People of God, this is Trinity Sunday. Of course, every Sunday is Trinity Sunday, since we worship the God who is One and Three. But today, rather than assume the Trinity in everything, we are going to consider the Trinity; particularly in how God relates to worship in Isaiah 6.
It is not enough to ride around with our “God bless America” stickers, because virtually, the “God” of Americans is becoming less and less the God of the Bible. You do not have to peruse too long the popular level discussions on religion to discover that there is a new aggressive atheism in our society. I say aggressive, because the modern atheist is no longer hiding in a suit in small secular universities. Now, they are the superstars of major universities. Students flock all over the world to study under them. Christians are usually marginalized in their classes. Christopher Hitchens—who died recently—was known for his winsome rhetoric; Richard Dawkins makes dogmatic assertions about the progress of science as if it were the gospel; Sam Harris possesses a youthful and persuasive appeal; and, of course, the ever insufferable comedian Bill Maher. These are only a few names that are part of this “New Atheism.” They are a passionate group of people with an open agenda to the world, and their agenda is “to make the Christian God look as imaginary as Zeus or the pink unicorn.” In light of their constant media appearances, they may actually be making a few converts on the way. But, of course, we in the evangelical world have nothing to fear. After all, over 80% of Americans believe in God. They fight vehemently to get God back in the government schools; they fight so that prayer will once again be re-instituted in these schools. They fight for the God-agenda. So, what have we to fear? The answer is everything, for if we fight in the name of an unnamed God, we are no better than the atheist. We may make a few converts on the way, but these converts will be like seeds which fall into the ground and are swallowed up.
As people of the covenant, we do not fight in the Name of an unknown God, but we fight in the name of the God of Scriptures. We trust in the One True God of Holy Scriptures. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that demands allegiance from all His covenant people.
What we celebrate and proclaim on this day is “that this one true God, the God of the Bible, is the Triune God, one God eternally existing in three persons. Even though the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from each other, yet, Each of them is fully God. And yet there is only one God.”
When you think of God, always think of the Triune God. It is this confession that distinguishes us from every cult and every religious expression outside the confessional and apostolic Christian tradition.
Indeed if we are honest, we will also say that the doctrine of the Trinity is a difficult one to understand. We know that the Bible says that the Father is God, the Son is God and the Spirit is God, but what difference does it make? Why don’t we just say that we believe in God instead of the Trinitarian God?
Dorothy Sayers summed up how many people feel about the Trinity when she wrote this little creed:
Q. What is the doctrine of the Trinity?
A. ‘The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the whole thing incomprehensible.’ It’s something put in by theologians to make it more difficult — it’s got nothing to do with daily life or ethics.
But as Trinitarian Christians, we know that the doctrine of the Trinity is not some obscure and irrelevant doctrine put in Systematic Theologies to confuse us. We know that our entire lives depend on the True God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. In fact, we only breathe, move, and have our being, because God is Three and One. But more of this when we apply this at the end.
On this Trinity Sunday I would like for us to see the reaction of a prophet with unclean lips as He sees a glimpse of His great God.
Last Sunday, we celebrated Pentecost. Pentecost marks the beginning of a new era in redemptive history. The cleansing power of the Spirit of God came and made the lips of men clean. The Spirit capacitated them to be witnesses of the Triune God to the ends of the earth. The Holy Trinity is at work in empowering the Church to spread the fame and glory of the ascended Messiah.
In Isaiah 6, we find a similar pattern. Isaiah says in verse five that his “lips are unclean.” This is Isaiah’s response after hearing the seraphim praise Yahweh. The seraphim cry out: “Holy, Holy, Holy!” because they have clean lips. Isaiah’s glimpse into that vision of unhindered and pure worship caused him to look at himself and consider his own worship. At that moment, he recognized that his lips were unclean. “The prophet must first of all be made conscious of his own sin and unworthiness before he can praise God as he should.” Our desire is that whenever people visit our church, they may catch a glimpse of heavenly worship, and desire to be purified in their own worship.
When the ungodly built Babel their lips were unclean. They could not worship Yahweh rightly. So, Yahweh is going to do away with Babel at Pentecost, and He is going to cleanse our lips. And He is going to cleanse Isaiah’s lips of any false understanding of Yahweh, so that his worship and his mission are pure.
But what is this process of cleansing about? Why do Isaiah’s lips need to be cleansed?
This vision occurs in the year that King Uzziah died. Why is this year so significant in Isaiah’s vision? King Uzziah had a long reign of 52 years. His reign was one of basic peace and prosperity. Those were days of uncertainty; days when anarchy might arise.
It was in those days that Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up. But how did King Uzziah die? According to II Chronicles 26, King Uzziah was struck with leprosy when he tried to burn incense to the Lord at the temple. It was not the King’s duty to burn incense, it was a priestly duty. As punishment, the Lord struck him with leprosy. A leprous man was not able to enter the temple, the house of the Lord. King Uzziah became ceremonially unclean. He was cut off from the holy presence. This is why it is so significant for Isaiah to be made clean. The ceremonial uncleanness of the king led Isaiah to his vision of the purity of the heavenly temple where all men are clean.
In that heavenly vision, Isaiah saw the true King of all creation sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
As E.J. Young writes:
“In mysterious manner the power of God came over the prophet, so that he became unconscious to the outside, external world, and yet with the inner eye saw what God revealed to Him.”
It is proper to say that Isaiah saw a manifestation of God in a Person. It is clear that he can see Him seated upon a throne. The throne is a sign of kingship and judgeship. God is the great Judge; the One who will put all the world’s injustices into right; the One who will punish the wicked. He is also the great and mighty King. There is no greater King. And so God as the great and glorious King is preparing Isaiah for his commissioning. But Isaiah is not yet ready for his commission. He must be cleansed and consecrated. He must commune in the presence of God before he is prepared to proclaim God’s message to the nations. Last week, Dr. Sandlin said that we cannot speak of transforming culture, politics, and everything else, without transforming our own hearts. We need individual transformation before cosmic transformation.
Finally, we read that “ the train of Yahweh’s robe fills the temple.” This is an intense and exalted vision. The long, loose, flowing train of his robe fills the heavenly temple. There is no room left for anyone to stand. Isaiah remains silent. His lips are sealed. This is why there is an element of weightiness in our worship, as we confess our sins in the presence of a righteous God. We do that, so he may cleanse our lips to sing his praises.
As the vision unfolds, God is attended by His heavenly court. The text says that the heavenly attendants were seraphim, which means “burning ones.” They burn with passion for worship, for the glory of God. But they cover their faces. They cannot look into the brightness of the Lord. The seraphim are “personal, spiritual beings for they have faces, feet and hands, they employ human speech and understand moral concepts.” They are simply waiting a call to serve their Lord. They are ready, obedient servants.
Then the seraphim are said to “cover their feet.” Two wings cover their faces because the seraphim cannot look into the brightness of God’s face, and then two wings cover their feet. There have been many interpretations of this, but the one that seems most likely is the interpretation that the angels are concealing their feet from Isaiah. Isaiah only gets a glimpse of the glory and majesty of God, so too, he only gets a glimpse into angelic worship. The text says that with the other two wings they fly. They are prepared at any moment to do the Lord’s bidding. They are servants of the Most High God.
And what follows is the seraphim’s favorite song of praise: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” “They are engaged in the task of chanting His praises.” There is a hint of the Trinitarian God in the pages of the Old Testament. We do not need to come to the New Covenant to know the Trinity. The Trinity has always been, even in the pages of the Old Covenant.
The early church believed that this three-fold reference was a reference to the Triune God as if to say: “Holy is the Father. Holy is the Son, and Holy is the Spirit.” And this becomes Isaiah’s favorite designation for God. He refers to God as “The Holy One of Israel,” throughout the rest of the book.
In this vision, the earth responds in two forms according to verse 4: the foundations of the earth shook, and the house was filled with smoke when the voice was heard. God remains unshaken, but the earth shakes at the voice of adoration. This is the result of God-exalting worship. Is this the worship of today’s Church? Is this the God whose reverence the modern church has trivialized? Is this the “man-upstairs” as people refer to? This is the Lord of hosts! The more they sing and worship, the more the earth shakes.
There is something else that happens: “smoke fills the house,” in verse four. The Bible talks a lot of about the sacrificial aroma. As the angels worship, this holy incense/aroma fills the throne room of God. The cries of “Holy, Holy, Holy” produces a “solemn reverence and awe.” If you had a vision like Isaiah’s you would respond just like Isaiah did. Isaiah’s response is one of confession: “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!” Isaiah realizes that he too is unclean and cut off from the presence of God. He is just like those in Babel with unclean lips. He needs to be cleansed, so he may ascend into the presence of God; so he may worship with pure lips. Note the familiar sacrificial language of verse 6, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar.” Isaiah is like an animal about to be sacrificed. He is cut up, washed, cleansed, and then purified by fire so he may become an acceptable sacrifice unto God. Fire always purifies; it is preparatory for proper worship. Do you want to worship God? Be ready to be cut by the two-edged sword of God. You cannot come to worship and simply attend worship. This is not a theater. This is not a show. This is Covenant Renewal. This is heaven and earth coming together.
Isaiah’s lips are made clean; his guilt is taken away, and now he may ascend into the presence of God and commune with God before he is commissioned by God.
How shall we then live?
What we have in Isaiah 6 is the total refutation of all childish, insincere, corrupted, trivialized, and un-Trinitarian worship. Earlier I asked if it is enough to simply believe in God. The answer according to Isaiah is that only One God deserves honor. Atheism is successful because they stereo-type the God that most in this country proclaim: “A weak, powerless and unworthy creation of human imagination.” The American god is not enough! We need a call to true Biblical Trinitarian worship. If you raise your children to honor a generic God, then as soon as they leave highschool they will most likely leave the Church. Teach your children to honor an exalted, glorified, sovereign, and gracious Father, Son, and Spirit, and by God’s grace they will long to be worship with God’s people and to worship God with their mind, heart, soul, and strength.
Isaiah gives us this great picture: First, we are called into His presence. Then, we confess our sinfulness corporately. Thirdly, we consecrate ourselves by singing his praises, hearing the word, confessing a common faith. Fourthly, we commune with him by eating bread and drinking wine. Finally, we are as Isaiah, commissioned to be prophets of the most High-God, and we go not alone, but with His great blessing. He will keep us, make His face to shine upon us and give us His peace.
In order to begin to get a sense of who this God is we need to begin to think of God as Triune. You see a God who is only One cannot offer us community. Why? Because He is alone. But a God who is One and Three can offer us community. The Father loves the Son, the Son loves the Father, the Father and the Son love the Spirit. And this is how we know love. Because the Persons of the Trinity love each other equally. But if God were only One, we would never know what it is to love one another. The Trinity is a pattern for our lives. A husband loves his wife because we see the Son loving the Father. The wife encourages her husband because we see the Spirit encouraging the people of God. We sacrifice and give ourselves to one another because Jesus sacrificed himself for us. The Trinity is everything.
So before we cry out against the immoral acts of this nation, we must first cry out as the seraphim did in worship. So that when we cry out against the fools of this age, we will have not just any god on our side, but the True, Triune, Holy, Holy, Holy Father, Son and Spirit as our true King and Judge whose presence fills the temple, yes, even the whole earth. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 In response, consider how many books have been written to prepare Christians for the assaults they will face in secular colleges.
 John Barach, personal correspondence. Sermon on John 1.
 From Barach’s sermon on John 1.
 E.J. Young, Vol. I, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, pg. 248.
 Some thoughts from Rev. Mickey Schnider’s notes.
 Verses 16-21
 E.J. Young, pg. 236.
 Pentecost Sunday Sermon
 Young, 240-241.
 On the God who is Three and One: http://apologus.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/the-god-who-is-three-and-one/
 Ibid., 241.