Worshiping by Revelation

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)

Last week we began a study on the topic of worship. We have been going through the book of Philippians; we finished chapter 2, and it seemed like a good breaking point to delve into a study on worship. Why a study on worship? It seems to me that worship is one of these over-arching subjects for the Christian life that helps to guide us through everything we go through in life, if we understand it and are engaged in it. There are a few topics like that in the Christian life – worship, love, prayer, rejoicing – things that we should always be doing, thinking about, and engaged in in the Christian life. And if that is true – that worship is one of these topics that should effect everything we do in life – then I want to know more about it. So as the elders and I talked about it, we thought it would be a good study for the entire church.

What we saw from last week is that worship is not simply a Sunday morning activity. It is not a planned task on the family calendar, it’s really not even something to be turned off and back on. Worship is ongoing, it is an attitude that should go with us always.

Last week we looked at an example of worship from Matthew 2. In that chapter we saw the wise men traveling to see Jesus as a baby, and in their journey we were able to observe several things concerning their worship that might effect our lives. Let me remind you of what we observed as we looked at that passage together:

  1. Their worship began with God and required the exertion of energy – it was not passive
  2. Their worship overflowed with joy and rejoicing – this was not simply a dutiful exercise
  3. Their worship was humble – they recognized their lowliness and His majesty
  4. Their worship demonstrated that their treasure was Christ and not worldly possessions
  5. Their worship displayed boldness – a boldness that comes when Christ is seen as our all, even greater than life itself

I asked in light of these descriptions of worship: are we true worshipers of God? How would your worship or mine be described if someone were to sit back and observe our lives? Would it be much like this, or something different?

That was worship from Matthew 2. From that we formed a definition: A God-initiated, energetic, joy-filled, whole-hearted, humble demonstration of the worth of the living and true God.

I want to give you some definitions from other men that might be helpful for us, concerning worship.

  • John MacArthur in Worship: the Ultimate Priority – “worship is honor and adoration directed to God.”
  • David Peterson in Engaging With God – worship is “an engagement with him on the terms that He proposes and in the way that He alone makes possible.”
  • Bob Kauflin in Worship Matters – “Worship is about what we love. What we live for. It’s about who we are before God.”
  • Harold M. Best in Unceasing Worship – “Worship is at once about who we are, about who or what our god is and about how we choose to live.”

This is not a battle of definitions, but these are man’s attempts to capture what worship is as described in the Bible. We often see examples of worship in the Bible, but the word “worship” may not appear. 

Worship, I think, almost becomes a sense of who God is, who we are, and living in the reality of His person, and ourselves as His chosen ones. It is rightly relating to Him as holy, from us who are not holy apart from Him. Of seeing Him as our rescuer, and ourselves as those in need of rescue. It’s really living in this reality and responding appropriately in ways that are pleasing to Him. And of course not under duress, but with a heart overflowing from love.

If this begins to capture what worship is, then it should never end in our hearts and minds. It is right then to worship here, now, or while drifting off to sleep at night, while feeding the baby, or disciplining a child, while in pain, and while in good health. During any of these times we can remember who He is and who we are, and be in a state of continuous response to that before Him. I think this is what worship is.

Today we are going to look at this account from Isaiah 6, and then come back to it next week, Lord willing. I want us to see Isaiah, who came face-to-face with God, and take from that what worship may look like. It is interesting to me to see the many similarities between this account of Isaiah meeting the Lord, and of the wise men who came to worship Christ as a baby. There are similarities in worship. We see in both cases a worship that begins with God, it began with revelation from God, we see a worship that requires a response – the wise men fell down, gave gifts, and Isaiah responds as well – a worship that puts the worshiper in his or her proper place before a holy God – humility on the part of the worshiper and an awe for the majesty of the Lord – and a certain sacrificial boldness that says, “The Lord is greater than all I have, and greater that life itself.” Today we will only consider one point, and it will be from the first four verses of Isaiah 6.

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)

In verses 1-4 we see and get, along with Isaiah, an incredible look into the heavens, sort of a precursor to his worshipful response in the verses following verse 4. The events in this passage take place at a certain point in history that was a real difficult time of transition for Isaiah personally, and for Judah as a whole. There had been what some would call a golden age of spiritual vigor in Judah for some time. And the one who had been their leader through this has just died. He was by no means a perfect man, in fact the last ten years were hard due to his sin, but he had nonetheless provided stability in the land for a long time. As you might expect then, when he died there was great anxiety, fear, and concern over his passing. There was great concern over what would become of the direction of Judah without this leader.

Isaiah, right in the middle of what seemed to be a national tragedy, and a tragedy that would effect him personally, in the middle of this he gets this vision from God, he gets this vision like no other. It is a vision of comfort, for sure, but also one that provoked fear in him, as we will see. It was a vision of comfort in that God is reminding his prophet Isaiah of what is true: that though Uzziah is dead, the King still rules and reigns, that is the true King of the world and all that is contained in it, the Lord, the Lord still reigns!

God was so gracious to Isaiah here, giving him truth, reminding him of what is true. Why is this important? Well because Isaiah was a man, like us, who could use a dose of truth during a very difficult time. Without truth, without being reminded of truth, Isaiah may be tempted to leave God out of this national tragedy, and what would have felt like a personal tragedy. Isaiah may interpret these events as if God were not in them at all, and so this vision may have helped Isaiah in that God inserts himself for Isaiah back into the story. In other words, Isaiah may have been thinking, “What are we going to do? Our leader is dead. Those that seem to be rising to power seem corrupt and evil. We are doomed as a nation, I can see no good in this at all.” That would be thinking that might come from a person who does not believe in a God who rules and watches over His people. And any one of us can fall into this type of wrong thinking, this is why we get anxious and fearful. This thinking would be to interpret events as if there is no Jehovah God.

This dramatic event, this vision, is a gracious reminder to Isaiah of comforting truth. What’s the truth? That earthly leaders come and go, good and bad, earthly circumstances come and go, good and bad, but there is always this constant in all of that: the Lord is on His throne, high and lifted up, ruling and reigning over His creation. We are tempted during difficult times to leave Him out of our life stories. We may rehearse our life stories in our minds as if God is absent. He is not. He never is. He never will be. We need to get the story right and remember the presence, the power, the wisdom, and the love of God that is ever-present in our lives as believers. God is doing that for Isaiah in a very dramatic way.

As Isaiah looks up he sees the Lord, Adonai, a reference I believe to a pre-incarnate Christ Jesus. He is on His throne filling His temple. There are angelic beings like none we have ever seen, with six wings, two covering their faces in the presence of the Lord, two covering their feet or lower parts as a sign of humility and reverence, and with two wings they served. They proclaimed truth about the Lord: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” His holiness was proclaimed! His transcendent holiness was declared from the heavens, and Isaiah gets to hear and see this. God’s other-ness is proclaimed, His uniqueness, His perfection, His ultimate God-ness. As these angelic beings declare this, a chasm is declared here, and that is that He is almighty, pure, and holy, implying that Isaiah is not. And for us too, the stunning holiness of God keeps us from Him unless He does something to make it possible that we approach Him. And He has done that for us. Even the foundations shook as the angelic being proclaimed Him to be holy, holy, holy.

What has God done here in the big picture? He has revealed Himself to a man, and to us as we read this. Without revelation there is no worship of God. We have revelation, the Word. He has revealed Himself to us. We may be tempted to say, “If I had revelation like Isaiah had, I think I would know real worship.” Well, we have what Isaiah had and so much more! As we can read of the coming of Christ, that He did come, that He did die, that He did ascend, that He is our advocate on high.

Worship begins with revealed truth from God to man. This is a really important point. It may seem like common sense to us, but it’s a key point. This is where we started last week with the wise men. God had revealed to them that a star would signify the birth of Jesus. Their worship began with revelation from God to them. Isaiah 6 begins with God showing Himself to Isaiah, Christ on the throne, and a declaration of truth from these angelic, spiritual beings.

Worship begins with a knowledge of God that comes from God to us, a knowledge of God that comes from His revealed Word, the Bible. So I think it is accurate and safe to say that if we are not in God’s Word individually, taking in His revealed Word into our hearts and minds, not being stimulated mentally with His truth about Himself and His ways, if we are not taking all of that into our hearts and minds on a regular basis, if it’s not permeating who we are, then we are probably not worshiping as we ought to worship.

This is why truth is so important when considering worship. We are to worship in Spirit and in truth. What is truth? It is God’s revelation to us. And so whatever Isaiah is about to feel, or do, or how he will respond, it is rooted in the truth of what he has seen and what he has heard. And we are going to see some of this from the passage, that is, how he was stirred and what he was stirred to do, but for now I just want us to see the importance of this revelation of truth given to him.

There are so many things that can stir us mentally and emotionally, but just because we are stirred to some emotional state, that does not mean necessarily that we are worshiping God, does it? Even in church we can be stirred emotionally or mentally, but that does not necessarily equate to worship. 

For example, maybe you’ve had a really busy week. It has been hectic, not a bad week, just extremely busy. A week where you can just honestly say, “I am beat!” I can remember having a week like that a while back, and during that week I had an MRI done on my shoulder. If you’ve had an MRI then you know that they slide you into a tube, and for about an hour it sounds like there’s someone with a jack hammer trying to break through that tube. This particular week I was so tired, and was just thrilled to get to lie down for an hour and relax. I fell asleep. Maybe you’ve had a week like that, where even that sounds good. So if you had a week like that, and you get to church, all the singing is over, time for the sermon, and you think, “I’ve got about forty minutes.” You get real relaxed, feel at peace, mind is clear, not particularly listening to the message, just enjoying the nice downtime. And you sigh and think, “This must be real worship, because I feel good, I’m at peace, resting.”

Or maybe a young man plays a piano piece for us, and you’re moved by it emotionally. It might sound beautiful, and we may think, “He must have really worked on that, it is perfect. That style appeals to me, and the piano, that’s my favorite instrument. And I’m listening to this music in this setting, and all of my family is here, and, well, it’s just that life if good. This music just makes me feel good, and so this must be worship. I mean all these warm feelings and all, it must be worship.” But is that necessarily worship?

In both of these examples I didn’t say anything about God or truth. If those things as I described them, absent of God and truth, if they are worship, then where is God in it? Many things can stir us emotionally, we can experience a sense of peace and even be happy, but are those things really worship? Not necessarily. An important ingredient to stir us to worship is truth, minds engaged in God’s truth. It was true for the wise men, we will see it was true for Isaiah, and we should see it is true for us as well.

This is why we believe corporately as we gather that we must take utmost care that what is said, what is taught, and words that are sung are thoroughly grounded in truth. Because there is no worship of God apart from His truth, and revelation from Him. This is not all that worship is, the proclamation of truth. There can of course be a great deal of truth proclaimed and be no real worship. We see that as Christ preached to the Pharisees, who were not worshiping, and others who were not interested in the message, and even as Isaiah spent years preaching truth to deaf ears. So truth alone does not make worship, but there is no real worship apart from a knowledge of truth.

We see the opposite of this, or to look at this from the negative side, in Romans 1:25: “because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” To ignore or disbelieve truth about God in our worship is to fail to truly worship God.

Does this mean we must always have our Bibles open to worship? No, but truth has to be known, understood, believed, and loved to worship. Are we worshiping God in truth? Do we place, individually, do we place a high priority on truth about God as we worship?

Worship also calls for a response to truth, so next week we will continue in Isaiah 6 and see how Isaiah responds in worship to God’s revelation of truth to Him.

As you walk with God this week, ask yourself, “Am I taking in God’s Word, taking it into my heart and mind in my relationship with Him, and is that revelation to me making a difference in how I live and respond to Him in everything that I do? Am I relating to and worshiping the Lord in truth?”