February 11, 2024. Sermon Title: The Effects of Worshipping God.

First Mennonite Church

February 11, 2024

The Effects of Worshipping God

Text: Isaiah 6:1-8

Last Sunday, I said that today we will be looking at the effects of worship. We, then, saw that worshipping God flows out from the recognition that our lives and the world find their origin in God. We also realized that even the very possibility of coming to that recognition comes from God when our soul is touched and illumined by God’s Word and his Spirit. Worship, therefore, consists primarily of our humble, yet earnest attempt to tell God how grateful we are of being his beloved creatures, sustained and cared by him so lovingly.

Therefore, the question now is, can we be in awe of the Almighty, Eternal, and Loving God without being affected by such experience? Can our lips speak the praises of God without the heartfelt gratitude and sincerity of our words to God not having an impact on our lives?

Let us look at our passage to see what happened to Isaiah.

Isaiah is one of those prophets who served during the reign of various kings in Israel, among them King Uzziah. Before his call, Isaiah had been sort of a spiritual counselor at the king’s palace. King Uzziah died from leprosy because God punished him with the disease for violating the sanctuary, according to 2Chronicles 26. King Uzziah was not supposed to offer sacrifices or burnt offerings, but he tried to do it. He entered the temple court reserved only for the priests.

The experience Isaiah recounts here took place the very same year Uzziah died and Jotham, the son of Uzziah, took over the throne. That year marked the end of Uzziah’s life for violating the sanctuary of God, the very same place God appeared to Isaiah in a vision.

“I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple,” says Isaiah. Even from ancient times, the evidence of grandeur of royal figures was reflected in the length and beauty of the train of their robes. Here, Isaiah witnesses the Divine King seated high and exalted on his throne; and the train of his robe filling the entire temple.

Along Isaiah’s long prophetic ministry, he had witnessed the coronation and enthronement of various kings. He was familiar with the pomp and splendor each and every king had displayed in their effort to express their wealth and power not only to their subjects but also to their foreign counterparts. In this vision, Isaiah sees the Lord high, exalted, and seated on a throne. The prophet realizes that the true and eternal King is God. He is never succeeded; He remains King forever. His servants, the seraphim—“fiery beings” literally, are holy and yet unworthy even of looking at the face of God. They covered their face with their wings.

Here the prophet claims to have seen the Lord God, something the Bible says no one can do. I guess, the very succinct and generalized description Isaiah gives about how he saw God reveals his lack of words to truly describe what he saw. In the very few instances others have claimed to have seen God within the biblical records reflect that very same challenge. For instance, in Exodus 24, where God summoned Moses and the elders of Israel to a mountaintop, this is how it is described:

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky (Exodus 24:9).

There, at the mountaintop, Moses and the elders of Israel were stunned and mesmerized as they gazed the unutterable and indescribable presence of the Divine. They could only gaze, trembling and in utter silence. They could only with stammering and inadequate language speak of what they saw. They could not give a description in definite terms about what they saw. The double use of the word “like” implies their impossibility of describing the intensity and unfathomable Presence. It was not “a pavement of sapphire” that they saw. It was not “heavenly clearness or light” that they saw. But these elements were mere approximations of what they gazed upon.

Another biblical account of someone claiming to see God is found in Ezekiel, chapter one. There, Ezekiel describes a vision he had by the Kebar River in Babylon. And so, we read:

25 Then there came a voice from above the vault over their heads (of the four living beings) as they stood with lowered wings. 26 Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. 27 I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire, and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking (Ezekiel 1:25-28).

Ezekiel had difficulty describing what he saw. Throughout his vision, he uses the word “like” to compare what he was gazing at. He saw something “like a throne” of sapphire. On the throne was seated one “like the figure of a man” whose body from the waist up looked “like glowing metal and from the waist down ‘like fire.’” Brilliant light surrounded him in the “likeness of the rainbow in the cloud on a rainy day, (and all of it) in the likeness of the glory of Yahweh.”   

At such luminous and frightful sight, Ezekiel falls facedown. In chapter three, the prophet is endowed with boldness and commissioned to confront God’s rebellious people.  

Let’s go back to Isaiah. Here Isaiah witnesses the cherubim worshipping Yahweh is enthroned high and exalted. The angels sing to the holiness of God: “Holy, holy, holy.” Of all of God’s attributes, only his holiness is threefold acclaimed consecutively in praise. We do not hear God’s righteousness exclaimed three times in worship and neither is his love. But here the cherubim exclaimed God’s sacredness and otherness threefold in praise and exultation.

Isaiah was overwhelmed by a sense of unworthiness and sin. Upon hearing the holiness of God proclaimed, Isaiah realizes his sinfulness.“Woe to me!” Isaiah 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.”

Then and there Isaiah’s guilt was removed and his sins atoned when the angel touched the prophet’s lips with a live coal.

My dear friends, it is only when we become aware of God’s holiness through worship and prayer that our sense of sin is awakened. It is only when God opens our eyes to his majesty that we understand our finitude and inadequacies. An open heart in worship before God not only reveals to us our sinfulness but it allows God to bring wholes to our being. As we see in the Bible, every time we are called to worship God it is not because God is broken and in need of constant human praise or enforcement to remain God. God is not a narcissist who insists he’d be given a steady stream of praise and adulation. No. God is holy, holy, holy! God is perfect in every sense. God is pure love. And when we worship God, he gives to us of himself. He gives us from his holiness by forgiving us and making us whole. He pours in us his love and empowers us to love. When we worship God, we begin to grasp his righteousness and mercy and are moved and empowered to walk in righteousness and to be merciful.

Worshipping God shapes us as God’s holy people. Worshipping God re-centers our lives and aligns our priorities according to God’s will. In worship we get glimpses of who God is, thus enlightening our eyes to see not only the world as it is, but also to see in every face the image of God worthy of love and respect. In worship, our hearts are softened to serve others without regard. In worship, God makes us gentle and humble. In worship we lose ourselves to the point of saying like Isaiah, Here I am; send me!”

Ponder on the reasons you should worship God. Allow him to also transform your heart. Allow his love to soften your heart. Allow his light to guide your path. Amen!

Pastor Romero