5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
What is Isaiah’s reaction to this awesome sight of the King seated in His glory on the Heavenly Throne? He recognizes this devastating fact — God is holy and he is not.
Think for a moment about this great contrast between ourselves and God –
God is holy, we are not.
God is righteous, we are not.
God is all knowing, we are not.
God is all-powerful, we are not.
God is sinless, we are not.
God is perfect, we are not.
God is worthy, we are not.
God is awesome, we are not.
For personal reflection: Have you ever contemplated this vast difference before? Did it change your attitude toward God?
Isaiah 6 presents two contrasting reactions to a confrontation with the awesome Creator and King: Isaiah’s personal response and the later group response; the right response vs. the wrong response.
For now, let’s look at Isaiah’s reaction.
Isaiah has just witnessed the surpassing glory of the Supreme Being and realizes that the goodness of God is so far above his own sinfulness that the two cannot co-exist. So he cries, “Woe is me! I am ruined!
Isaiah recognizes that he is unworthy to even see the Lord of Hosts. He calls himself a man of unclean lips, and states that he lives among a people of unclean lips.
Perhaps Isaiah recalls the times he has spoken rashly, harshly condemning others for actions he had also committed, or lying to cover up unworthy behavior and unlawful activities. Maybe he remembers the times he failed to speak up on behalf of others and against injustice, in sinful silence. Most likely the phrase is a metaphor depicting the general idea that he was a sinner in the hands of a righteous God.
We all find ourselves in this same position when we stand before our Maker. Romans 3:23 clearly states that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The right response is to know who we are (created beings, made in the image of God, which is now corrupted by our own actions) and who God is (our perfect and powerful Creator and King). Truly seeing God’s holiness helps to humble us and view ourselves in an accurate way. Each of us needs to recognize our flawed condition and admit our wrongdoing.
For personal reflection: Have you ever failed to live up to your own moral and ethical expectations? How did that experience make you feel? Did you feel the dread that Isaiah experienced?