Tuesday 04 January 2022

Bible Book:


Isaiah 6:1-7 Tuesday 4 January 2022

Psalm 99


Verse 5 says ‘I have seen the Lord of hosts’. How would you feel if you saw the Lord? Our songs today invite us to sing hallelujah, to cry glory with the angels – but Isaiah is terrified. His context is God’s words to Moses: "You cannot see my face, for no-one may see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). No wonder Isaiah is appalled. He is vividly aware of the uncleanness that cuts him off from the holiness of God. He imagines being overwhelmed by God’s presence and utterly destroyed by the living flame of the seraphim, the fire-angels of Jewish tradition. 

And then, one of the seraphim swoops towards him and touches the hot coal to his lips – imagine the smoke catching in his throat and the smart of the heat on his skin. It must have felt as though death was approaching on fiery wings. Yet it turns out very differently. The burning kiss of the coal purifies Isaiah so that he is ready to receive God’s commission (v. 8). Malachi uses a similar picture, comparing God’s coming to a refiner’s fire, smelting gold and silver to burn away the dross but leave the metal free of impurity (Malachi 3:2-4).

Sometimes it feels as though our prayers of confession in church are too easy: a few words, a moment’s silence and then we hear the declaration of forgiveness and all is well for another week. We need to remember Isaiah, overwhelmed as he comes face-to-face with God in glory. Until that moment he was, perhaps, reasonably content with himself, his life ‘good enough’, a few failings to acknowledge but nothing serious. Now he sees the unbearable contrast between his way of being and God’s, but instead of annihilation he finds reconciliation, and a whole new way of life begins.


To Ponder:

  • "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might": these are words used in the orders of service for Holy Communion. Why do you think we are invited to say these words at this point in the service?
  •  It’s possible to become obsessed with a sense of our own sinfulness. This is not Isaiah’s experience. He is able to leave his sin behind and focus on God’s call. What helps you leave your sin behind and turn to God?


God of wind and flame, you come to us to burn away our sin and help us turn to you. Help us now, at the beginning of this new year, to leave behind all that separates us from you, and  to live in the light of your presence.

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