If you go to Cairo, Egypt today you can visit two very famous graves. You can go to the pyramids and visit the tombs of the great kings of Egypt, the most famous of which is the tomb of King Tut. “He was only seventeen when he died. He was buried with solid gold chariots and thousands of golden artifacts. His gold coffin was found in a burial site filled with tons of gold. The Egyptians believed they could take earthly treasures into the afterlife. But all the treasures intended for King Tutt’s eternal enjoyment stayed right where they were until Howard Carter discovered the burial chamber in 1922. “The other grave is much harder to find. It’s off a dusty back alley in a graveyard for American missionaries. The tombstone reads: “William Borden, 1887-1913.” In 1904 when William Borden graduated from high school, he was already a millionaire and heir to the Borden Dairy Estate. As a graduation gift his parents gave him a trip around the world.
Isaiah has just seen heaven. Heaven is God, heaven is God in the fullness of His glory, God outshining ten-thousand suns. Heaven is consumed by the all-consuming glory of the one and only creator God. No eye has seen, no ear has heard what He is like in all His glory, splendor and majesty. Remember, Isaiah only saw a glimpse, only a veiled portion because no created being is able to bear seeing all of God’s glory. How would we respond to the vision of the glory of God? At first Isaiah must have been overwhelmed and intoxicated by the magnificent and majestic display. But then self-consciousness sets in. It’s like gazing in awe at a nighttime sky full of stars and then suddenly feeling very small and insignificant. Or standing in awe before the majestic beauty of the Cascades and then feeling small and inconsequential. Maybe it is a bit like Peter with his eyes fixed on Jesus walking on the water all of a sudden becoming self-aware and beginning to sink in fear. Isaiah is overwhelmed, he is undone, he is laid low. The staggering chasm between God’s holiness and his unholiness is laid before him. How many of us in hearing news about a serial killer feel this huge gulf or distance between him and ourselves? We can’t even fathom sinking that low and acting as he did. We see no comparison between him and his sin and us and our sin.
I love Isaiah’s vision. I see it as a model of what it means to be a Reformed Christian and a Reformed Church. Biblical Reformed theology is about glory and grace, about seeing the glory of God, feeling the conviction of sin and our lostness and inability to save ourselves, receiving the free gift of God’s grace and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit which leads us to be agents of God’s transforming glory and grace in a culture that desperately needs this vision. Our text offers us a very clear description both of our vision as a Reformed Church and the foundation under our vision. In a sense you could say that this text is both the house and the foundation. So, this evening we begin with the “the Glory of God,” the first tenet of Reformed Theology.
This morning is the second of three sermons on worship and why we worship and do what we do in our worship. Isaiah 6 is one of the great texts in Scripture on worship and how we worship. The flow of the text sets a pattern that we use in our worship and I want to unpack that with you this morning.
In India cows are holy. Muslims wage Holy War. Catholics have holy water. Monty Python searched for the Holy Grail. Israel is called the Holy Land. We observe holy week. What is truly holy today? What is truly sacred? Is anything sacred anymore? Have we lost a sense of what is holy? Have we become so familiar with what is unholy that we have made our peace with it and become comfortable with it? Does anything make us blush or ashamed? With easy divorce, marriage is no longer sacred. With abortion, life is no longer sacred. With sexual immorality, sex is no longer sacred. With casual familiarity toward God, worship is no longer sacred. The more our culture banishes God from the public square, the more it also throws off any sense of what is holy or sacred. When we lose a sense of the holiness of God then nothing is holy or unholy. And with this goes any notion of sin, that anything is against a holy God. What can be done? How do we recover a sense of the sacred, of reverence and awe? The best place to start is at the source, at the beginning, with the One who is holy. We need an encounter with the Holy God like Moses and Isaiah and Peter and Paul. When talking about the holiness of God the classic text is Isaiah 6:1-8.