Have you ever had a moment of realization in which you discover that something you felt so sure of was actually totally wrong? If you’re honest, I bet there have been many of those times. For some of you, you probably felt embarrassed to discover that Africa is a continent and not a country. Or, that Christopher Columbus didn’t land somewhere in New England. Or, that fortune cookies aren’t really a Chinese thing.
That’s what it must have been like for Isaiah when he went to the temple to mourn the death of King Uzziah (Isaiah 6:1-7). Uzziah had been a godly king for most of his life. But as Isaiah went to the temple to mourn, he learned who the true King was. All that he had thought about sovereignty and glory faded into nothingness as he was caught up in a vision of the Holy God.
In contrast to Uzziah’s puny, earthly throne, Isaiah saw the glorious, heavenly throne of God. And the Lord was sitting upon the throne, exalted above everything else, surrounded by the praise of fiery angelic beings.
Isaiah was overwhelmed with awe and fear at the sight. He said, “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 was a ball of yarn unraveling in the presence of God. Clearly, he was struck with the awareness of his own sinfulness. But then, an unexpected thing happened. The Lord provided cleansing and purification for Isaiah. He removed his guilt, and Isaiah was forgiven!
Like Isaiah, awareness of our own inadequacy is the proper attitude when we stand on our own before the Holy God. As strange as it may sound, God cares more about our holiness than our self-esteem. The so-called experts in our culture leverage every resource of money, scholarship and programming to be sure we don’t encounter God the way Isaiah did. “Your self-esteem is too important!” they say. But what about your God-esteem?
The Lord brought Isaiah low under his holy gaze so that he could raise Isaiah up beyond what Isaiah could have hoped for. The Lord sat Isaiah on the front row of his terrifying holiness so that he could be within arm’s reach of his redeeming grace, mercy and love.
The Holy God of the Bible is often incompatible with our modern sensibilities, and it’s our sensibilities that must be transformed. Many view God as more like a cosmic Santa Claus than as the Holy God whom Isaiah saw. We all need a greater sense of God’s holiness! We all need a higher view of God! Only then will the grace he gives astound us and bless us.
The Lord invites us into that same throne room that Isaiah saw in his vision. The author of Hebrews beckons us. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (KJV). Jesus will meet us there (John 12:41).
Garrett Walden is a pastor at Grace Heritage Church in Auburn, and he's a 6th grade teacher at Auburn Classical Academy. He's an Auburn University alum living in Opelika with his wife and three kids.