walk in the word
I 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 6:5, esv).
If you want to know the God of the universe, start with this: He is holy.
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). Those are the words that greeted the prophet Isaiah in this heavenly vision he recounted. God is “holy”—He is separate, set apart, completely other and distinct from us. He’s not just a little better than we are, a more impressive version of perfection. He’s not a mere convenience to us, an opportunity to upgrade our personal plan for earthbound satisfaction. The God of the Bible that Isaiah saw—“sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1)—is “holy, holy, holy,” and the sight of His holiness created a reflex reaction in mortal man.
“Woe is me!”“The first thing to change when you see God’s holiness is how you see yourself—a shift that can be the beginning of a whole new season of usefulness in your life.” Click To Tweet
Who can stand before this God? Who can stand in His presence? “Woe is me!”—literally, “calamity has fallen or is about to fall.” Isaiah in that moment, face to face with pure holiness, needed look no further than his own mouth to see evidence of sin in his life—the words he’d said, even the words he’d only thought. The holiness of God instantly revealed Isaiah as “a man of unclean lips,” living among “a people of unclean lips.”
All real contact with God produces a sense of unworthiness.
It’s everywhere in Scripture. Abraham, standing before God, said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27). Peter, having watched Jesus orchestrate a miraculous catch of fish, fell to his knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). John, hearing behind him “a loud voice like a trumpet,” said when he turned and saw the One who was speaking, “I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:10, 17). This is the standard of holiness? This is what I’m supposed to be pursuing? This is where the bar is set? This is the God I’m dealing with?
“Woe is me” indeed!
How grateful we should be today that God in His grace has forgiven our sins. How freely—and boldly!—we should embrace the genuine, personal intimacy He shares with us now that Christ is our righteousness. But if we’re seeing Him as we ought to see Him—seeing Him as He really is—we’ll understand we’re really not any better than our neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus. We’re really not any better than people marching in the protest parade. He’s saved us, yes, but not because we’re so awesome.
The first thing to change when you see God’s holiness is how you see yourself—a shift that can be the beginning of a whole new season of usefulness in your life. Like when He heard Abraham’s prayers for wicked Sodom and showed mercy to his nephew. Like when Jesus said to Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). Like when He laid his hand on John, telling him to “write therefore the things that you have seen” (Revelation 1:19).
Or like when Isaiah called out to Him, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Everything changes when you start with “Woe is me!”
I come today, Lord, with my head bowed low. “Woe is me! For I am lost.” Show me who I really am as I look into Your face. Remove my pretension. Dispel my disguises. Render worthless my empty worship. Help me glory only and always in You—the One who fills the whole earth with Your glory. Who am I that You would look with favor on me, except that You’ve allowed me to wear the righteousness of Christ? I come only in His name, who alone is worthy—the matchless name of Jesus. Amen.
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