A Life-Changing Vision

Bible Book: Isaiah  6 : 1-13
Subject: Vision of God; God's Will in Life; Divine Purpose; Cleansing from Sin

Isaiah 6:1-13

In this passage we read of a remarkable vision which was seen by the young prophet, Isaiah. This was the unforgettable, gigantic turning point in his life. He begins the account in verse 1 by saying, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord….”

He didn’t see God in his invisible state, obviously; he saw him in a special, unusual visible manifestation - but the point is, he saw God - and it changed his life. Personally encountering the great God of heaven and earth is an experience after which no one could ever be the same again. It is an experience which is bound to transform and elevate - and thank the Lord, that same experience is also available to you and me. God is not likely to use the dramatic visual effects that he used in Isaiah’s case, but he will reveal himself to you spiritually if you’ll open your mind and heart. Acts 10:34 says that “God is no respecter of persons.” As the old country gospel song puts it, “What he’s done for others, he’ll do for you.” With that in mind, let’s look at Isaiah’s experience.


“In the year that King Uzziah died....” That was probably 759 B.C. But those words do not merely date the vision; they also describe for us the occasion of that life-changing vision.

King Uzziah had reigned for 52 years. There had been a regretful period of decline toward the end, and he died under unfortunate circumstances; but overall he had been an effective ruler. Apparently Isaiah greatly loved and admired his king - and thus the news of Uzziah’s death was like a hammer blow to the young prophet’s heart. He was saddened, subdued, and crushed.

That little word “also” is highly significant in that verse. Undoubtedly Isaiah saw a lot of other things that disturbed him enormously. He saw his nation in disarray because it had lost its leader, its symbol of stability. He saw the possibility of even further moral decline during that disruptive period in the nation’s life. And he saw the frightening prospect of some external enemy taking advantage of that chaotic time of vulnerability and invading the country. Isaiah saw all of those things, and seeing them could have absolutely decimated him. But the thing that kept him from plunging into despair was that he “saw also the Lord!” That uplifting encounter with the living God more than offset the downward pull of everything else he had seen.

There may be some heavy burden dragging you down at this very hour. It may be some serious financial setback, or a severe health problem. You may be staggering under the blow of some huge disappointment - in yourself, or in someone you love. You may be grieving over some loss. You might be terribly lonely. Some distressing family problem may have you all torn up. Well, look to the Lord - that will help you to keep everything else in proper perspective, and he can guide you through your crisis, whatever it may be. In Jeremiah 32:17 the “weeping prophet” said, “There is nothing too hard for thee.” God said, in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” So, don’t lose heart. Don’t throw in the towel. Turn to God in your distress, and he will somehow make a way.


He said, “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” In those days earthly kings sat on an elevated throne and generally wore a long flowing robe, or train. So, Isaiah was saying, “I saw God as a great monarch, as the ruler of all the universe.” In other words, he was saying, “I saw that God is in charge.” It might seem at times like the world is out of control, but God is at the helm, and one day he will bring the curtain down and rectify all of life’s inequities. Psalm 93:1 declares that “The Lord reigneth....” - and make no mistake about it, he will never abdicate his throne. The last word in this weary, chaotic, sin-ravaged world is not going to come from Moscow, Hanoi, from Beijing, or from Washington, D. C. - it’s going to come from the throne of Almighty God, the Sovereign of heaven and earth.

God is “high and lifted up.” While it is our matchless privilege to have fellowship with him when we meet his conditions, we’re always to remember who he is and who we are. He is God; he is the all-powerful king of this universe--and we are limited, finite, sinful human beings. We’re never to speak of him in a cheap, flippant, or coarse manner.

Verse 2 says, “Above it stood the seraphims....” The word “seraphims” means literally “burning ones.” Apparently they were special created beings whose purpose was to attend to the throne of God. Isaiah says, “...each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face....” That was probably an expression of reverence. “...with twain he covered his feet....” That seems to symbolize the humility that any and all should feel in the presence of God. “...and with twain he did fly.” Apparently these burning ones were ready to fly to do God’s bidding, swiftly and at a moment’s notice.

Verse 3 says, “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” It may be that this three-fold repetition of the descriptive word “holy” is not merely a plurality of royalty, but also an implied reference to the trinity. Holy is the Father who created us; holy is his Son Jesus who is one with the Father and died on the cross for our sins and rose again to live forevermore; holy is the Spirit of God who convicts, cleanses, indwells, comforts, empowers, and guides.

The word “holy” means “separate, set apart.” God is holy in that he is set apart from sin; he is pure and spotless and without any flaw - and because he is holy he will not compromise with sin, in your life or mine. Sin destroys character, brings pain and disgrace, breaks up homes, and causes hurt to the lives of precious little children. Sin blasts, blights, and drags people down into the mire of misery and defeat.

Because God is holy, he judges and punishes sin. Hebrews 10:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 12:29 declares, “For our God is a consuming fire.” God offers cleansing and escape from sin’s condemnation, but you have to receive it his way, on his terms.

Verse 4 says, “And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried” - that is, at the voice of the seraphim, the burning ones. The truth regarding God’s holiness is powerful and moving, like an earthquake. ”...and the house was filled with smoke.” Smoke seems to symbolize God’s presence. Apparently the meaning here is that Isaiah was very keenly aware of God’s presence there in the temple.


A. First, Isaiah was CONVICTED.


Verse 5: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone: because I am a man of unclean lips....” Jesus said, in Matthew 12:34, “...out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” What you say, and the way you say it, is an indicator of what’s in your heart. If you’ve got a foul mouth, if you speak rudely, harshly, or abusively, something is wrong inside. Thus, when Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips,” that was another way of saying, “I am an unclean person, because my heart is contaminated with sin.”

I am told that often when aircraft inspectors are making a safety check, they hold a brilliant light close to the fuselage, and thereby sometimes discover dangerous cracks which otherwise would not have been detected - cracks which could lead to disaster. Jesus said, in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world.” The closer an individual gets to Christ, the more aware he becomes of the cracks and crevices in his life - the more glaringly obvious become his sins.

Probably we’ve all heard that cheery philosphy, “I’m okay, you’re okay.” Some time ago a person was seen wearing a T-shirt on which was a picture of Jesus on the cross, and underneath was the caption, “If I am okay, and you’re okay, then explain this.” We’re not okay; we’ve all sinned; and that why Jesus died on that cruel cross.


In that same verse Isaiah said, “...and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, because mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Isaiah’s fresh vision of God caused him to see not only himself, but also others, in a new light. He saw them as people with deep-seated spiritual problems who needed to be set free from the slavery and condemnation of sin.

A fresh new vision of God will do the same for you and me. It will help us see people as Jesus saw them. Matthew 9:36 says, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Looking at people in that light will make us more compassionate and less judgmental. Not that we won’t still hold people accountable for their actions - but we’ll realize that they have a sin problem and need our help. Many are hurting. Many are struggling with guilt, defeat, and a lack of inner fulfillment. We need to see them in that way.

B. Isaiah was CLEANSED.

Now look at verses 6-7: “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.”

The “live coal” from the altar is symbolic of the Lord Jesus Christ who died for us on the cross, rose again, and who alone can cleanse us from our sins. Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” We read in John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Here is the way 1 John 1:7 expresses it: “...the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Notice that his cleansing came only after he had acknowledged and confessed his sins. Until we “face the music” and “call a spade a spade” there is no relief from the burden of sin. Listen to the testimony of the author of Psalm 32:1-5:

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord: and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.

That cleansing was a miraculous act of God. All Isaiah could do was receive it - and in like manner all you and I can do is accept God’s salvation as a free gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”


Once Isaiah had been cleansed, then he had a deep desire to reach out and take the good news of God’s love to those around him. He said, in verse 8, “”Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”

However, Isaiah was not sent on this mission with any illusion of turning the entire nation back to God. Some would turn to God and be saved, but unfortunately the nation as a whole would continue on its toboggan slide to perdition. In verses 9-10 we read:

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and convert, and be healed.

That is, admittedly, difficult language for us. At first glance it appears that God was saying, “Isaiah, you go and intentionally keep those folks from being converted.” But that was not at all what God was saying. Hebrew writers sometimes spoke of a consequence as if it were a purpose, and that was the case here. When clay and wax are exposed to the bright sunlight, the result is different. The wax melts, but the clay hardens. Through Isaiah, the people of Judah were exposed to the bright light of God’s revelation, and while a few did respond in repentance, most of them were like clay and refused to repent, thus hardening their hearts.

So, when you look at those verses carefully and in the proper context, you see that God was saying, in effect, “Isaiah, go and deliver my message - but don’t expect the people as a whole to pay any attention to you. Some will, but most won’t.”

Vss 11-12 “ 11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12 And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.”

God was telling Isaiah to keep on proclaiming God’s truth until the cities were desolate and the people taken into captivity. God was saying to him, in effect, “Just keep on witnessing as long as there is anyone to witness to.” And that’s his will for you and me, as well.

So, for the sake of those few who would respond and turn to the Lord, Isaiah was anxious to get moving. That is the normative thing to do when a person has had a personal encounter with the living God--he desires to share the good news with others.

Many years ago I was preaching in a revival meeting in a small community in Alabama. After lunch on Thursday, the next-to-last day of the revival, the pastor and I were out in the church yard praying, asking God to lead us to someone to witness to. As we were concluding our prayer, we heard hoof-beats. Riding up into the church yard on his horse was a young man named Gerald. We greeted each other, and then I asked, “Gerald, how long have you been a Christian?” He said, “Well, I don’t reckon I really am a sure-enough Christian.” As kindly as I could, I said, “Gerald, there’s no such thing as a part-way Christian. You either are, or you aren’t. Would you like to talk about it?” He indicated that he would, so he dismounted and tied the horse’s reins. We presented the gospel to him, and he got down on his knees - and with tears streaming down his face, he asked God to forgive his sins and save his soul. He arose rejoicing--and all that afternoon, and all the next afternoon, he rode throughout the community telling his friends about Jesus. By Friday night Gerald had personally won one of his friends to Christ and witnessed to a host of others.

D. Isaiah was COMFORTED.

Vs 13 (NASB) “Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, And it will again be subject to burning, Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.”

Using figurative language, God comforts Isaiah by assuring him that in spite of the coming judgment, there is hope. A tenth will be spared. “A tenth” may refer figuratively to simply “a small portion,” rather than meaning a precise number. At any rate, that is obviously a reference to the faithful remnant who will be spared.

But this remnant will “again be subject to burning” - apparently meaning that even though this remnant will be spared, their troubles are not over - they were to be subjected to still further persecution and suffering.

But, again, God injects that comforting note of hope. He says that just as the stump of a felled or burned tree still has life in it and eventually will sprout, in like manner Judah, though apparently wiped out, will still have life left in it - perhaps a reference to those who will survive further invasion, or possibly a reference to those who will return from exile. Isaiah 37:31 says, “And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward:”

Apparently this is a dual prophecy - referring to the survival of the Jews, in spite of all efforts to destroy them from the face of the earth - and, at the same time, it appears to refer also to the ultimate descendent of David, the Messiah himself. Notice that statement, “The holy seed is its stump.” In Galatians 3:16 Paul wrote, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” G. Campbell Morgan said, “Probably the name Nazareth came from the old Hebrew ‘Netzer,’ which means a sprout, and so was something to be held in contempt. A tree is cut off, hewn down, and left. One morning the passer-by sees just one green sprout coming up from the stump; ‘netzer.’"

Here are some other verses which set forth that same prophecy: Isaiah 11:1, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” Jeremiah 23:5: “ Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Almost identical statement in Jeremiah 33:15) In Zechariah 3:8 God speaks of “my servant the BRANCH.”

In spite of their dismal present circumstances, the people of Judah were comforted by the hope they had been given for the future - and in like manner, you and I should also find comfort in realizing that God has not left any of us without hope. Ecclesiastes 9:4 says, “For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope….” Don’t give up on that loved one who has gone astray and seems determined to continue down a path of self-destruction; don’t give up on that sibling, that child or grandchild, that neighbor, or that co-worker. God is still the God of miracles. He is still the great change agent. He is still the great Savior who can melt hearts and transform lives. And don’t give up on yourself - he loves you, just as he does those about whom you are concerned.

A preacher in Texas, James DeLoach, told of seeing a painting which spoke powerfully to him. Here is the essence of his story, as I pictured in my mind’s eye the scene he described: It was a picture of an old burned-out mountain shack. All that remained was the chimney, the charred debris of what had been that family’s sole possession. In front of that destroyed home stood an old man, probably the grandfather, dressed only in his underclothes, having barely gotten out of the inferno before the roof fell in. Standing there with him was a small boy, probably his grandson, clutching a pair of patched overalls, apparently all he had been able to grab as he escaped from the flames. The little boy was crying. Underneath the picture were the old man’s words to the lad. He was saying, “Hush child, God ain’t dead!”1

And that’s what you and I need to remember as we face life’s trials, tribulations, and heartaches. Regardless of how bad things seem, God is still on the throne in this universe, and his grace is still sufficient to see us through whatever life brings.

My prayer is that each of us will so surrender ourselves to the Lord that we will enable him to give us a new vision of himself. If you’re not a Christian, I pray that you’ll heed the Lord’s invitation in Isaiah 45:22:  “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. God’s ultimate revelation of himself is in Jesus Christ, who said, in Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Yield to him in repentance and faith, that he might save you from eternal hell and give you the abundant life in the here and now.

If you’re a Christian who has lost your way, I pray that you’ll get a fresh, new vision of God. Years ago I had the privilege of leading a special friend to Christ. Soon afterwards, our family moved to another state, and after a while I was saddened to learn that this friend had drifted away and fallen back into some of his old habits. I wrote him from time to time and expressed my hope that he would get back on track for God. Then after several years my heart was cheered by a letter that I received from him, telling me that he was now back in church serving the Lord. At one point in his letter he said, “I have rediscovered Christ.”

Maybe that’s your need today. You were converted at some time in the past, perhaps years ago But your vision of Christ has grown dim, and you need to “rediscover” him. He stands ready to forgive you, cleanse you, and give you a new start. In Hosea 14:2 we read: “Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously....” Then in verse 4 God says, “I will heal their backsliding. I will love them freely….”


1 James DeLoach, associate pastor of Second Baptist Church of Houston, quoted in When God Was Taken Captive, W. Aldrich, Multnomah, 1989, p. 24.