1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
This is a famous passage, the description of Isaiah’s encounter with God. The imagery is sublime and out of this world, and there seems to be nothing in our human experience to compare it to…but perhaps the closest comparison we can come up with is when encounter the grandeur and power of nature. If you have ever seen the vistas of the Grand Canyon, or a magnificent waterfall that dwarfs you, you get this breath-taking sense of awe, and we typically describe those moments as “Awesome!”
But even these moments do not adequately describe what Isaiah has seen, because as we can see in his response, there is genuine fear and despair when he sees God’s in all his glory. So Isaiah’s experience is not like looking at a wonderful and peaceful scene, but more like being in a boat with a 40-foot tidal wave bearing down on you, or being on the ground when a volcano erupts. There is combination of awe and fear, and the adjective that describes a moment like this is “Awful”.
It’s not proper for us to overly tame our conceptions of God. We see a lot of artwork of Jesus as this gentle, Caucasian shepherd with auburn hair with chestnut highlights. There is an aspect of that in God…but we must never forget that God is God, untamable, wild, powerful, and holy. That is why C.S. Lewis conceived of God as a powerful Lion who willingly lays down his life for the sake of a wayward boy. And this leads to my favorite quote from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
Susan: “Then he isn’t safe?”
Beaver: “Safe? . . . Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
1. What is your dominant conception of who God is? A gentle Father? A roaring Lion? Where do you think you get this conception from?
2. In what ways have you tried to tame who God is in your life?
3. If God is both awesome and awful, how does that change how we relate to him? Does it help you understand what Jesus did on the cross any more clearly?