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Jackie Hill Perry on Staying Focused on God

As the temple shivered without a breeze, Isaiah didn’t praise. He knew the right things to say, true things. That before Him was “the Lord of Hosts” (6:3) and the “Mighty one of Israel” (1:24). He could’ve invited himself into the Seraphim’s song as they called to one another about the King, their holy hymn. He decided against it choosing instead to make his first word a familiar one. “Woe.”

Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”(v. 5). After seeing the holy God, Isaiah then saw himself. What he knew instantly was that between Him and God, only one was truly holy. In the presence of the Lord, his guilt was obvious, his sins were bright, uncovered, exposed, broadcasted without a screen. Loud without a button to mute them or a finger to shush the noise. He confessed the defilement of his tongue which communicated the pollution native to his nature.

Of all the actions he could have taken, why do we see Isaiah confessing? Why are words what come out of him in such a moment? Because the mouth reveals what the heart holds. Jesus spoke to this when he said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…” (Matt. 15:18-20a). To be a man of “unclean lips” was to be a man that is unclean period.

Isn’t it interesting how simply being in proximity to God creates a moral self-awareness in Isaiah and others? That there is something about God that is so pure, even if unspoken, that when near Him, it becomes so plain that nothing is like Him, especially in terms of righteousness. It is not as though God did anything for Isaiah to be so terrified. God didn’t even tell Isaiah He was holy at all, the Seraphim did. God didn’t move, come near, raise up or down; He simply sat and that was enough for Isaiah to see his own wickedness. Just by being close, Isaiah’s heart and its ways were impossibly noticeable. They were also discerned truthfully. He knew his lips were unclean and his community with it. He let reality determine how he saw himself rather than using some pretty and undamnable word in exchange. He was a prophet who was more honorable in how he spoke and lived than that of the context to which he was called to prophesy against. If he’d stood there and within his mind, he put the nature of his speech next to them who called evil good and good evil, he mightve thought himself pure. But before God—the One in whose mouth there is no deceit, whose perfections are unreachable, whose standard sits beyond the clouds and nowhere near close to any sky we could touch on our own—Isaiah knew he was a sinner.

The dramatic nature of Isaiah’s clarity about his sinfulness highlights the moral excellence of the Lord who caused it. It’s the intensity of what he learned about himself that proves that the high and lifted up God is also light, as in, morally pure. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Light is often used as a metaphor for righteousness. In Proverbs, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn” (Prov. 4:18). In Philippians, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15). Jesus is called “the light of the world” that if followed, He will give them “the light of life” (Jn. 8:12).

Since God is light, God has no darkness. No evil within Him. No blemished heart or unclean hands. His thoughts are always good, His motives always pure. Tozer commenting on God’s holiness says, He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is.”

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In the morning, when the sun stands up and shines on your part of the world, look towards it if you can and know that the Holy God is more brilliant than that. The radiant, incandescent light beaming forth from God’s being has an illuminating effect. As it is with any source of light, it removes shadows, points to what was hiding behind it, tattle tales on the dark and makes it acknowledge the secrets it couldn’t keep. Anyone that loves evil hates light because of this. “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (Jn. 3:20). The contemporary man keeps his Bible closed in an attempt to quench its light. Others manufacture half-truths about God or refuse orthodoxy as a way to keep the Son out. Isaiah did neither, and he couldn’t even if he tried. When by the throne of the Holy one, the supreme virtue of His very being forced everything in Isaiah that didn’t look like God to come out of hiding.

In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, we are provided with a vision of God that sets the table for our holy communion with Him. As we already saw, His holiness is both His transcendence and His moral purity. Both His incredible value over and above all things and His un-revokable commitment to the honoring of His name. A Lord that uses His power for good. A King without blemish. On a throne independent of time. He is high and lifted up and yet holy enough to humble Himself to death. Rising again to sit in His rightful place, where the creatures sing what is true about Him (Rev. 4:8). Through Him, we’ve received a Kingdom that can’t be shaken. Coming to Him, we have met with God. And we now know what we might not have known before. That this God and this King is holy.

Excerpted with permission from Holier Than Thou by Jackie Hill Perry. Copyright 2021, B&H Publishing.

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