Worshiping by Grace

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And 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!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12 and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:1-13)

In our current study on worship, we spent two weeks ago looking at the wise men who came to visit Christ to worship. They were worshipers of God. They received word from God about the child, they expended great time and energy to travel and see Him. Their worship was full of joy, the text said they “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” upon finding Him. They were humble worshipers, falling down before Christ. Their worship demonstrated that Christ was of more value than their possessions as they gave Him expensive, exquisite gifts. Their worship even portrayed boldness, showing that Jesus was of more value than life itself in that they defied King Herod, not telling him where Jesus was, as he had instructed them to do.

Each of these things that we have looked at already individually are important, but when we pull them all together it becomes clear that worship, their worship, was full – it encompassed their minds, their wills, their intellect, their emotions, even their bodies. I am struck by that. Sometimes we talk about giving ourselves to something. We hear those words and we all probably know what we mean by that, that we are giving our whole selves to something. The wise men seemed to be doing this. They were giving of their whole selves to worship. As Bilal was reading from Psalm 51 I noticed that David says, “You delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” That speaks of who we really are, our inward being.

Worship today, maybe for you and me, may be much different. We may think of it differently. We may not see it as a “whole person” way of life, way of living. We may think worship is simply an intellectual activity, or only emotional, or we may think, “I feel warm toward God, so that must be worship.” Or that worship is only a physical response, like raising hands or bowing down. Or we may think of it as an act of the will, so we put our money in the offering plate and call it worship. We may think of particular acts, certain gestures or certain feelings, but do we combine them all and say, “I am a worshiper of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ, as a whole person, with all of my being, whatever makes me who I am, with all of that I am a worshiper”? That is what I am wondering about worship. I’m not talking about a place or a specific time or even about a group of people, just wherever we are, whatever we are doing, are we engaged with God as worshipers?

Last week we moved from Matthew 2 to Isaiah 6. We looked primarily at the first four verses of Isaiah 6, which read:

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)

What we see primarily in these verses is direct revelation from God to man, in particular to this man Isaiah. Incredible revelation from God to Isaiah. Can you imagine? Can you imagine being there? This stunning display of creatures never seen before by this man, this scene of worship, of honor, of power and might, all put on display right before this man’s eyes! I think this is God saying, “Take a look! Look at the Lord! Be dazzled by who He is, what you see. Be amazed! Take this in for a moment, look at His greatness and His majesty, listen to the words of the angelic beings: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” God revealing Himself to man.

God revealed Himself to the wise men also; we see a pattern here. God reveals Himself to us through His Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Worship begins with revelation of truth from God to man. Truth about who He is, truth about His stunning glory. This is what Isaiah got here, this is what we get as we read this account and the rest of the Bible, His revelation of truth to us. We don’t have to wait around for God to reveal Himself to us. We have that here in His Word, we have it always in His Word, in His word that is in our minds and our hearts. Can’t we all right now recall truth about God, truth from His Word that we know? That is revelation. We know truth about Him, and we continue to learn truth about Him. We have that as a first and needed component of worship, we don’t have to wait on it. Revelation of God is an important aspect of worship. Today let’s add to that.

Something happened in this passage after this terrific display of the Lord on His throne. Look at verses 5-7:

5 And 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!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:5-7)

This is a fascinating account. This is, I believe, one of the most astounding pictures of God’s grace. And of God’s grace that leads this man into deep worship. What has happened here? Isaiah meets the Lord’s majesty head on, it’s right there, he is in the presence of the Lord peering into the Lord’s domain, and as he does he comes face to face with something else. He doesn’t just see the majesty of God when he looks on the throne. What else does he see? He sees himself in a more desperate position than perhaps he had ever seen before. There is the Lord, and here is he, Isaiah, and oh what insight he got into his own heart and soul. And all he could think was, “Who am I to stand in the presence of the Lord? Who am I to see what I am seeing? Who am I to hear what I have heard? I am just a man, and I am in the presence of another world, another realm. I don’t belong here. I am lost, I am ruined, I cannot survive such a thing as I have seen today, I will now just have to die.” Isaiah was broken by what he had seen, and what he knew of himself. Reality came over him as he stood in the presence of the Lord. He saw himself for who he was, a broken, lowly sinner. We saw this with the wise men also, prominent men who fell down before the baby Jesus, contrite, humbled, lowly in His presence. 

With Isaiah, this is a terrible place to be if nothing changes. If the story stopped right there it’s a terrible place to be. He’s thinking, “I just deserve to be taken out right now, to die.” He is like a man who for the first time sees his sin before a holy God. He is terrified to think of what he has done, of who he is. It’s like what we read in the first few verses of Ephesians 2:

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

That’s kind of where Isaiah was, thinking about his nature apart from God. Maybe it was like how Paul must have felt when Christ met him as he traveled to persecute Christians on the road to Damascus. The Lord spoke to him, Paul was blinded temporarily, and in Acts 9:9 we read that he did not eat or drink for three days. He was seriously troubled by what he had heard, what he had witnessed, what had happened to him. But God didn’t leave Paul in that state. What happened with Isaiah, what happened with Paul, two men stunned by a visitation from a holy Christ, what happened to us as we walked according to Ephesians 2:1-3? God rescued them, He rescued us while still in our sins, and He gives us what? Grace. We go from desperation to rescue, and it’s of grace. What happens to Isaiah?

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

Isaiah had confessed that his lips were unclean. He may have been thinking, “How can I proclaim with my lips what these angelic beings are proclaiming?” Because his lips were unclean. How could he participate in these proclamations about the Lord? His conscience was burdened by his sinfulness and weakness. How could he go on as a prophet of God. The truth is he couldn’t unless the Lord provided for it. And He did. The hot coal, a burning rock, was taken and placed on his lips, representing purification. And the most wonderful statement was made, that says, “this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” That is grace. Isaiah received from the Lord what he didn’t deserve. He received grace. “You will not die today Isaiah, you will not die today in your sins. Your guilt is taken away, and your sins atoned for.” This changes everything!

Did anyone here sin last week? Did anybody do anything that was inconsistent with God’s holiness? Do you know what you deserve for that? Condemnation. 

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)

for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:17)

These are those who have not received God’s saving grace. This is where we would all be apart from His grace. What we deserve is God’s eternal wrath. But because of His grace we receive what?

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)

We know this, right? We know what we deserve, and yet as Christians we know that we have received His love by His grace. Isaiah was in this passage living this out dramatically. What has happened to all of us, he’s just living it out in a dramatic way. From, “Oh no, I’m a dead man!” to “Wow, I’ve been cleansed, guilt removed, sins taken away!” Isaiah in a short time lives out this tension. This drama from death to life. From one extreme to the other extreme. What does this have to do with worship? I think it has everything to do with worship. Everything to do with our worship.

Either we live in this reality of what Isaiah lived here or we don’t. Either we live in a conscious state of a glorious, all-powerful God who has rescued us from doom, or we don’t. And I think wherever we fall on this issue will determine whether or not we are worshiping, really worshiping God or not.

This grace of removing what kept him from the Lord, his guilt, is what led Isaiah to move into a mode of radical service to the Lord. It prompted him to do something, to respond. This led him to worship, worship in the truth that had been revealed to Him regarding his weakness and the Lord’s gracious compassion. I’m afraid that we don’t linger often enough on thoughts of God’s grace given to us as Christians. Has Ephesians 2:8-9 become so familiar that it no longer stir our hearts to worship?

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7)

I wonder sometimes if we are any longer dazzled by God’s free grace given to us as sinners. And then I wonder what would be different about my life, our lives, if we were constantly to live in an awareness of His magnificent grace given to us. I don’t mean just talking about it on a Sunday morning, but living in that awareness. I wonder if I were to live there, I mean just mentally live out what Isaiah experienced in Isaiah 6, if I were to re-live that over and over again, meditate on God’s grace given to me, how that might change my attitudes, my conversations, my thought life, my pursuits, even my feelings. I mean really live life with, “This is who our holy God is: high and lifted up, ruling and reigning over all things. This is who I would be without Him: hopeless, bound for eternal hell, to suffer for my awful sin. And this is what He has done for me: rescued me from that, paid for my sins, wiped my slate clean, the ledger clean, paid in full, no more guilt, His grace is upon me and freely so.”

I just think we would live differently, and by differently I mean we would live in adoration of the Lord in all things, worshiping Him, living for Him. I think we might get to a place where no one has to convince us that it’s time to worship, because we would already be worshiping. I don’t think we would need to work ourselves into a state of worship because it would be natural. Worship would just happen, we would value Christ, be living for Him, be in awe of Him, and relating to Him through His Spirit. That would be worship. Forms may change – singing, hearing the preached word, praying, giving, evangelizing – different activities would happen, but they would all be worship, that is if we were in constant thought of God’s grace that has come to each of us who believe in Him.

Isaiah saw the Lord, he heard the truth about the Lord, he recognized his desperate condition and was rescued from it. Grace had been poured out to him, and life for him would change! We too have received the grace of God. Are we worshiping Him?

Peter worshiped as he recalled God’s grace:

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)

Paul worshiped as he recalled God’s grace:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being (Ephesians 3:14-16)

Recalling God’s grace, remembering His grace, leads to worship.

5 And 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!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:5-7)