A Seraph's Wings
Isaiah 6:2-3
Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet…

This is the only mention in Scripture of the seraphim. I would notice, before I deal with the specific words of my text, the significance of the name. It means "the flaming" or "burning ones," and so the attendants of the Divine glory in the heavens, whether they be real or imaginary beings, are represented as flashing with splendour, as full of swift energy, like a flame of fire, as glowing with fervid love, as blazing with enthusiasm. That is the type of the highest creatural being that stands closest to God. Cold religion is a contradiction in terms, though, alas! it is a reality in professors.

I. THE WINGS OF REVERENCE. He covered his face, or they covered their faces, lest they should see. As a man brought suddenly into the sunlight, especially if out of a darkened chamber, by an instinctive action shades his eyes with his hand, so these burning creatures, confronted with the still more fervid and fiery light of the Divine nature, fold one pair of their great white pinions over their shining faces, even whilst they cry, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!" And does not that teach us the incapacity of the highest creature, with the purest vision, to gaze undazzled into the shining light of God? I, for my part, do not believe that any conceivable extension of creatural faculties, or any conceivable hallowing of creatural natures, can make the creature able to gaze upon God. "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." But who is the "Him"? Jesus Christ. And, in my belief, Jesus Christ will, to all eternity be the medium of manifesting God. "No man hath seen God at any time," nor can see Him. But my text does also suggest to us by contrast the possibility of far feebler sighted and more sinful creatures than these symbolical seraphs coming into a Presence in which God shall be manifest to them; and they will need no veil drawn by themselves across their eyes. God has veiled Himself, that "we, with unveiled faces, beholding His glory, may be changed into the same image." So the seraph, with his white wings folded before his eyes, may at once stand to us as a parallel and a contrast to what the Christian may expect. We can see Jesus, with no incapacity except such as may be swept away by His grace and our will. There is no need for you to draw anything between your happy eyes and the Face in which we "behold the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father." All the tempering that the Divine lustre needed has been done by Him who veils His glory with the veil of Christ's flesh, and therein does away with the need for any veil that we can draw. But, beyond that, there is another consideration that I should like to suggest, as taught us by the use of this first pair of the six wings, and that is the absolute need for the lowliest reverence in our worship of God. It is strange, but true, I am afraid, that the Christian danger is to lose the sense of the majesty and splendour and separation of God from His creatures. What does that lofty chorus that burst from those immortal lips mean: "Holy, holy, holy!" but the declaration that God is high above and separate from all limitations and imperfections of creatures? We have need to take heed that we do not lose our reverence in our confidence, and that we do not part with godly fear in our filial love.

II. THE WINGS OF HUMILITY. "With twain he covered his feet." The less comely and inferior parts of that fiery corporeity were veiled lest they should be seen by the Eyes that see all things. The wings made no screen that hid the seraph's feet from the eye of God, but it was the instinctive lowly sense of unworthiness that folded them across the feet, even though they, too, burned as a furnace. The nearer we get to God the more we shall be aware of our limitations and unworthiness. And it is because that vision of the Lord sitting on "His throne, high and lifted up," with the thrilling sense of His glory filling the holy temple of the universe, does not burn before us that we can conceit ourselves to have anything worth pluming ourselves upon. Once lift the curtain, once let my love be flooded with the sight of God, and away goes all my self-conceit, and all my fancied superiority above others. Get God into your lives, and you will see that the feet need to be washed, and you will cry, "Lord! not my feet only, but my hands and my head!"

III. THE WINGS FOR SERVICE. "With twain he did fly." That is the emblem of joyous, buoyant, easy, unhindered motion. It is strongly, sadly contrary to the toilsome limitations of us heavy creatures who have no wings, but can at best run on His service, and often find it hard to walk with patience in the way that is set before us. But service with wings, or service with lame feet, it matters not. Whosoever, beholding God, has found need to hide his face from that Light, even whilst he comes into the Light, and to veil his feet from the all-seeing Eye, will also feel impulses to go forth in His service. For the perfection of worship is neither the consciousness of my own insufficiency, nor the humble recognition of His glory, nor the great voice of praise that thrilled from those immortal lips, but it is the doing of His will in daily life. Some people say the service of man is the service of God. Yes, when it is service of man, done for God's sake, it is so, and only then. Now, we, as Christians, have a far higher motive for service than the seraphs had. We have been redeemed, and the spirit of the old Psalm should animate all our obedience: "O Lord, truly I am Thy servant." Why? The next clause tells you. "Thou hast loosed my bonds." The seraphs could not say that. The seraphim were winged for service even while they stood above the throne and pealed forth their thunderous praise which shook the temple. May we not discern in that a hint of the blessed blending of two modes of worship which will be perfectly united in heaven, and which we should aim at harmonising even on earth? "His servants serve Him and see His face." There is possible, even on earth, some foretaste of the perfection of that heavenly state in which no worship of service shall interfere with the worship of contemplation. The seraphs sang "Holy, holy, holy!" but they, and all the hosts of heaven, learn a new song from the experience of earth, and redeemed men are the chorus leaders of the perfected and eternal worship of the heavens. For we read that it is the four-and-twenty elders who begin the song and sing to the Lamb that redeemed them by His blood, and that the living creatures and all the hosts of the angels to that song can but say "Amen!"

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

WEB: Above him stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two he covered his face. With two he covered his feet. With two he flew.

Why Did Isaiah Publish This Account of His Call
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