My Teaching on Isaiah 6:5-7 the Seraphim & the Hot Coal from the Altar

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The sermon notes to this sermon, can be found below the embedded video.

Now in part two, in verses 5-7 we will study the following. ‘The vessel to honor,’ which is prepared by ~
(a) confession
(b) provision
(c) the remission of sins.

Let us first read the Text, verses 5-7.

5 Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

In verse 5 Isaiah said “Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Before this Divine Theophanic encounter, Isaiah might have thought that he was somebody. He might have thought that he was important. But once he had this close-up encounter with God’s glory, he got humbled real quick. He realized then, “wow is me,” because he was unworthy to stand before the Worthy King, and His glory.

It’s interesting that Isaiah’s first words recorded in this book was “wow is me!”

This ‘wow’ in the Hebrew (‘ôy) is a ‘passionate cry of grief or despair.’

As one commentator said, “As sincere as his worship has always been, Isaiah has not been “a man in love.” His profession of faith has been orthodox but empty, with little heart-awareness of the grandeur of God. Unlike the Seraphim, Isaiah’s lips are unclean. In fact, he’s no better than anyone else.”

I know some professing Christians that are “orthodox and empty.” They have much knowledge but no zeal, they have no love for the lost. They have no desire to do good works. And rightfully so, some will call them the “frozen chosen.”

During the Q&A session at a conference, Charles Leiter said the following,
“I remember a time years ago, when I was around a group of guys who were all solid in doctrine, and as cold as can be.” He then added, “I remember writing in one of my notebooks, Oh God put me with men of a burning heart, not cold, carnal, doctrinarians.”

Isaiah goes onto say “For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips,”
This phrase “I am undone” in the Hebrew (dâmâh) means Isaiah is realizing that he is dumb or silent; that he has failed, or that he will perish. That he has been cut down, destroyed.’

That is my goal when I preach in the streets, to make people feel “undone,” and in need of salvation.

This word “unclean” in the Hebrew (ṭâmê’) means he is foul, in a religious sense he is defiled, polluted. That he is ethically and religiously impure and unclean.’

But he doesn’t only judge himself.

In verse 5b he says “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips:”

Today the world (and even some professing Christians) will say “that’s judgmental.” But understand this, Isaiah cares enough for those around him to confess their sins too; as he will soon be sent out to proclaim God’s message to them.

What happens next is amazing. Imagine seeing Seraphims in flight above you, and then all the sudden one of them peels off from his flight path, flying or descending right for you.

Verses 6-7 said “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: vs 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.”

In verse 6 the Seraphim utilized a pair of tongs to retrieve a hot coal from an altar. But take note. The Seraphim didn’t need to use these tongs.
Remember back in verse 2 the Hebrew word for this Seraphim śârâph (saw-rawf’), means he was a “burning poison” himself. Though this ‘burning’ Seraphim used tongs to pick up the red hot burning coal, he then held the coal in his own hand.

The coal had a holy significance. It belonged to a place of sacrifice, atonement, and forgiveness. This coal is a picture of Christ on His altar (the cross).

J. Alec Motyer said “In the Old Testament fire is not a cleansing agent but is symbolic of the wrath of God (Gn. 3:24; Nu. 11:1-3), his unapproachable holiness (Ex. 3:206; 19:18-25), and the context of his holy law (Dt. 4:12, 33, 36). The live coal which was brought to Isaiah was fire from the altar. The perpetual fire (Lv. 6:12-13) on the altar went beyond symbolizing divine wrath, for the altar was the place where the holy God accepted and was satisfied by blood sacrifice (Lv. 17:11). It holds together the ideas of atonement, propitiation and satisfaction required by God and of the forgiveness, cleansing and reconciliation needed by his people. All this is achieved through substitutionary sacrifice and brought to Isaiah, encapsulated in the single symbol of the live coal.”

Folks this is an amazing historical prophetic moment. In the transition between verse 6 and verse 7, the Seraphim transfers this burning hot coal from the fire, over to Isaiah’s lips. This is a portrait of how God’s wrath (which Isaiah was under), was placated by Christ. So much more happened ‘on and from the cross,’ than a death burial, and resurrection. How dare us limit the Gospel to just that.

When Christ was nailed to that Cross, God poured out His wrath and fury in exchange for punishing His elect (His church), as He (Christ) atoned for the sins of His church. At that point Christ’s propitiation (hilasmos) fully appeased the wrath of God (for His elect). Christ expiated sin (and removed the stain of sin). Christ reconciled the sinner to His Father. Christ placated God’s Divine wrath, as He covers and remits sin; as He annuls the power of sin.
This is another reason why I despise these unbiblical altar calls seen in today’s churches and crusades. They rob God from His glory. They fraudulently impersonate the Seraphim, and a holy altar such as this.
The truth is a Biblical altar is a place where something is to be slayed and slaughtered. A Biblical altar is a place of atonement. A Biblical altar is a place of sacrifice. So don’t walk forward to make a spectacle of yourself. You should walk forward to die. As Paul Washer said, “Now go out into the mission field and die!”

Matthew Henry said,

“The live coal may denote the assurance given to the prophet, of pardon, and acceptance in his work, through the atonement of Christ. Nothing is powerful to cleanse and comfort the soul, but what is taken from Christ’s satisfaction and intercession.”

The Seraphim placing this hot coal on Isaiah’s lips is a beautiful picture of Christ, as Christ propitiates (or expiates) the sins of those that repent and trust in Him.

G. Campbell Morgan said,

“The vision of the Lord was full of grace and glory. The majesty of the Most High was manifest in the upper lifted and occupied throne, in the solemn chanting of the seraphim, and by the earthquake which made the very foundations of the thresholds tremble. The revelation of grace is as remarkable as that of glory. In answer to the prophet’s cry of need, one of the signing seraphims bears to him a live coal from the altar, and his sin is expiated.”

I do not know the exact timeline of when Isaiah was saved. Some believe it was before this event, some believe it was during this event. Regardless of your position, we can know for certain that this is when he was duly consecrated, and anointed and appointed as a prophet, to preach a specific message.

Matthew Poole said “For Isaiah had been a prophet before this time (chap. i.1), and was now called, not in general to his prophetical office, but to the delivery of this special message.”

Let’s keep going while the coal’s still hot.

In verse 7 Isaiah says the Seraphim laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.”

Let’s examine the three verb actions here

  1. He laid it upon Isaiah’s mouth
  2. His sins were taken away
  3. His sin was purged.

Notice that God did this. It does not say that Isaiah chose God, or that Isaiah accepted Jesus. This was the monergistic work of the Lord. God touched Isaiah’s lips. God did this!

Isaiah’s sins were not only “taken away,” they were “purged” (kâphar). They were covered, expiated, placated, cancelled, cleansed, forgiven, pardoned, and purged away. As Isaiah was reconciled to the Father.

And these are just some of the simultaneous effects of salvation. We haven’t even began the lessons of repentance and sanctification.

Regardless of whether you believe Isaiah was saved before, or here, we can be certain of this. A ‘salvific cleansing’ is a one-time incident, but a ‘progressive cleansing,’ for purposes of sanctification, will follow salvation.
F.C. Jennings said this,

“It is not at all necessary to look upon the prophet Isaiah here as taking the place of an unforgiven sinner: far from it; he was surely a saint long before this. It is not his regeneration that is here figured, but his being made meet for the Master’s use, in accord with the context that follows. Just as it is not an unregenerate sinner that we hear in Romans 7 crying, “Wow is me!” or “Wretched man that I am!” but a saint learning a deeper lesson.”

Here’s a great passage on sanctification.

Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:20-26,

“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

Here’s a question that every pastor ought to be asking from every pulpit. How’s your sanctification doing today?

Sadly today I’m seeing a growing trend of professing Christians who do not believe it is our responsibility to disciple others, and where sanctification and holiness no longer matter. The Bible commands the church to go and make disciples (mathēteuō). But making disciples requires us to be pupils first (to be teachable). If we remain teachable, then we can disciple, instruct, and teach. But this is not just our responsibility at a local church level. These opportunities extend themselves via social media. So when we see a professing Christian ‘acting like the world’ before their online viewers, that’s yet another opportunity to warn the violator, and if necessary, their audience. But stand-by, and be prepared. Because some of these professing Christians will try to silence you, by referring to your correcting or contending as “gossip” or “slander.” You mean to tell me that when the Apostle Paul called people out by name in the New Testament that was “gossip” or “slander?” So what do these ‘professing’ Christians have in common with the reprobate of Romans 1? They too will attempt to “suppress the truth in their own unrighteousness.”

That concludes this study. Lord willing next will be part 3, verses 8-13.

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