The Glorious Father
September 1, 2019
“Father, we’re so very grateful for all that You’ve given us, all that You’ve provided for us. We’re so thankful for Your Word. As we study the Word and as we reflect upon its history, it’s just profound. It’s a miracle that we have a book that was written over a period of 1400 or 1500 years, and that it has been preserved.
“That there is so much evidence of the accuracy of its preservation and that this attests to the fact that it is not simply a human production, but it was breathed out by You. The preservation of the text was supervised by You, so that we have great confidence that we have that which You have revealed, You have disclosed to us.
“As we have studied in our passage in Ephesians, because of regeneration, the eyes of our heart have been opened, so that we have the ability spiritually to be able to understand Your Word. That is a great potential, but nevertheless, it takes time, it takes effort, it takes study in order to come to an accurate understanding of Your Word.
“Father, as we continue our study we pray that You might enlighten us by the Holy Spirit as to the wisdom of Your Word, and that we might further understand all that You have revealed to us, that we may know You more intimately.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles to Ephesians 1. This morning we read from Isaiah 6, which is where we will go eventually in our study this morning. Isaiah wrote that book, wrote his prophecies in the eighth century BC. It was a time of spiritual degradation in Israel in the northern kingdom and in the southern kingdom of Judah.
It was a time when the people had mostly rejected the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and had turned to false gods, to false systems of thinking, to idolatry. They had given themselves over to incredible levels of sexual debauchery and immorality. It is to that self-absorbed culture that reveled in their own personal pleasure that God sent Isaiah with a message.
God warned him, as we see at the end of Isaiah 6, that he would go and he had a message to proclaim, but that people wouldn’t listen to them. The more he would proclaim the message that God sent him with, the more people would turn their backs on him, the more angry they would become, the more hostile they would become to truth. He eventually was ridiculed and rejected and mocked by the religious leaders and the cultural elites of his day.
In Isaiah 28:10 they’re mocking him, and they’re mocking what he is saying about his teaching. So from that passage we learn something about how he was teaching the people the Scripture.
They described his teaching this way, “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there little.”
From this passage we and many have derived a basic understanding of the methodology of teaching the Word—that we teach the Word, “here a little, there a little.” We look at the words, we look at the phrases, we look at the lines, we look at the sentences to make sure that we clearly comprehend and understand what God has said to us.
Sometimes this is tough plowing. Sometimes the language in Scripture and the way it is written forces us to think more profoundly and deeply than other passages, let’s say. I think God designed it that way because as I’ve said many times, if God had just given us a systematic theology, a manual for the spiritual life, we would read it and we put would put it on the shelf.
But the way God designed His revelation is such that it forces us to stop and think, study, research. And every time we go back, it’s just so marvelous, we see things that we haven’t seen before, we build on the things that we’ve learned since the last time we were in that particular passage. And God uses all of that to expand our understanding of who He is and His plan for our lives, and how we can understand Him better.
That’s the focus of this prayer that we’ve been studying, this prayer of Paul’s that begins in Ephesians 1:17. The introduction is in Ephesians 1:15–16. In Ephesians 1:17 down to the end of the chapter, it’s basically the content of this particular prayer.
What Paul is saying (I just want to give us an overview of what is happening here) is that he is praying that as those who have already been enlightened by the truth, because that happens at the instant of our salvation, that it happens at the instant that we are born again and we receive a new nature, and that enables us to understand the Word. It is a potential.
We still have to study it. It’s not mystical. We don’t just open our Bibles and read a verse and go “Ah hah! I know what that means!” We have many, many examples in history of people who try to decide God’s Word by closing their eyes, opening their Bible, and just pointing to a verse and then they think they know what God has for them.
As we look at this particular passage, the focal point of it is that Paul is praying that our knowledge of God would expand, and that we might know God more personally and more intimately. Specifically, in three particular areas, and those are begun to be listed in Ephesians 1:18–19: that we are to know “the hope of his calling.”
What in the world does that mean? We are to understand. It’s translated “the wealth of His inheritance,” but it has the idea of “the wealth of His possession in us.”
It goes back to Ephesians 1:11 where we see that it’s talking about the fact that we as members of the body of Christ are His inheritance. It is not talking about the inheritance we receive. It’s talking about the fact that we are His possession and that we are to understand that He describes us as His possession in terms of this phrase “wealth.” That we are “the wealth of His possession.”
Thirdly, it focuses on His omnipotence: the unimaginable power that He provides towards us as Church Age believers. The illustration of that power is the resurrection and ascension. So many people stop at resurrection, but in the text, it is the resurrection and ascension of Christ to the right hand of the Father in heaven.
Now that’s pretty remarkable. We sing one hymn that I know of that focuses on the ascension of Christ. There are very few hymns that focus on the ascension of Christ—that He is at the right hand of the Father, waiting for the Father to give Him the kingdom, and then He will return.
But His return to the earth will not take place until the end of the Tribulation period. He will return for us as the church at the Rapture before the Tribulation, but He will not return to the earth to establish His kingdom until the end of the Tribulation.
The knowledge of all of that is assumed by Paul to be evident to his readers, so that they can appreciate what it is that he’s praying for. Each phrase in these verses is pregnant. It’s loaded with meaning and significance.
Unfortunately, in my experience, so many pastors and sermons would summarize all of this in terms of the focal point of those three basic points of prayer. They would cover six verses in a 20-minute sermon, and “be warm and be filled. Go home and be blessed,” and that would be it. And they’re missing about 99.9% of what is here.
This is typical for me, as I get started, I know where I’m going to go, I know what I want to do. I sit down—I get up early on Sunday morning, and I start working my way through it, and things open and this opens, and I see this and that, and next thing you know whatever I was going to teach today, it will probably be next week, as there is just such a wealth of assumption here of what you and I know in these particular phrases. It’s important to look at that.
Let me just give you the overview again of these three verses. Ephesians 1:16 ends with the fact that he says, “I don’t cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.”
What he follows “that” with is what he is saying in the prayers. It begins with the word “that,” which introduces the content of the prayer. He says, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding having already been enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the in the saints.”
Ephesians 1:19, “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.”
I pointed out when we started this section, Ephesians 1:15–23 is actually one sentence in the Greek. It is usually broken up into several sentences in English.
We had a fun discussion in the pastors’ group the other day. We had taken some time to learn a little bit about grammar and punctuation. I had all the men read a book called, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which is a fun little foray into punctuation. We had a lady who is a listener, Brice’s sister, who’s taught grammar and punctuation in writing for about 30 or 40 years.
She was our guest and sort of taking questions and helping guys understand things about punctuation. One of the things she commented on was that in writing style today, because our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, that translators are taking these verses, these long sentences of Paul, and breaking them down into smaller and smaller units, and making them individual sentences.
Problem with that in terms of Bible study is that a sentence is a basic unit of thought. So, if Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has one sentence that goes from verse 3 through verse 14, that’s one thought with a lot of secondary and tertiary ideas that are brought into it.
When you look at, I’ve seen that broken down into as many as 13 sentences. Well, then that becomes 13 ideas. That’s a little different from what you have if you’re studying from the original. You have the same problem when you get into Ephesians 1:15 down to the end of the chapter. There are just a lot of details that get into those particular arguments.
When we look at how this is broken down, the first two verses tell us about Paul’s habit of praying for his readers. Then he tells us the content of his prayer. I’ve highlighted the two English words “that.” They’re highlighted in blue; in English they look the same.
They translate different words or phrases in the Greek, and what that simply tells us is that the first “that” covers all of these verses—he’s talking about the content of his prayer. The second “that,” by using a different approach, is giving us a subset of that overall prayer.
Last time when we got started, I noted that there are a lot of interesting problems in understanding this passage, not the least of which is whether the word “spirit” should be translated as “Spirit” or “spirit.” That would mean two different things.
Then we have to look at understanding the phrase “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened.” We took our time; we went to the end with that phrase “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened,” and started there. I started at the end, and I worked back to the front.
What I want to do today is to go to the front and start working forward a little bit. We ran out of time, so I didn’t spend as much time as I ought at the beginning of Ephesians 1:17.
Just to remind you, “Spirit” there is talking about God the Holy Spirit who is characteristically portrayed in the Scripture as the One who imparts wisdom and discloses God’s will to us. That’s what revelation means. So for those reasons and others, it can’t be talking about an attitude of revelation.
We don’t have an attitude of revelation; we’re not disclosing anything. So, it must be God the Holy Spirit who is at the source here. Then the phrase opening Ephesians 1:18 is based on a perfect tense verb, “the eyes of your understanding that HAVE ALREADY BEEN enlightened” happened at the instant of salvation.
I want to start by looking by looking at Ephesians 1:17 because it focuses the prayer, initially, on God the Father. He prays that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you …”
Using the verb for “give” there always emphasizes the grace of God. This is God’s gracious activity to us in providing for us a means to understand the wisdom of Scripture and to understand this new revelation that Paul talks about in Ephesians as “the mystery.”
This word “mystery” doesn’t mean that it’s some sort of hidden thing that we have to search for and discover the solution by the end of the book. It’s not like a murder mystery where you’re waiting until the last chapter, when the investigator gets all the suspects together, and they go through each one and why they couldn’t or why they shouldn’t or whoever, and then finally identifies the murderer.
It’s not that kind of a mystery. The idea of mystery in the New Testament Scripture is information, teaching, instruction that has not been previously revealed. So, the emphasis is on the fact that in the epistle to the Ephesians, “the mystery” is that now in this age we have a new organism. A new spiritual organism that never existed before came into existence on the Day of Pentecost in AD 33.
It is known as “the church,” and is identified appositionally as the church, the body of Christ of whom He is the head. He is the head of the church. He is the ultimate authority of the church. We are the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is no longer simply a body of Jewish believers. It is a body composed of Jews and Gentiles. That’s what is new. That’s what has not been revealed in the Old Testament. The church was not prophesied in the Old Testament.
In the Old Testament it was all about being Jewish. It was all about worship in one central location at the Temple in Jerusalem, and the whole focus is on the spiritual and physical seed of Abraham identified through the Jewish people.
But it’s different today. We’re in the church and that is one of the many reasons why the church must be raptured before the Tribulation, because the Tribulation is a time for the Jewish people. It is called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” in the Old Testament, and it fulfills the timeframe that God revealed to Daniel for His people and for His holy city.
His people are clearly Jews and the holy city is Jerusalem, so in order to return the focus to the Jewish people, the church must be evacuated from the planet ahead of the storms of God’s wrath in the Tribulation period.
This is all about understanding this new revelation, but it starts with understanding who this God is, “… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory …”
Two things are said here about God the Father:
1. He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
2. He is the Father of glory.
What is the emphasis on the phrase that He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ? The emphasis here is on the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ as opposed to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Earlier we saw that there is a reference that Jesus Christ is fully God and that we worship Him as God.
But here the emphasis is on His humanity. This phraseology raises the issues:
- Why is this important to emphasize the humanity of Christ?
- How are we to understand the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ?
In the early church there was tremendous debate in the second, third, fourth centuries over an understanding of the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. They’re related to each other, but first you have to understand who Jesus is.
To understand who Jesus is, you have to answer:
1. What is Jesus’ relationship to the Father?
2. Who is Jesus in terms of His humanity?
There were a lot of different attempts to try to articulate Jesus’ relationship to the Father. Jewish background meant that you were a worshiper of one God.
- Is this a solitary unity of one person and one nature?
- Or was there a multiplicity of persons in the Godhead?
I’m not going to go through the whole doctrine of the Trinity here, but even that term “Trinity” comes to us from a theologian in the mid to latter part of the second century. His name was Tertullian; he was from Carthage, which is in North Africa. He coined the term Trinitas to explain the multiplicity of persons in the Godhead: That there is one God, one essence, but He is three Persons.
How do you understand that? In the early church, there were a couple of different ways in which this was attempted to be articulated that were heretical.
One of these was called Modalism. Modalism is the idea that there is God who exists, but at one point in history He expressed Himself in a mode that is identified as the Father.
The idea was that He appeared in the Old Testament, He put on the mask of the Father, and so you have the Father. But then when Jesus came, He now appears as the Son. He puts on a mask and He has a different mode of revealing Himself, and He is now revealing Himself as a Son. Then you get into the Church Age, and He puts on a different mask, and He is the Holy Spirit.
But they came to understand the problem with that is that you have one essence and one person, but the Bible speaks of Jesus as fully God and a distinct person. He prays to the Father. If you have Modalism, Jesus would be praying to Himself. If He is on the cross and He is crying out to God, “Why have You forsaken Me,” He would be crying out to Himself.
In fact, this became known by a Latin word that comes over to English as Patripassianism—passio being suffering, Patri being the Father. The Father would’ve been the one suffering on the Cross because it’s the same person, so you have the Father on the Cross as well. And it was deemed that this was heretical and was the wrong answer.
The way we go through understanding things often is we make three or four attempts and each one’s wrong, and then finally we zero in on what the accurate expression is.
Another way in which they attempted to understand this came to be called “Adoptionism.” You still have one God, but He is adopting Jesus as His Son at some point, either in eternity past or during His life, and He becomes adopted and He’s given deity. You still have one God. They’re trying to preserve this understanding, how can God be one and many at the same time.
The problem in Adoptionism is Jesus is subordinate to the Father, not just in terms of His role, but in terms of His essence, which means He can’t be fully God. Because “fully God” by definition means that you’re eternal, and if Jesus has a beginning at some point in eternity past or at some point in time, then He’s not fully God because He’s not eternal. He is derivative deity.
You could chart out one form of Adoptionism this way: Eternity past on the left side, eternity future on the right side, and the dotted lines in between mark out the dimensions of history, of time. We have God existing eternally from eternity past into eternity future.
Then you have within time, usually at some point like the baptism of Jesus, God giving or granting deity, adopting Jesus as His Son when Jesus is baptized. God says, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” That is when Jesus is given deity and adopted as God’s Son. So it’s derivative deity.
Just comparing these two views of Adoptionism and Modalism:
- Preserves the unity and oneness of God.
- Denies the deity of Christ, though, because Christ is not eternal.
- Emphasizes and affirms the humanity of Christ, but
- Views the Holy Spirit as just a power, not a person.
Modalism (Sabellianism or Patripassionism):
- Believe in the oneness of God.
- Believe in the deity of Christ because He’s fully, eternally just another mode of God’s revealing of Himself.
- Affirm the deity of Christ, but deny the humanity of Christ.
- View the Holy Spirit as simply another mode of God’s existence.
Both of them are being rejected. They’re not quite getting it right.
Then a bishop of a church in Northern Egypt by the name of Arius, a deacon in the church, had a view that Christ wasn’t elevated to deity in time, but at some time in eternity past; but still a creature.
His little phrase was “there was a time when Christ was not.” He was a musician, and he wrote little ditties and songs and it was very popular. So the popular music all around the Roman Empire at the time was popularizing bad theology, and everybody was singing “there was a time that Christ was not.”
It was interesting if you follow any kind of religious news or news about Christianity, that just two or three weeks ago following a number of situations in the last three months where some young contemporary Christian leaders had completely apostatized from the faith and rejected Christ.
These were people who were popular in contemporary Christian worship culture. And one of the men in one of these groups made a rather profound statement, pointing out that one of the great problems we have today is that most evangelicals are getting their theology from these rather superficial and often wrong popular contemporary songs that they sing.
That’s nothing new. That’s happened before. Problem is we have to really guard what we sing and what we say, and it’s not about old versus new, it’s about quality versus lack of quality.
You have Christ Who was created before time according to Arius, and then other creatures were created in time. That was declared heresy at the Council of Nicaea in 325, which is part of the reason they wrote the Nicene Creed, is to affirm the full deity and full humanity of Jesus Christ.
The Scripture makes this clear. John 1:1–3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
The modern form of Arianism is known as Jehovah’s Witnesses: They deny the eternality of Jesus. But they have a problem here. What they try to assert is that when it says, “the Word was God,” in the Greek there’s no article with “God.” They assume the Greek is like English; when you don’t have a definite article in English, you have an indefinite article, so they’ll translate it that the word was “a god.”
The problem is Greek doesn’t work like that. A noun can be definite just because the inherent sense of the noun is definite. God is a noun that is that way. But the absence of an article emphasizes the quality or uniqueness, something about the character of the noun, and maybe the use of an article is emphasizing something else.
There is about eight or nine different ways in which the Greek article functions. So just because it’s there or not there doesn’t have anything to do with its definiteness or not.
This should be translated, “the Word was God” because THEOS is the word for God and is inherently definite. John is clearly making a statement that the LOGOS, which is a title for Jesus, is a Second Person of deity Who is God, but is distinct from God.
When it says, “In the beginning” that means at the time of the creation He already existed. That’s the imperfect sense of the verb “was.” At the time of the beginning the Word was already continually in existence and the Word was already continually in existence in the past with God, two different Persons. Then they’re identified at the end “and the Word was God.”
John 1:2 restates the fact that “He was in the beginning with God,” you have two Persons. Then in John1:3, “All things were made through Him …”
That pretty much wipes out Arius’ contention or the Adoptionists’ contention that Jesus is a creature. Because if Jesus created all things, He couldn’t be a creature because He would be part of the all things. He created all things—that sets Him apart from all creatures.
We’re given further identification in John 1:14, “And the Word—this other divine Person—and the Word became flesh …”
That is incarnation. That’s what incarnate means, “in flesh” from carne which is the Latin word for flesh or meat. We eat chili con carne; it comes from the same root. It has to do with His bodily incarnation.
“And the Word became flesh—it’s not just an image. That was called Docetism—and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us—and then what?—we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”
That’s helpful for understanding what Paul is saying in just this quick little phrase “the Father of glory” in Ephesians 1. He’s the Father of glory.
The way that genitive phrase “of glory” should be understood is in a sense of describing a characteristic or attribute of the Father: He’s the glorious Father. Jesus comes and He has the same glory in His person.
When John says, “We beheld His glory,” it’s tempting to think of the episode on the Mount of Transfiguration when Jesus takes James, Peter, and John up on the up on the mountain. He is suddenly transfigured, and His radiance overwhelms them.
Radiance often expresses the glory of God. Again, God tells them after Peter’s mouthing off: God says basically, “Shut up.” No, He didn’t say that. He says, “Listen to My Son! He’s the One in Whom I am well pleased.” That’s the overt glory.
But when we look at John, John uses glory a little differently. It relates to the character of Jesus. That’s really the essence of what glory tells us: It emphasizes the character of God. When we read in John 2 the first miracle, the first sign that Jesus gives at the wedding of Cana when He turns the water into wine, at the end John says that in this first miracle they saw His glory.
Well, it’s not the glory like on the Mount of Transfiguration. It’s the glory we saw: His character; we saw who He was. We saw that He wasn’t just a man, He was also God.
When we look at this phrase, it talks about Him as the only begotten of the Father—a term that is used in the Nicene Creed to express that relationship—they said He was “begotten, but not made.”
The word for begotten is the word MONOGENES, which indicates a unique birth, a unique person. It’s often translated “only begotten,” but that is difficult for people to understand. But that’s the idea: He is one-of-a-kind. He expresses the glory of the Father.
Here again John shows that it’s in terms of His character. He says He’s “full of grace and truth.” He’s summarizing the glory of God or the essence of God in those two characteristics there of grace and truth, because he’s going to emphasize those attributes again and again as you go through the Gospel of John.
In Ephesians 1:17, Paul is praying to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ,” talking about the Father; and he makes that clear in this next appositional phrase: He’s “the Father of glory.”
You could take that genitive different ways: a Father who produces glory. But it’s probably descriptive, with its roots in the Old Testament, referring to the glorious Father. This is how it should be translated and understood.
It goes back to a passage, we read part of this this morning in our call to worship in Psalm 24:7–10. The context here is talking about worship, the time of worship in the Old Testament. It would be a festival time, a time of perhaps related to Passover in the spring or First Fruits or Pentecost or later in the fall.
We’re getting ready to come to the high holy days in about three or four weeks, Rosh Hashanah, which is the New Year. Then a week later there’s Yom Kippur. According to the Jewish religious calendar, three times a year—Passover, Pentecost, and Yom Kippur—all males in Israel were required to come and worship at the temple.
This is a Psalm that was written for worship at the temple, so when it says, “lift up your heads, O ye gates,” it is using figurative language that as the worshipers are coming onto the Temple Mount, they are calling upon even the gates of the city to be elevated and to focus on the Lord.
The “gates of the city” is really a metonymy, a figure speech, for all of the inhabitants of the city. Psalm 24:7, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the glorious King ...”
The everlasting doors is talking about the doors of the temple, and it recognizes that God comes to His temple. It is calling upon them to praise God. “… and the glorious King shall come in.”
This is not talking about Jesus as King. Jesus isn’t really identified as king in Scripture until His return at the end of the Tribulation. Then He is called the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus is not yet King because He has not yet been installed upon His throne in Jerusalem. Jesus as King is related to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, which doesn’t happen until He returns.
We are not in the Kingdom. We’re not in any way, shape, or form in the Kingdom. Read your Old Testament and list all the attributes of the Kingdom, and nothing like that is happening today. It will happen only when Jesus returns, and only when all of Israel is regenerate, and only when all of regenerate Israel is in the land.
It’s not going to happen in any other time. So about 90% of evangelicalism worships King Jesus on Sunday morning, and they talk about doing work for the Kingdom with every other breath, and that’s not what Scripture is saying. They are totally off base.
But here it’s talking about Yahweh. He is the King of Creation. The question is asked, “Well, who is this glorious King?”
The New King James Version translates it “King of glory.” It’s the same grammatical construction that Paul is using in Ephesians 1 about the Father of glory. This is the same thing: The King of glory. It’s the glorious King. It is talking about His attributes of glory.
“Who is this glorious King? The Lord strong and mighty.”
Notice “glory” here is defined in terms of His character, in terms of His attributes. I pointed out many times that when we see the word “glory,” for example, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” glory was a term that was used to reference all of His attributes. What makes God glorious is who He is, His character.
We’ve studied this a little bit and we’re going to study it a little bit more before we finish this morning. But the idea of “glory,” kavod in Hebrew, relates to that which is heavy or weighty. Therefore, it came to refer to something that is important.
The heaviest organ in the body is the liver. In the ancient world they would talk about the liver as the important organ because it was the heaviest. It was the most important because it weighed more, and so that word is applied to glory.
Another form of the word was applied to Pharaoh when it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s the word kavod there, and it means God made it heavy. He strengthened the previous convictions of Pharaoh to turn against the Jewish people. It doesn’t have anything to do with their salvation.
The glory then is His importance. Whenever you read the word “glory,” think about His importance. His significance, that which makes Him important and central to everything in life.
What makes Him that way in this passage relates to His character. His is strong and mighty. He is omnipotent. He is mighty in battle. He can defeat our enemies.
Psalm 24:9–10, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates! Lift up your everlasting doors! And the glorious King shall come in. Who is this glorious King? Yahweh Sabaoth, the Lord of armies, the Lord of hosts. He is the glorious King.”
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Isaiah 6, where we see this picture of this glorious King. We’ve studied this many times in relation to worship. It is a tremendous picture of several different important things:
- The importance of cleansing from sin before we can serve the Lord.
- It also is a picture of the glory of God and understanding it
- Also of the holiness of God.
Isaiah 6. The beginning of Isaiah is not written in chronological order. Isaiah 1 summarizes a lot of the themes that come across in Isaiah later, but this coming in chapter 6 is really God’s call and appointment of Isaiah to his prophetic ministry. It doesn’t come for five chapters dealing with other themes, but this is the beginning, so it’s out of order chronologically.
We are told here that it takes place, Isaiah 6:1 “in the year that King Uzziah died.” That’s the timeframe. First of all we need to say, well, what’s going on here and when did this happen?
I pointed out at the opening that at this time when Isaiah is called to ministry is a time of tremendous apostasy, tremendous idolatry and debauchery in Israel.
Uzziah is a good king. We’re told in Kings that Uzziah has not gotten rid of all of the high places yet, but he emphasizes worship in the temple. In fact, he got in trouble later in his ministry because he was impatient for the priest to come, and went into the temple when he shouldn’t have, so God judged him and turned him into a leper.
He was now unclean. He couldn’t even come among any of his people, and he lived the last 15 years or so of his life having to rule through his son in a co-regency because he was a leper. Every time he would look at himself, look at his hands, whatever, he would be reminded of the fact that he had broken God’s law and gone into the temple out of his own impatience, but he was a good king.
This is identified for us, “In the year in which Uzziah died,” in 742 BC. Uzziah is also known in I Kings as Amaziah. In Chronicles and in Isaiah he is known as Uzziah. Either he had two different names, one a throne name and one a personal name, or they are spelled very similarly. It could just be variance on the same name.
The second statement that Isaiah makes, Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.”
The whole focus for us here is on the majesty, the glory of God. Isaiah has come into the temple. He hasn’t gone into the Holy of Holies, but what happens is something that has happened only three other times in Scripture that I know of:
1. The Apostle John on the Island of Patmos when the Lord Jesus Christ appears to him, and he just sees right into Heaven.
2. When Paul is transported to Heaven in 2 Corinthians 10
3. In Ezekiel, when he sees the throne of God in chapter 1 and again in chapter 10
That’s what Isaiah saw and the interesting thing here is the word “I saw.” He doesn’t use the Hebrew word chazon, which means to see something in a vision. But he sees “raah”—just like you and I are seeing each other right now.
It is as if God rolls back the veil, so that the intersection between Heaven and earth—between this dimension and the heavenly dimension—disappears. The psalms tell us that God is enthroned on the cherubim, on the Ark of the Covenant.
That’s the throne of God in the Holy of Holies, and is what Isaiah sees. He sees the Lord on His throne, he sees right into heaven, and he sees his train that just comes down off of the throne and right into the holy place where he is. So he is just in awe as to what has happened.
Isaiah 6:2, he describes that above the throne there are angels—the seraphim, or seraphs, “… each one has six wings: with two he covered his face,” because they can’t look upon God. They would be just gazing, staring at God. Because of His majesty and glory they would just be awestruck; they have to cover their eyes so that they are not just staring at God.
“… with two he covered his feet—which may be a euphemism for covering their bodies—and with two he flew.”
There’s all this activity, and he sees all of these angels. We see a similar description in Revelation 4, where you see all these angels—not just the seraphs—but others that are surrounding the throne of God, described as myriads upon myriads.
Isaiah is seeing all of this and hears what they are saying. This is eighth century BC, and so 800 or 900 years later when John is in the throne room of God, they are still singing the same song. (Not like contemporary Christians, “Oh, we’ve sung that song five or six times. Let’s find something new to sing.”)
They’re still singing the same song, focusing on who God is:
Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.”
You see two terms here. Holy, which helps us understand what glory is. Paul is talking about the Father of glory. That glory is related to His character.
Here it is specifically related to His holiness. The Hebrew is qadosh, and it refers to that which is holy, which is an antiquated word. Most people today don’t understand what it means. At the worst case scenario you just think of Robin in the old Batman series, as he is always saying “Holy something or other, Batman!” But “holy” has to do with something that is set apart or unique or distinctive.
Even that comes across in this statement that as you hear Robin make this statement, “Holy whatever.” What is he saying? He’s saying there’s something unique happening here, something distinct happening here, so that still carries through.
That’s the idea of “holy.” It emphasizes something that’s unique, something distinct, something that’s one-of-a-kind, something that is special. When it talks about utensils and furniture in the temple, it’s talking about that which is set apart to the service of God. When it talks about priests, it talks about that which is set apart to the use of God. It emphasizes His uniqueness.
One of the things that has struck me reading through Isaiah is how many times the focus is on the uniqueness of God. It drills it into people over and over and over again, and it comes out of the Torah.
Exodus 8:10, is the first time we have a statement like this, “let it be according to Your Word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.”
This is Moses: “There’s no one like the Lord our God.” He’s unique; there’s nothing you can compare Him to. People come up with all kinds of analogies for the Trinity. It’s a lost cause, folks. There is nothing like God. All images or metaphors used to describe the Trinity fail at some point.
Deuteronomy 33:26, “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun …” That’s another name for Israel.
1 Samuel 2:2. We’ve studied this Psalm, the hymn of Hannah. “No one is holy—No one is unique. No one is distinct. No one is special—like Yahweh, for there is none beside You, nor is there any rock like our God.”
Psalm 86:8, “Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord …” You’re unique. You’re one-of-a-kind.
Jeremiah 10:6, “Inasmuch as there is none like you, O Lord …”
Isaiah 44 and 45 just emphasizes this again and again.
Isaiah 44:6 God says, “I am the First and I am the Last.” Jesus uses that in the beginning of Revelation. “I am the First and I am the Last. Beside Me there is no other God.”
Isaiah 44:8, “Is there a God besides Me? Indeed, there is no other Rock. I know not one.”
Isaiah 45:5, “I am the Lord, and there is no other. There is no God beside Me.”
Isaiah 45:6, “There is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
Isaiah 45:14 at the end, “And there is no other; there is no other God.”
Isaiah 45:18, “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
After listing all the things He did in relation to creation, Isaiah 45:22, “For I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.”
Holiness applies to all of His attributes. He’s uniquely sovereign. He is uniquely love. He is unique. There’s no God that has justice. There is nobody else who is just like God is just. There is no one righteous like God is righteous. There’s no one comparable in love to God.
There is nothing comparable to Him in terms of His eternity or His knowledge, His power, His presence. He is unique in being all truth summed up in Him, and He is uniquely unchangeable. So, you can’t really define holy unless you define it in terms of each of His attributes.
He is three times holy, and “the whole earth is full of His glory.”
It reflects His uniqueness. The creation reflects the His uniqueness.
Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” There it means His attributes, His power. His character, Who He is. It tells us a lot about Him. That’s what the intelligent design argument is trying to do, to show that the design of the universe from microsystems to macro systems could only be designed by someone like the God of the Bible.
Isaiah goes on and emphasizes this. We don’t have time to go forward in that.
This is the background for understanding Paul’s phraseology. He is the Father of glory. He is the One that Isaiah saw on the throne, high and lifted up. This is the God that we worship: not a God who is our buddy, it’s not a God who is familiar. Because what we see immediately is that Isaiah is gonna cry out, “Woe is me, a man of unclean lips.”
That doesn’t mean that he’s committed blasphemy. It doesn’t mean that he has committed some sin of the tongue. What he is saying when he says, “a man of unclean lips,” is that he has heard the conversation of the angels, and they’re all focused about God. What are they talking about? They’re talking about the character of God.
He says, “I don’t talk like that.” He was like most of us. What do we talk about? We talk about sports, we talk about our kids or grandkids. That’s common; that’s profane. Isaiah gets into Heaven and goes, “I’m not talking about God like that.”
He sees the contrast. He’s concerned with these temporal, ephemeral things. When he gets into the throne room of God, the angels are focused on the character and attributes of God. That’s what makes everything work. He realizes that is what should be dominating our thinking, not these common everyday mundane things that may be important to some degree.
He’s not saying you don’t talk about those things. I’m not saying you don’t talk about those things. But when you think about all the things you spend your time talking about, what percentage is talking about the things of God, the truth of God, and the glory of God? That’s what makes God the glorious Father, is Who He is and what He has done.
The angels came and the seraphim flew and purified his lips. He has confessed that he is a man of unclean lips, so they cleanse him. Isaiah 6:7, the Seraph says, “Behold this has touched your lips. Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is (literally) cleansed.”
It’s the word that’s sometimes translated “atonement,” but it’s the concept of being cleansed.
Then God is going to call him to service. There has to be cleansing before there is service and worship, and that is emphasized there.
All of this relates to understanding the Father of glory. We have to understand Who God is; we have to understand His attributes because it’s on that platform that we can develop an intimate relationship with God, which is the focus of Paul’s prayer, that we may know Him.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things and reflect upon Who You are. That as we read through passages in the psalms, Isaiah, and others that talk about You and Your essence—Who You are—we realize that we don’t spend enough time thinking about it, talking about it, trying to grapple with what it means that You have created all things.
“And that You have redeemed us, You have saved us. That You love us with a love that is so great that You sent Your Son to die on the Cross for our sins. We barely have scratched the surface of the significance of these things, and so often we are just distracted by the immediate and urgent things of life that we lose sight of that which is truly ultimately important.
“Father, we pray that if there is anyone here who’s never trusted Christ as Savior, anyone who is uncertain of their eternal destiny, that they would come to understand clearly that that is not dependent on anything that they do, it’s not dependent upon their character. It’s not dependent upon church membership.
“It’s only dependent upon trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior. Scripture says we are to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved. We are to trust Him. We’re to understand that he is the One who died on the Cross for our sins, and that by trusting in His death and His death alone that we have eternal life. We are not justified by the works of the Law, but by faith in Christ Jesus.
“Father, we pray for the rest of us, that we would be challenged and that we would be motivated to dig deeper in the Word, to think more profoundly about who You are, and to make You more a center of our life, that on a day-to-day basis we are worshiping You as we go through our lives from hour to hour.
“We pray these things in Christ’s name, amen.”