Do you want to SEE GOD? I don’t know if you’ve ever THOUGHT about it. But there’s lots of people out there who DO – if the internet is anything to go by.
It’s full of people with all sorts of stories about near death experiences. And about SEEING God. About what he looks like, and what he said. And about how their life’s changed. That they’re much nicer to people.
Other people reckon they catch a glimpse of God in a sunset, or a thunderstorm. Or a stormy ocean, or a beautiful flower. And it leaves them feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
And I don’t want to ridicule that sort of experience. Because there’s something valid about recognising a glimpse of the Creator from his creation. (Ps 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God). But that’s all it is – a GLIMPSE.
What I’m talking about is a fair-dinkum, life-changing, gut-wrenching, knee-trembling, soul-searching, pretence- shattering/ face-to-face interaction with the God of the Universe? The one who created you, who keeps you ALIVE, and who’s going to JUDGE you. The one whose glorious power and holiness and goodness and salvation just KNOCKS YOUR SOCKS OFF?
Do you want to see God like THAT? Wouldn’t that be the experience of a lifetime??
I reckon people were MADE for that sort of experience. We’re made with A SPIRITUAL DIMENSION. A hunger to connect with something GREATER. Something OUTSIDE ourselves. To connect with eternity. To work out how they fit into the big scheme of things.
Anthropologists say people are WIRED that way. It’s a universal desire. And it explains why there’s RELIGION in every society in every corner of the world. Modern or ancient.
I just reckon it’s because God made us in his IMAGE. It’s how he MADE us.
Do you want to SEE God?
Well, whether he wanted to or not, that’s just what Isaiah experienced in today’s chapter. A face-to-face meeting with the King of the Universe. And we get to look over his shoulder. And learn from him.
Have a look at V1.
6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
The year is 740 BC. The year King Uzziah died. Nearly 40 years before Assyria arrives on the doorstep of Jerusalem.
But Isaiah’s doing more than giving us a date stamp. The HUMAN king’s died, but the TRUE king still LIVES. Uzziah is OFF HIS throne, but GOD is still on HIS.
Human rulers come and go. But God continues. Nations rise and fall, but God rules over them all. Kingdoms CHANGE, but God REMAINS THE SAME.
HE is sovereign. HE is eternal. High and exalted, and the train of his kingly robe is so majestic/ it FILLS the temple.
And Isaiah’s not the only one who’s star-struck. V2.
2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Seraphs. Some sort of heavenly being. The word means FLAMING. But even THEY can’t see God undiluted. With two wings they cover their faces. Like needing to look at a welding arc through dark welding goggles.
And they’re singing in voices so loud, the whole temple shakes. Holy, holy, holy. Not just once but THREE TIMES pure and separate.
And it’s not just the TEMPLE, but the WHOLE EARTH that’s full of his glory.
God’s GLORY is about this VISIBLE aspect. Radiant light. Like the glow around the SCG during a day-night cricket match. You can see it for km’s around. It’s not the SCG itself, or even the lights themselves, but the reflect and diffused glow from the lights. That’s what the GLORY of God is like.
But it’s also about his CHARACTER. About his POWER and his GOODNESS and PURITY and WISDOM and SALVATION. And that’s something about God that you can recognise throughout the whole world.
How would that affect YOU? When you’ve seen something like that, you don’t just walk away and shrug your shoulders. Like when you’ve just watched a good movie. When you see goodness and justice and purity and power like THAT, the only appropriate response is to fall down in submission, recognising your own blackness, and brokenness. And to plead for your life.
Which is what Isaiah does. V5.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
And RUIN would be perfectly APPROPRIATE for an unclean man like Isaiah standing before the might of God himself. Like standing in front of an open iron furnace. He should be SIZZLED ALIVE. Just as YOU or I would be.
2. See Cleansing
But although the LORD Almighty is HOLY, and above everything. And Isaiah is UNCLEAN TO HIS CORE. Something incredible happens. There’s ANOTHER aspect of God’s character that’s wrapped up in his GOODNESS and His HOLINESS. / He wants to FORGIVE and CLEANSE and RESTORE. Look at v6.
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “SEE, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Isaiah’s seen God. And now he sees his CLEANSING.
Unclean lips disinfected. Guilt removed. Sin paid for. Slate wiped clean. A new leaf. A fresh start. A restored relationship.
The problem’s all Isaiah’s, but the SOLUTION is all GOD’S.
3. Not Seeing God
And his concern doesn’t stop with Isaiah. He’s got a job for him. To take the message of sin and judgment and forgiveness TO THE PEOPLE. V8.
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
But even as the word goes out, God knows exactly how it will turn out. For MOST who hear it, it will simply harden their resolve and confirm their independence.
Rather than SEEING God, they’ll actually become MORE BLIND. God’s there to be SEEN. The offer’s on the table. But they’ll REFUSE to see.
Cheery news for Isaiah as he sets out on a lifetime of ministry!
And the rest of Isaiah tells the story of how the people refuse to SEE God, and to see themselves.
It’s almost beyond our comprehension that a God as AWESOME as verses 1-4 describe/ would stoop down, and restore broken people like Isaiah.
And repeatedly offer himself to a stubborn and blind and deaf people.
But he DOES. And it’s no one-off. God never changes. What he was like THEN, he’s like NOW. The same still happens today. His offer of forgiveness comes to unclean people like you and me TODAY. And all we need to do is ASK for it.
Let me read you the story of Zahid. It’s from a book published by Voice of the Martyrs called “Jesus Freaks”. Zahid was someone who SAW GOD, and responded the right way.
It was 1986 in Pakistan. Zahid was a zealous young Muslim priest, freshly assigned to his first mosque. He’d learned to hate Christians, and he was teaching his followers to do the same. To these Muslims, rejecting Mohammed’s teachings by becoming a Christian is the highest form of blasphemy, and deserving of death.
One day, as they chased a group of Christians through the streets, a young boy fled, dropping his Bible. Zahid normally BURNED Bibles, but today, he felt strangely compelled to keep it and study it in order to expose its errors to the people of his mosque. He tucked the Bible into his shirt for later. Zahid reported in his own words what became of keeping that Bible:
“I was reading the Bible, looking for contradictions I could use against the Christian faith. All of a sudden, a great light was in my room and I heard a voice call my name. The light was so bright, it lit the entire room.
“Then the voice asked, ‘Zahid, why do you persecute me?”
“I was scared. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was dreaming. I asked, ‘Who are you?’
“I heard, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’
“For the next three nights the light and the voice returned. Finally, on the fourth I knelt down and I accepted Jesus as my Saviour.”
Zahid’s hatred was suddenly gone. All he wanted to do was share Jesus with everyone he knew.
Zahid had seen God. He’d seen his own sin. And God had cleansed him. And now he’s God’s AGENT. Trying to open OTHER people’s eyes TOO.
4. Do you want to see God?
But what about YOU? Do you want to see God?
In a way, you already HAVE. It may not be as MIRACULOUS as Zahid, but it’s not less real. Listen to what John 1 says (p750). Talking about Jesus.
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
Whatever GOD is, JESUS is. The invisible made VISIBLE. God who could be SEEN. He’s called the WORD, because he COMMUNICATES God.
How did the world react when they actually got to SEE GOD? Not much different from the BLINDNESS in Isaiah’s time. Jump down to v10.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not RECOGNIZE him.
The opportunity to SEE GOD, but they weren’t interested.
Except for SOME. Look how John continues. Some DID recognise Jesus for who he was. Down to v14.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. WE HAVE SEEN HIS GLORY, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Then v18 adds.
18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side (that’s Jesus), has made him known.
Moses only saw God’s GLORY- a reflection of his brightness. Isaiah only saw God’s throne. And the train of his robe.
But when Jesus walked and talked around the Sea of Galilee, people SAW GOD HIMSELF. And ANYONE could do it. You didn’t need to be educated, or powerful, or rich. CHILDREN could see God. The POOR, the sick, the diseased, the unclean. The prostitute, the thief. Everyone could SEE God. Could MEET WITH HIM.
Because Jesus was God the ONE AND ONLY. God made VISIBLE. The GLORY of God – his power and goodness and salvation – wrapped in FLESH.
And these eyewitnesses recorded what Jesus said and did. So WE TOO could see God, through their eyes.
Listen to what Jesus himself says. Over near the END of John. Jn 20:28-31 (p769). Doubting Thomas has just seen Jesus risen from the dead. He’s stuck his fingers into the spear holes in Jesus’ side.
And Thomas sees, and believes. And he says, “My Lord and my God.” That’s how to respond when you see God!
To which Jesus replies,
29 … “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
He’s talking about US. Who get to see Jesus SECOND-hand, through the eyes of the disciples. Jesus says we’re BLESSED. And we can believe because of what they tell us.
And the writer sums things up.
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
When you SEE God, in the person of his Son, the right response is to BELIEVE. To recognise Jesus for who he is. And to TRUST him.
To see in Jesus the character and the power of God himself. To see God’s love, and compassion, his patience and gentleness. To see his holiness, and justice and power. To see his desire to offer clean-ness. To see his heart for the lost. And his willingness to give up everything to WIN them.
But not in abstraction. In isolation. In a vision, or on a mountain. But in the messiness of everyday life. In the midst of frustration and ignorance and selfishness and greed.
Which makes Jesus shine even MORE brightly.
If you want to see God, get to know Jesus. And then FOLLOW him.
And when you’ve SEEN Jesus, then RESPOND the way Isaiah did. When God says, Whom shall I send? And who will Go for us?”
Then answer, “Here I am! Send me!”
That’s how you RESPOND when you’ve seen God. Here I am, send me. Here I am USE me. I trust you.
Yes, I’m scared, I’m unclean, I’m unskilled, I’m weak. I’m not confident. But here I am, send me ANYWAY.
DON’T say, Here I am, I’m NOT willing, NOT ready, TOO busy, TOO young, TOO pre-occupied, TOO disobedient. Send SOMEONE ELSE.
“Here I am! Send me!”
People WANT to know about God. To experience him. It’s what they were MADE for.
So TELL them. Tell your family. And your neighbour. And your workmate. And your golf partner. And your footy team. Tell them that you’ve SEEN GOD.
And when they ask what God’s LIKE. Point them to Jesus. Turn the conversations to HIM. Talk about what Jesus says. And what he did. And point them to the CROSS.
Because it’s only as they get to know JESUS/ that they’ll realise they’re really seeing GOD.
Let me finish with the rest of the story of Zahid. He’d become a Christian after meeting Jesus.
Zahid’s hatred was suddenly gone. All he wanted to do was share Jesus with everyone he knew. He went to his family members and those in the mosque and told them what had happened to him over the last four nights, but they didn’t believe him. His family and friends turned against him.
They called the authorities to have him arrested so he would leave them alone about this Jesus. According to Islamic teaching, Zahid was now considered an apostate, a traitor to Islam, a man who had turned from his faith and accepted stupid lies. Thus, he was a criminal
Zahid was locked up in ‘prison for two years. The guards repeatedly beat and tortured him. One time, they pulled out his fingernails, attempting to break his faith. Another time, they tied him to the ceiling fan by his hair and left him to hang there.
“Although I suffered greatly at the hands of my Muslim captors, I held no bitterness towards them. I knew that just a few years before, I had been one of them. I too had hated Christians.
During my trial, I was found guilty of blasphemy. According to Sharia law, I was to be executed by hanging. They tried to force me to recant my faith in Jesus. They assured me that if I cooperated there would be no more beatings, no more humiliation. I could go free.
“But I could not deny Jesus. Mohammed had never visited me; Jesus had. I knew He was the truth. I just prayed for the guards, hoping that they also would come to know Jesus.”
On the day Zahid was to be hanged, he was unafraid of death as they came to take him from his cell. Even as they took him to his execution and the noose around his neck, Zahid preached about Jesus to his guards and executioners. He wanted his last breaths on earth to be used in telling his countrymen that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life.” Zahid stood ready to face his Savior.
Suddenly, loud voices were heard in the outer room. Guards hurried in to tell Zahid’s executioners that the court had unexpectedly issued an order to release Zahid, stating that there was not enough evidence to execute him. To this day, no one knows why Zahid was suddenly allowed to go free.
Zahid later changed his name to Lazarus, feeling that he too had been raised from death. He traveled in the villages around his home testifying of his narrow escape from death. Many of the Christians did not trust him at first. But soon they saw his sincerity and received him into their family. They now assist him as he travels from village to village preaching Jesus as “the Way, the truth, and the life.”
Zahid writes a personal note at the end of his story.
I live in a land ruled by the false teaching of Islam. My people are blinded, and I was chosen by God to be His voice. I count all that I have suffered nothing compared to the endless joy of knowing Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life.
(Jesus Freaks, Voice of the Martyrs)
That’s how you respond when you’ve seen God. Do the same.