Isaiah 6:3, 5-8
The title of today's sermon comes from Leviticus 19:1-2, and it conveys a message to us that I don't believe many people are either aware of, or have ever considered:
1. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,
2. "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
The Lord, in speaking through Moses to the congregation of Israel, elevated them to a very special position, but one in which they also had quite a responsibility, a fact that most of them never fully understood; for if they understood it, they would not have done the things they did.
The Lord gave the people a quality of Himself.
The Lord gave them the quality of holiness.
He didn't give them a different quality of holiness; He bestowed upon them the responsibility of having the very same holiness He has.
He was telling the children of Israel that they were indeed God's children, with the same qualities of likeness that children have of their earthly parents: similar coloring, similar physical characteristics, and similar body chemistries.
Since we are formed from our parents’ genes, one set from our father and one set from our mother, we have a blending of both parents in each of us, their good qualities and their bad qualities.
But since God has only good qualities, all His children have these inherent qualities, but with a difference.
God's qualities are of the spiritual nature, while the genes of our parents are of the physical nature.
And unlike our physical development that is based upon physical genes, over which we have no control, these spiritual qualities can be rejected.
When God told the Israelites that they were to be holy as He is holy, He was elevating them to a position in heaven, unlike any other peoples of the earth at that time.
And just in case you think that such a quality and responsibility is only for the Jews, and not for the Christians, remember what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48:
48. "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We are to have the same qualities, exactly the same qualities of holiness, love, and perfection within us, as God has within Himself.
And if we say we don't have these qualities to this extent, we are being honest with ourselves.
But if we say it's impossible, or we can't be like that, we are calling God a liar, for He said we have been given these qualities.
Our problem is that we don't spend enough time considering our responsibilities as children of God, and how we are to change our lifestyle to be conformed into His image.
This is the same message that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai: (Exodus 19:5-6)
5. ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;
6. and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."
Why would God say this if it weren't possible?
The answer is He wouldn't have; He said it because it's possible, and not only possible, but right within our very reach.
In a very dramatic way the Lord showed Isaiah how He helps us achieve this holiness.
Isaiah was given a vision of the throne room of God, with the seraphim over the throne: (Isaiah 6:3)
3. And one called out to another and said,
"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory."
Isaiah immediately grasped the meaning of what this angel said.
He understood the true degree and extent of the holiness of God.
He saw the glory of God in the whole earth, and then a type of fear gripped his heart and soul, for he also understood how we have corrupted God's glory; and so he cried out: (Isaiah 6:5)
5. …"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."
In his unholiness, Isaiah saw himself as a dead man in the midst of God's holiness.
With this recognition, Isaiah confessed his own sins and the sins of the people.
And in all His grace and mercy, God showed Isaiah, and us, how to become truly holy: (Isaiah 6:6-7)
6. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs.
7. And he touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven."
This is exactly what Jesus did for all who believe in Him and call upon His name in repentance.
But when Isaiah realized he was made holy, he also realized his responsibility, for he knew that the quality of holiness is not something we are to hide away, but something that must shine forth from us as strongly as the light of the Lord shines forth from Him: (Isaiah 6:8)
8. Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
If we are truly touched by the Lord, then we must respond, as did Isaiah.
David also saw this sharp contrast between the holy ones of God, and those who are not.
Listen to what he says in Psalm 16:1-6:
1. Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in Thee.
In a way, what David is expressing here is exactly what Isaiah said.
2. I said to the Lord, "Thou art my Lord;
I have no good besides Thee."
David also recognizes that other people have this holiness of God, and he refers to them as saints.
3. As for the saints who are in the earth,
They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
And then he contrasts them with the unsaved people.
David, like Isaiah, expresses his responsibility in the ministry of God's service:
4. The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;
I shall not pour out their libations of blood,
Nor shall I take their names upon my lips.
Here David expresses something very interesting.
He says he won't offer up to God any of the hypocritical prayers and offerings of those who don't really believe.
It's not that he isn't setting the example of God’s holiness before the people, or that he isn't praying for their awakening and salvation, for he's doing this.
What David won't do is participate in their ungodly acts by offering up their hypocritical prayers and sacrifices; for if he did so, he would be participating in their hypocrisy.
This in itself is an awesome responsibility, for it requires us to think with the mind of God, and then analyze each situation, as God does.
And we can't do this unless we know who we are, and where we are in the kingdom of God.
As David says,
5. The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
Thou dost support my lot.
6. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;
Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.
And it has fallen to me, too, as it has fallen to many others.
But what isn't so pleasant, is looking out upon the earth and seeing all the cruelty and hardness of heart, and how much it affects me, and how frustrated I get, and how this frustration takes away much of the holiness God has bestowed upon me.
It's as if not a day goes by when I don't feel I'm not doing what I should be doing, or that I shouldn't be doing what I am doing.
And every day, because of my inner frustrations, I need to be touched by the burning coal from the altar or by the blood of Jesus.
And yet, through it all, I still can't hold back from saying to the Lord, "Here I am, send me."
How many of you are really willing to do the same; not to just say these words, but to really mean them, and follow through with them?
How many of us are really willing to take time to be holy?
Our answer to this is not our spoken amen, but our changed life in holiness that expresses the amen in unspoken words.
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