God is holy. God is glorious. God is robed in splendour.
All hard for me to wrap my finite human mind around.
And maybe that’s the point. Maybe we simply aren’t supposed to understand this aspect of God. Yet, how I understand God affects how I orient my life and ministry in this world. And a statement like God is glorious can often be ambiguous to me. What does it mean? Have I experienced it?
Most often, people say that they experience God’s glory in creation. This comes as no surprise. Isaiah 6:3 reminds us that “All the earth is filled with God’s glory” (CEV). So for those with eyes to see, God’s glory is clearly evident all around us.
Others will speak of God’s glory revealed in times of music and worship singing, in prayer or in other interactions with other Christians. Perhaps this is enough.
I still wonder though, what about an experience like Isaiah has before the living God? What would it be like to have a powerful and marvellous experience like that?
In Isaiah 6, I see at least three things happening.
First, Isaiah has a personal encounter with the LORD sitting high and exalted on his throne. The temple is shaking and filled with smoke.
It reminds me of God’s appearance to the people of Israel in Exodus 19: smoke, thunder, shaking. There was a tangible display of power and majesty. Yet, there is also this personal encounter with God in Isaiah 6. For both the Israelites and Isaiah, their encounter with God is not only majestic, and terrifying, but also a deeply personal.
Secondly, as Isaiah stands before God he comes into a greater awareness of himself and the myriad ways he falls short of the character and nature of God. “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5, KJV), Isaiah responds to the gracious revelation of God.
The Hebrew word translated “undone” is used in other places to say “brought to silence.” His character and his deeds exposed before the Holy God, Isaiah has nothing to say.
Finally, God moves in mercy and cleanses Isaiah. God makes Isaiah clean and commissions him to speak a message to the people.
As Isaiah encounters the glory of God, he sees the LORD as King, exalted on his throne, but intimate enough to be seen. In this vision, Isaiah recognizes his sin, then finds healing and cleansing.
When I followed the footnotes in my Bible to John chapter 12, this powerful story became infinitely richer and more meaningful. The Apostle John writes of the message Isaiah was appointed to speak, then adds his own commentary: “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12:41).
Did you catch that? Jesus is the one whom Isaiah saw and worshipped as the glory of God!
Once I saw this, I began to see that it was everywhere in the Gospel of John. Over and over, John drops hints that the glory of the Almighty God is standing right in front of us: Jesus. Look through the Gospel to see how many times Jesus and glory show up together.
Everything I need for an Isaiah-like moment is right in front of me.
As I study the life of Jesus in the Gospels, I discover the King of kings and Lord of lords, exalted, seated on his throne – but also near, calling me into intimacy and fellowship with him.
As I stare at the life of Jesus in the Gospels, I am reminded of my sin, of all the ways my actions and my inactions fall short of the character of Christ who reveals the way of living in God’s Kingdom. Jesus perfectly models the life of surrender and worship to God here on earth. I am reminded that I need a new heart. I need the Spirit of God to fill me and to clothe me in Christ, so that I can live in the same way.
And finally, as I contemplate the cross of Christ, I experience the gracious, loving mercy of the Saviour, who by his death and resurrection makes me clean, restores broken relationships and ransoms my life. Not because of something I have done, but the pure goodness and graciousness of God.
Isaiah saw God’s glory for a moment, but in Jesus we have an even fuller, richer revelation of the Glorious One.
Next time you pick up your Bible, look for the evidence of how glorious and marvellous is our God.
[Nathan McCorkindale is the pastor of discipleship at Philadelphia MB Church, Watrous, Sask. He enjoys spending time with his wife Niki and three (soon to be four) children, and when time allows, being outside in God’s creation hunting and fishing.