Isaiah 6:5
(5) Then said I, Woe is me.--The cry of the prophet expresses the normal result of man's consciousness of contact with God. So Moses "hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God" (Exodus 3:6). So Job "abhorred himself and repented in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6). So Peter fell down at his Lord's feet, and cried, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). Man at such a time feels his nothingness in the presence of the Eternal, his guilt in the presence of the All-holy. No man can see God and live. (Comp. also 1Samuel 6:20.)

I am a man of unclean lips.--The prophet's words present at once a parallel and a contrast to those of Moses in Exodus 4:10. The Lawgiver feels only, or chiefly, his want of the gift of utterance which was needed for his work. With Isaiah the dominant thought is that his lips have been defiled by past sins of speech. How can he join in the praises of the seraphim with those lips from which have so often come bitter and hasty words, formal and ceremonial prayers? (Comp. James 3:2; James 3:9). His lips are "unclean" like those of one stricken, as Uzziah had been, by leprosy (Leviticus 13:45). He finds no comfort in the thought that others are as bad as he is, that he "dwells in the midst of a people of unclean lips." Were it otherwise, there might be some hope that influence from without might work his purification. As it is, he and his people seem certain to sink into the abyss. To "have seen the King, the Lord of hosts," was in such a case simply overwhelming (Exodus 33:20).

Verses 5-7. - THE SEQUEL OF THE VISION - THE PROPHET'S SENSE OF UNWORTHINESS. The vision of God in this life, whether natural or ecstatic, cannot but produce in the beholder a deep feeling of his unworthiness. God "is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity;" even "the heavens are not clean in his sight" (Job 15:15). Man, being never wholly purged from sin while on earth, cannot but shrink from contact with the absolutely Holy. Hence Isaiah's cry (ver. 5); and hence, to comfort him, the symbolic action of the seraph (ver. 6) and his encouraging words (ver. 7). Verse 5. - I am undone; literally, cut off, destroyed (comp. Isaiah 15:1; Jeremiah 47:5; Hosea 4:5, 6, etc.). God once said himself, "There shall no man see me and live" (Exodus 33:20). Men expected to die even when they had seen angels of God (Genesis 32:30; Judges 6:22, 23; Judges 13:22). How we are to reconcile Exodus 33:20 with this passage, Job 42:5, and Ezekiel 1:26-28, is uncertain. Perhaps the ecstatic sight was not included in the "seeing" of which God spoke to Moses. I am a man of unclean lips. A man must be indeed" perfect" never to offend in word (James 3:2). Isaiah felt that he had often so offended. His lips were not "clean" in God's sight, and if not his lips, then not his heart; for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34). I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. Men catch up the phraseology of their time, and use wrong forms of speech, because they hear them daily. "Evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

6:1-8 In this figurative vision, the temple is thrown open to view, even to the most holy place. The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. See God upon his throne. This vision is explained, Joh 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ's glory, and spake of Him, which is a full proof that our Saviour is God. In Christ Jesus, God is seated on a throne of grace; and through him the way into the holiest is laid open. See God's temple, his church on earth, filled with his glory. His train, the skirts of his robes, filled the temple, the whole world, for it is all God's temple. And yet he dwells in every contrite heart. See the blessed attendants by whom his government is served. Above the throne stood the holy angels, called seraphim, which means burners; they burn in love to God, and zeal for his glory against sin. The seraphim showing their faces veiled, declares that they are ready to yield obedience to all God's commands, though they do not understand the secret reasons of his counsels, government, or promises. All vain-glory, ambition, ignorance, and pride, would be done away by one view of Christ in his glory. This awful vision of the Divine Majesty overwhelmed the prophet with a sense of his own vileness. We are undone if there is not a Mediator between us and this holy God. A glimpse of heavenly glory is enough to convince us that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Nor is there a man that would dare to speak to the Lord, if he saw the justice, holiness, and majesty of God, without discerning his glorious mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. 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 taking away sin is necessary to our speaking with confidence and comfort, either to God in prayer, or from God in preaching; and those shall have their sin taken away who complain of it as a burden, and see themselves in danger of being undone by it. It is great comfort to those whom God sends, that they go for God, and may therefore speak in his name, assured that he will bear them out.Then said I, woe is me,.... There's no woe to a good man, all woes are to the wicked; but a good man may think himself wretched and miserable, partly on account of his own corruptions, the body of sin and death he carries about with him; and partly on account of wicked men, among whom he dwells, Romans 7:24,

for I am undone; a good man cannot be undone, or be lost and perish; he is lost in Adam with the rest; in effectual calling he is made sensible of his lost and undone state; and under the power of unbelief may write bitter things against himself; but be can never perish, or be lost and undone for ever. The Targum is,

"for I have sinned;''

and his particular sin is after mentioned: some (o) render it, "for I have been silent"; as if he had not performed the duty of his office, in reproving for sin, or declaring the will of God: others (p), "for I am reduced to silence", I am forced to be silent; he could not join with the "seraphim", being conscious to himself of his vileness, and of his unworthiness to take the holy name of God into his polluted lips, as follows:

because I am a man of unclean lips; he says nothing of the uncleanness of his heart, nor of his actions; not that he was free from such impurity; but only of his lips, because it was the sin of his office that lay upon his mind, and gave him present uneasiness; there is no man but offends in words, and of all men persons in public office should be careful of what they say; godly ministers are conscious of many failings in their ministry. The Targum is,

"because I am a sinful man to reprove;''

and so unfit for it.

And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; such were the Jews, not only in Isaiah's time, but in the times of Christ and his apostles, who traduced him, as if he was a wicked person, calumniated his miracles, said he was a Samaritan, and had a devil; they taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and opposed and blasphemed the truths of the Gospel; and to live among men of a filthy speech and conversation is a concern to a good man; he is vexed and distressed hereby; he is in danger of learning their words, and of suffering with them in a common calamity.

For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts; the same divine and glorious Person described in Isaiah 6:1 who is no other than the Lord Christ, King of kings, and Lord of lords, King of saints, and Lord of the armies, in heaven and in earth; and a lovely sight it is to see him by faith, in the glory and beauty of his person, and in the fulness of his grace; such a sight is spiritual, saving, assimilating, appropriating, very endearing, and very glorious and delightful: wherefore it may seem strange that a sight of Christ should fill the prophet with dread; one would think he should rather have said, happy man that I am, because I have seen this glorious Person, whom to see and know is life eternal; but the reason of it is, because in this view of Christ he saw the impurity of himself, and was out of conceit with himself, and therefore cries out in the manner he does; just as in a sunbeam a man beholds those innumerable motes and atoms, which before were invisible to him. It was not because of his sight of Christ he reckoned himself undone; but because of the impurity of himself, and those among whom he dwelt, which he had a view of through his sight of Christ: his sight of Christ is given as a reason of his view of his impurity, and his impurity as the reason of his being undone in his apprehension of things. The prophet, in these his circumstances, represents a sensible sinner, under a sight and sense of his sinfulness and vileness; as the seraph in the following verses represents a Gospel minister bringing the good news of pardon, by the blood and sacrifice of Christ.

(o) "quia tacui", V. L.; so R. Joseph Kimchi. (p) "Ad silentium redactus sum", Tigurine version.

Isaiah 6:4
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