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Sermon for May 27, 2018, The Holy Trinity

Isaiah 6:1-8 (The Holy Trinity—Series B)

“Holy, Holy, Holy”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

May 27, 2018

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

 

Our text is the Old Testament Lesson recorded in Isaiah 6:

 

1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne high and lifted up and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2Seraphim were standing above him—six wings!—six wings for each! With two he covered his face and with two he covered his feet and with two he flew. 3And these each called to one another saying, “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of armies. The whole earth is full of his glory.” 4The doorposts of the thresholds shook from the sound of the calling and the house was filled with smoke. 5And I said, “Woe to me, for I am cut off because 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, Yahweh of armies.” 6And one of the seraphim flew to me. And in his hand was a glowing coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7And he touched my mouth and said, “Behold! This has touched your lips and your iniquity is removed and your sin is atoned for.” 8And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

 

          It is a powerful refrain that shakes the very throne room of God:

tAa+b’c. hw”åhy> vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh of armies!

It is repeated again and again by the seraphim, a very special order of angels that attend the Triune God with praise and serve Him in His royal court.

tAa+b’c. hw”åhy> vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh of armies!

          This chorus of praise reveals something about God to us. Isaiah sees God on His throne, high and lifted up, as the seraphim call back and forth to one another those powerful words describing our powerful God which echo through God’s throne room, shaking the doorposts and the thresholds—

tAa+b’c. hw”åhy> vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh of armies!

          What does it mean that God is Holy, Holy, Holy? Our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is, in His very nature, being, and essence, holy. He is set apart, removed, exalted. God is exalted above all of His creation and over all of His creatures. (He sits on a throne, high and lifted up. The angels even cover their faces and feet in God’s presence as a sign of His holiness and their unworthiness.) Isaiah will repeatedly use the phrase, “Holy One” to describe the Lord. As the holy God, He is separate from sin. God is absolutely pure.

tAa+b’c. hw”åhy> vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh of armies!

          That’s the problem, isn’t it? The Triune God is perfectly, completely holy by nature and essence and you and I are not at all holy by nature. Isaiah was fully aware of that reality, was he not? He exclaims at the sight, “Woe to me, for I am cut off!” Isaiah acknowledges that he faces calamity, disaster, and doom standing before the completely Holy One, God Himself. Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of armies, and I am not—woe to me, indeed!

          Isaiah confesses to having a mouth that is impure because it is connected to a heart and mind that is sinful and unclean. Jesus 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. 15:18-20 ESV). This is what makes us unclean—our sinful natures inherited from Adam. That original sin with which we are conceived and born manifests itself in all kinds of acts of sin in our thinking, speaking, desiring, and doing. Truly, our words and actions speak volumes, “Look at how great I am! Look at all the good things I’ve done. Look at me, world, and take note!” But while you and I might impress other people with our selfish pride and self-glorification, we certainly do not impress God. And if you want to stand before God, impress Him you must! What is it, then, that would impress God enough for you and me to stand before His holy presence without the fear of wrath, condemnation, and death?  Psalm 24:3-4 tells us, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” 

Isaiah, as well as you and me, can only respond to God’s presence: “Woe to me! I am doomed! I am a man of unclean lips!” We are sinful people who cannot praise God as we should with pure lips because our sin makes itself known from our mouths and our actions. Along with Isaiah, we desire to praise God and give Him the glory as did the angelic seraphim who sang

tAa+b’c. hw”åhy> vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh of armies!

But because of our sinful depravity, we can’t! Those whose natures are full of sin cannot praise God as they should. Nor can we stand before the King, Yahweh of armies. Our sinfulness condemns us to face God’s anger and wrath at our sins. 

So, you and I are not able to serve God perfectly in holiness by keeping His Commandments to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things and to love our neighbors by showing them mercy. We fall far short of His glory. We then come to realize the infinite distance between the Holy God and us sinful creatures. Before His awesome throne, we are nothing but dust and ashes (Gen. 18:27). We stand condemned to eternal death by His holiness and justice. There is nothing we can do to merit forgiveness and life. There is nothing that we can offer God to appease His wrath and displeasure. We broke His Law. We who are unholy stand rightly condemned and punished. “Woe to me for I am cut off because I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

Now listen to what happens to Isaiah in his despair and distress over his sinfulness. “And one of the seraphim flew to me. And in his hand was a glowing coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, ‘Behold! This has touched your lips and your iniquity is removed and your sin is atoned for.’”

tAa+b’c. hw”åhy> vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh of armies!

The thrice holy God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—chooses to cleanse Isaiah. God removes the unholiness and the uncleanness of Isaiah’s sin so that he might stand before Yahweh, the King, without fear of condemnation and death. Yahweh makes Isaiah holy out of His pure mercy and grace. Isaiah didn’t earn it. He didn’t merit it because of good behavior. Isaiah was instead, “Woe to me! I’m doomed!” But God in His mercy chose to cleanse Isaiah and atone for his prophet’s sin.

Isaiah’s forgiveness of sin by means of a burning coal taken from the altar pictures the ultimate atonement for sin accomplished by the means of God the Son’s own blood shed on the altar of the cross. The Son of the Most High left His heavenly armies and took on human flesh in order to live a pure and holy life in humanity’s place. Jesus Christ, very God of very God, did what we cannot do. He acted in our place under God’s Law and kept it perfectly for us. Then Jesus took sinful, unclean humanity’s place under God’s wrath and judgment against sin. He bore our sins in His body on the tree of the cross. (1 Peter 2:24) He suffered hell itself on that cross, being forsaken by God the Father. Christ shed His holy, precious blood to make atonement for our sin, taking away our guilt: “The blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 ESV).

The necessary sacrifice has been made. Your guilt is taken away; your sin atoned for by Jesus’ blood shed for you on the cross. You are made clean in the blood of Jesus in order to stand before the Lord in righteousness and holiness forever. By the power of God the Holy Spirit through Gospel Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, the Father now declares you in Christ to be

vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’ Holy, Holy, Holy

Jesus’ death and His Easter resurrection won for you the forgiveness of sins. You are rescued from death and the devil. You have been given eternal life and are made holy so that you can praise God and glorify Him as you should!

In the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ you see how much God loves you—so much so that He sent His only Son to die on a cross in order that you might live in holiness before Him. When you know and realize the magnitude of your sins and just how great the gift of forgiveness and eternal life is that you have freely received, how can you not respond with hearts and lips cleansed by Jesus’ blood with praise and glory to God? It is no longer, “Look at me, world! Look what I have done.”  Instead, it is “Look at Christ, world! Look what God has done for you through the gift of His Son!” 

tAa+b’c. hw”åhy> vAdßq’ vAd±q’ vAdôq’

Holy, Holy, Holy is Yahweh of armies!

By grace through faith in Jesus, on account of His death on the cross for you, your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for. You now stand before Yahweh of armies righteous and holy, through Jesus Christ our Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

 


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