Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the middle of a people of unclean lips…
I. IF WE SEE GOD WE SHALL SEE OUR SIN.
II. Note the second stage here, in the education of a soul for service — THE SIN RECOGNISED AND REPENTED OF IS BURNED AWAY. I would notice about this stage of the process —
1. That Isaiah singularly passes beyond all the old ritual in which he had been brought up, and recognises another kind of cleansing than that which it embodied. He had got beyond the ritual to what the ritual meant.
2. But far more important than that thought is the human condition that is required ere this cleansing can be realised. "I am a man of unclean lips." "I am undone!" It was because that conviction and confession sprang in the prophet's consciousness that the seraph winged his way with the purifying fire in his hands. Which being translated is just this: faith alone will not bring cleansing. There must go with it what we call, in our Christian phraseology, repentance, which is but the recognition of my own antagonism to the holiness of God, and the resolve to turn my back on my own past self.
3. Again, note that we have here set forth most strikingly the other great truth, the two being as closely synchronous as the flash and the peal; namely, as soon as the consciousness of sin, and the aversion from it, spring in a man's heart, the seraph's wings are set in motion. Remember that beautiful old story in the historical books, of how the erring king, brought to sanity and repentance by Nathan's apologue, put all his acknowledgments in these words, "I have sinned against the Lord"; and how the confession was not out of his lips, nor had died in its vibration in the atmosphere, before the prophet, with Divine authority, replied with equal brevity and completeness, and as if the two sayings were bits of the one sentence, "And the Lord hath made to pass the iniquity of thy sin." That is all. Simultaneous are the two things.
4. Still further, notice how the cleansing comes as a Divine gift. The Lord is He that healeth us.
5. But, further, the cleansing is by fire. By which, as I suppose, in the present context, and at Isaiah's stage of religious knowledge and experience, we are to understand that great thought that God burns away our sins; as you put a piece of foul clay into the fire, and the stain melts from the surface like a dissipating cloud, as the heat finds its way into the substance. "He will baptise with the Holy Ghost and with fire" — a fire that quickens. A new impulse will be granted, and that will become the life of the sinful man's life, and will emancipate him from the power of his own darkness and evil. Now, let us remember that we have the fulness of all that was shadowed to the prophet in this vision, and that all these emblems are gathered together, not with confusion, but abundance and opulence in Jesus Christ Himself. Is He not the seraph? Is He not Himself the burning coal? Is He not the altar from which it is taken? All that is needed to make the foulest clean lies in Christ's great work.
III. The third stage here is — THE PURGED SPIRIT IS READY FOR SERVICE.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.