting on a high and lofty throne." People and circumstances change, but God does not. What is God's crowning attribute? It is simple: He is always the same. And we need to understand two words that relate to God's nature.

A. Idolatry: To make God other than He is

We can commit idolatry in two ways: [1] By worshipping false idols [the wrong objects] and [2] by embracing false imaginations about God [wrong conceptions of God].

We must resist the temptation to imagine God in our image. Most will remember the story of the "golden calf" that the Israelites worshipped after God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. What most people miss in the story is the name given to the image. They called the "golden calf", Jehovah [see Exodus 32:3-4]. Twice Aaron said, "This is your god." And he added, "Tomorrow we will worship the Lord" as he referred to the golden calf. He didn't mean it was a new god, but a representation of the God they followed. This, of course, was a violation of the second commandment [Exodus 20:4]. If God never changes, and He doesn't, then we must not remake Him other than He has revealed Himself.

B. Immutable: God's never changes

Due to our unredeemed nature at birth, we need the capacity to change. It is, in fact, a gift from God that we can change. But it would be a nightmare for us if God could change. We should remember two great truths associated with God's immutable character.

1. His nature never changes

Arthur John Gossip wrote, "He never acts out of character." [Wiersbe, "Attributes," 148] He never differs from Himself. As Tozer observed, "God cannot change for better. He is never less holy or more holy."

2. His attitude toward us never changes

There are occasions when we question if God's love has diminished - especially when we have offended God. We suppose He responses to our failures in the same manner that we respond to others who disappoint us. Yes, sin has consequences. But we cannot alter His character by our behavior. This is the glorious part -God doesn't view you any different than He did at any other time.

Consider the cross. If you have ever doubted the love of God for you, then remember the cross. Has it ever occurred to you that since God cannot change, He loves you just the same today as He did at the cross? As one writer observed, "He cannot be false to His own blessed nature."

Conclusion

Remember John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

"Country singer George Strait sings a song entitled, 'Love without End, Amen.' It tells the story of a young boy coming home from school after having a fight and expecting punishment from his dad. Fully expecting the wrath of his father, the son waited, expecting the worst. However, the father said, "Let me tell you a secret about a father's love - Daddies don't just love their children every now and then - it's a love without end. Amen.

"The young lad grew up and passed this secret on to his children. One day he dreamed that he died and went to heaven. He was concerned, as he waited to go in, because he realized there must be some mistake for if they knew half the things he's done they would never let him in. It was then that he heard his father's words again, "Let me tell you a secret about a father's love - Daddies don't just love their children every now and then - it's a love without end. Amen."

Isn't it comforting to know that we have a Father like this? It is no secret, concerning our Father's love: God doesn't just love His children every now and then; indeed, it is a "love without end, Amen."

Jerry Gifford is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Franklin, Kentucky. Jerry holds degrees from Western Kentucky University and Liberty Baptist Seminary. He and his wife, Tammie, have two sons, Daniel and David. He is passionate about his family, spiritual renewal, discipleship, preaching, basketball, and water sports.