Over the summer Thistlebend is doing something new while there is a break between studies; they’re offering books to read that will encourage those reading to keep their minds and lives centered on the Lord. Throughout the summer there will be a few times for anyone participating to come together and discuss what the Lord is teaching them through the books. I joined this group for the summer and began my reading with R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God. Oh my goodness is my mind already blown, and I’m just in chapter two. Contemplating the holiness of God is honestly something I’ve never really done, and how amazing and unfathomable it is to focus on.
Chapter two centers around the first time Isaiah was in the presence of our holy God. Breaking down Isaiah 6 line by line, I’m stuck on Isaiah 6:5-8. After Isaiah sees clearly the holy God, with seraphim surrounding Him praising His name, he opens his mouth, “’Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty,’” (Isa. 6:5, NIV). Sproul goes on to explain that in older Bible translations a reader would see the word “undone” in place of where it now says “ruined.” Isaiah saw a glimpse of the holy God and became undone. Sproul defines undone as “to come apart at the seams, to be unraveled” (p. 27). He continues by explaining that the opposite of undone in modern slang is to be someone who “has it all together.” In my sinful flesh, I dream of being the girl that “has it all together.” When Isaiah was in the presence of the holy God, there was no way of him being that person.
On page 28 of The Holiness of God Sproul writes of Isaiah:
If ever there was a man of integrity, it was Isaiah ben Amoz. He was a whole man, a together type of a fellow. He was considered by his contemporaries as the most righteous man in the nation. He was respected as a paragon of virtue. Then he caught one sudden glimpse of a holy God. In that single moment, all of his self-esteem was shattered. In a brief second he was exposed, made naked beneath the gaze of the absolute standard of holiness. As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other mortals, he was able to sustain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed—morally and spiritually annihilated. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed.
Each chapter of this book has discussion questions at the end to think through. The first question asked if I had ever been in a position of being undone by God’s presence. I went back and read Sproul’s definition of being undone and thought through this question and realized no, I have never been in this position before. Why? Because that is the exact thing that I try to avoid. I don’t want to be undone. I want to “have it all together.” My heart breaks as I type this sad reality. What a box I have put my holy God in all because I don’t want to become undone by His presence.
After our holy, yet gracious God cleanses Isaiah with a burning coal to his lips Isaiah writes, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isa. 6:8, NIV). Sproul makes a note to point out that there is a huge difference between saying, “Here am I,” and, “Here I am.” I had never noticed this before. Up until reading this book I had always flown by this passage of Scripture reading it as if Isaiah had said, “Here I am.” Isaiah wasn’t merely pointing out, “Hey I’m over here!” He was telling the Lord that He could have all of him.
Sproul points out two very important details, that again, up until reading this book I would not have thought through. Isaiah was shattered completely when being in the presence of the holy God. There was no way for him to hold it together because it just is what is–God is that holy and we mere mortals are that lowly. Isaiah, while to the mortal eye was a righteous man, was in fact a sinful man. He lost all sense of who he was, but God cleansed him. God put the pieces of Isaiah back together. “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for’” (Isa. 6:6-7, NIV). God took a completely undone man that was shattered before Him, and completely restored him; restored him to where Isaiah wanted to give himself completely to the holy God.
Sproul notes the second important detail of this passage on page 32:
The second important thing we learn from this event is that God’s work of grace on Isaiah’s soul did not annihilate his personal identity. Isaiah said, “Here am I.” Isaiah could still speak in terms of “I.” He still had an identity. He still had a personality. Far from God seeking to destroy the “self,” as many distortions of Christianity would claim, God redeems the self. He heals the self so that it may be useful and fulfilled in the mission to which the person is called. Isaiah’s personality was overhauled but not annihilated. He was still Isaiah ben Amoz when he left the temple. He was the same person, but his mouth was clean.
I think those two details that Sproul points out are the truths that stand opposed to the lies I have been believing. I’m fearful that my life, my dreams, my wants, my ways, etc. will be taken from me when my life gets completely shattered and that I will not being able to recover. And I’m also fearful that if my life is completely shattered, I won’t be “me” anymore.
I want to be a woman that is undone by the holiness of my God. That’s scary. The holiness of God is scary. Here’s little ole’ me thinking that I know everything and have this life figured out most of the time (such pride) and then I read two chapters about this holy God who brings Isaiah to cower in fear and cast the woes of God upon himself and I get a small glimpse of how lowly and sinful I am and how much I really don’t know at all. I don’t want to fear what doesn’t make sense in my own little world. I don’t want to listen to the lies anymore, but stand on the firm foundation of God’s Word, which shows clearly in Isaiah 6 that yes, His holiness is scary, but He is gracious and He can put me back together even when my life is shattered for Him. Here am I, God. Shatter me.
Planted for His Glory