Isaiah 1:10-20; 6:1-7
The meaning of “holiness” in the bible context is ‘spotless’ or ‘blameless’. God is holy and nothing unholy has any communion with Him. To be holy is not something abstract or mundane. It is real and practicable. For us to be close or to go near to God, we must be holy too, for nothing unholy can behold his presence. The bible says that “without holiness, no one can see God. The holiness of God is symbolical. For example, the use of “seraphim” “burning coal”, “smoke” etc. shows the purifying effect of God’s holiness on those who come to him in repentance.
Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem in about 742 B.C, the same year he received his prophetic calling. This was in the last year of King Uzziah. His focus, just like Amos and Hosea was righteousness. Isaiah, in a vision, saw God sitting on His throne, with the Seraphims standing above him and calling or declaring the holiness of God. Again, as the angel called or shouted the holiness of God, the surroundings shook and the house was filled with smoke. At once, Isaiah, being a mortal being, recognized the holiness of God as well as his own unholy nature. He exclaimed:
“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)
He felt a sense of cleansing from God as he experienced divine touch purifying him. Such was Isaiah’s bewilderment and utmost confusion at seeing himself in the presence of a holy God, himself being unholy. According to him, one of the Seraphim’s took a burning coal with tongs from the altar, flew to him (Isaiah), touched his mouth, saying:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sins forgiven.” (Isaiah 6:7)
Clearly, this very episode indicates the holy nature of God and the fact that for one to behold God’s presence, he must be sanctified just as the Seraphim purified Isaiah before God deemed him qualified to be talked to. Another implication is that sin cannot stand near God in any form, hence, Isaiah’s sins were taken away first.
Just like Amos and Hosea, Isaiah told the people of Sodom and Gomorrah that there sacrifices were worthless without repentance. That is to say, sacrifices and rituals were not the only conditions to the true worship for God, when there is still a multitude of sin in their hearts:
“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs or of he-goats.” (Isaiah 1:11)
To be holy involves godly life, commitment and dedication to God. God told Isaiah to tell the people that vain offerings should stop and that God detests incest. Their worships were mere formalities while their monthly festivals were worth nothing before him. Their hearts were full of iniquity.
As in all cases, God eventually soft-pedals, declaring that the people should rid themselves of evil deeds, seek justice, eschew oppression of the poor, the fatherless and the widow and most importantly, repent, if disaster which was imminent was to be averted:
“If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land, but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1: 19-20)
Lessons To Learn About God’s Holiness
- God is a holy God and nothing unholy can behold his presence.
- Isaiah confessed his sins and was forgiven and purified. In the same vein, if we repent genuinely, we shall receive God’s mercy.
- God is not interested in our outward manifestation of holiness or in our pretences. Sacrifices and rituals are secondary. What God requires is our heart-total repentance
- No matter the nature of our sins or their magnitude, if we repent, God will forgive. He is very kind and loving.
- The sequence of receiving divine touch begins with our being aware or recognizing the presence of God; followed by our perception of his holiness against our own sinful nature; followed by repentance and confession of our unworthiness to stand before God. Last is the divine cleansing. This is the pathway and sequence to divine cleansing.
Divine Call -Ezekiel 1, 2, 3:1-11
Ezekiel was one of the exiles in Babylon. Just like Isaiah, Ezekiel’s call to prophetic duty came in the form of a vision which manifested the glory of God; while his commission was relayed to him partly in speech and partly by means of symbols. This vision of Ezekiel came to him occasionally in the course of his ministry. These are ways by which God lunches the prophet into a realm of knowledge and insight.
Ezekiel was called to be watchman among the children of Israel in exile. He was to warn the wicked people heading straight to perdition, failure of which may result in their destruction.
In a state of trance similar to that of Paul in the new testament, he saw a stormy wind approaching from the direction of the north, within which were a set of four living creatures symmetrically in a square. Each looked like a human being in appearance, except that each had four faces resembling a man, a lion, an ox and that of an eagle. Again, each had four wings which touched one another. The creatures were moving forward, without looking backwards and there were human hands under their wings. . As for their limbs, they were without joints, straight and like a calf’s hoof.
Staying within the creatures were things resembling burning coals like torches, with a lightning coming out of their fire. Besides them (the creatures) were four vast wheels, whose rims contained some eyes with each wheel moving paripassu with the creatures forward and backwards, as the spirit of the creatures were in the wheels. These wheels, which were more or less, chariots, had a motion which was followed by a great rushing sound.
On the top of the creatures was what resembled a firmament, bearing in it an enthroned human figure appearing with fire. The glory of the Lord was shown in this form and Ezekiel was overwhelmed with fear as he fell on his face. In this prostrate position he heard a divine voice addressing him. The voice simply informed him that God has given him the vision of a prophet to Israel. He was forewarned of the chances of his meeting rebellious, hardened hearts which should not make him lose courage to deliver his message without fear, no matter how the people received it.
Next was the appearance of an outstretched hand towards him bearing a written scroll. The scroll with some writing on both sides was spread before him, The wordings contained therein were words of lamentation, mourning and woe. He was told or better still, ordered to eat the scroll and then speak to Israel. He obeyed and found out that the thing tasted as sweet as honey.
This was the commissioning of Ezekiel followed by an earlier warning that he was not to be discouraged by the rebellion, obstinacy and indifference of the recipients of his message. He was promised some strength to withstand such opposition. After this, the spirit lifted Ezekiel up and the sound of a great earthquake followed. The sound was produced by the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another.
Exactly seven days later, Ezekiel was commissioned again by God, this time warning him that if he failed to speak to the people, then he was responsible for whatever fate that would befall them. Finally, he was recommissioned the third time. This time, he should refrain from public speeches, except when there was a divine permission to do so.
Lessons To Learn From Ezekiel’s Divine Call And The Significance
- For everyone, there is a specific duty God has for him. When He calls us therefore, we must respond and obey. In any case, whatever one does very excellently to the glory of God is his calling. Ezekiel responded and obeyed God’s call.
- In the course of performing our divine duties, or any other duty for that matter, we should not allow obstacles or the attitude of people to discourage us. For Ezekiel, God warned him that the people he will be speaking to are obstinate, hence, he should not allow that to discourage him.
- “Son of man” to which Ezekiel was constantly referred to implies his human nature. But for him to succeed in his call, he should receive divine inspiration which will subdue his human nature.
- The vision in which Ezekiel saw the wheels and the chariots and the living creatures implies the overall presence of God surrounding him. Those objects were not real. They only existed in his imagination. All that his eyes saw represented the attributes of God — his sovereignty, majesty, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, holiness, etc ..
- ‘God’s call is for those who are sensitive to his presence and His will for their lives.
- Anybody can be called by God. One does not need to be a pastor, or an evangelist before God can call him. In fact, once one is a dedicated believer, he can be called.
- The prerogative to call people to different professions is God’s. He has control over every profession. No profession is more sacred or more secular than the other.
- We should be spiritually up-to-date as well as sensitive to God’s call in order to understand when God is calling us.
- God himself is holy and expects us to be holy before we can come to his presence.
- Isaiah’s message to the people was based on the people’s lip-service to God.
- They were made to know that God was not interested in their rituals or sacrifices, but on genuine repentance.
- For Ezekiel, his call was just to show the nature of divine call.