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…
There was a veil before the Holy of holies, so that the prophet, who is evidently supposed to have stood in the outer sanctuary, could not ordinarily have seen the throne of the Lord; but the veil is here supposed to be taken away — a circumstance in itself emblematical; for the vision related to the future kingdom of Christ, when the veil of separation was to be removed, and all distinctions destroyed between the Gentile and the Jew.
I. THE CONDUCT OF ISAIAH.
1. Observe how affecting a testimony is given to the corruption and alienation of our nature by the fact that a manifestation of the Divine glory could produce in him nothing but dread and confusion.
2. The reason which Isaiah gives for being sorely confounded at beholding the glories of Christ. By specifying his "lips" and the "lips" of the people, as unclean, and thus calling to remembrance sins of the tongue rather than any other offences, the prophet appears to have in mind the office to which he had been appointed, and the difficulties which attended its faithful discharge.
II. THE EMBLEMATICAL ACTION of which the prophet was the subject, and THE COMFORTING WORDS by which he was addressed. It was in consistency with the general course of the Divine dealings that the prophet's confession should be followed by an assurance of the Almighty's forgiveness. And it was, further, a sort of anticipation of the privileges belonging to believers in Christ, that one of the seraphim should be employed in conveying to Isaiah an assurance of pardon. There was no virtue naturally in the coal — the whole virtue must have been derived from some fire or some burnt offering to which the coal bore a typical relation. And no one living in Christian times and blessed with Christian privileges can doubt for a moment what this typical relation was. And if this were a vision of Christ in His glory, rather than of Christ in His humiliation — a vision more fitted to instruct Isaiah as to the exaltation of the Mediator, than to show him that He might be a propitiation for sins — yet observe, that the scenery of the vision was laid in the temple, all whose furniture and whose every rite was emblematic of the suretyship and offering of Christ. The fire was still burning on the altar, though the Lord was on His throne, clad in that glory which was to be gained by the extinguishing the sacrificial flames — extinguishing them by the one oblation of Himself; and therefore might it justly be said, that the temple, thus lit up and thus crowded with brilliant forms, presented to the prophet a complete parable of redemption. From the altar of burnt offering whose fire went not out, though celestial shinings flooded the sanctuary, might he learn, that the Divinity of the Person of the Mediator would not rescue humanity from the flames of God's wrath against sin; from the throne, with all the attendant gorgeousness, might he be instructed, that when the work of suffering was complete, there should be given to the Saviour "a name above every name," and that He should sit in heavenly places, the "Head over all things to the Church." But then it is as "a live coal" that Christ acts. He was to baptize "with the Holy Ghost and with fire."
(H. Melvill, B. 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.