photo courtesy of the Rogers family
Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!
Isaiah 6:5 ESV
Dear ICB family,
The silver tongued poet-prophet had denounced the state of the nation in no uncertain terms. Personal and private sins along with systemic corruption and oppression all came under his fire and thunder. ‘Woe to you!’ he cried out six times. He had given a full 359º survey of every thing that was wrong with his own nation but now the final 1º remained as he looked into what Pastor Kanat called ‘the mirror of the soul’ and cried out, “Woe is me!” Words and speech and poetry were his forte, but now he cries out that even his strong points are impure, “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.” In the consuming holiness of God, any human claims of purity shrivel to nothing.
Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and John all saw a vision of the glory of God, and an overwhelming dread or a warning of imminent disaster came on each of them. On Abraham a deep and dreadful darkness descended (Genesis 15:12). To Moses the Lord gave this warning (Exodus 33:20), “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” When Joshua came face to face with the ‘Commander of the Lord’s armies’ he fell down on his face (Joshua 5:14) and similar accounts are given in Ezekiel 1:28, Daniel 10:8-9 and Revelation 1:12. When Peter realised who it was that was sitting in his boat, that he knew what was under the surface of the waves and under the surface of his soul, he cried out, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). In the consuming holiness of God, any human claims of purity shrivel to nothing.
Only Jesus had the right to utter all seven woes, because he in himself is the holiness of God. To summarise Matthew 23:13-39, Jesus said to the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites:
Woe to you, teachers of the law
You turn the key in heaven’s door
Woe to you, wretched sons of hell
The harm you’ve done no-one can tell
Woe to you, fools with blinded eyes
You do not know what God supplies
Woe to you, when you give a tithe
And swagger in conceited pride
Woe to you, acting out a part
With deep corruption in your heart
Woe to you, slayers of the just
You will depart and bite the dust
Woe to you, spawn of ancient snake
How do you think you might escape?
Your destiny in hell is plain
For all my prophets you have slain
In the consuming holiness of God, any human claims of purity shrivel to nothing. Complete and final judgment. Or is it?
For then comes Acts 9 and a murderous Pharisee comes face to face with the glory of God, the risen Lord Jesus. In his pride, he falls to the ground. He is struck blind, so that he can see. The persecutor of the church becomes the preacher of the gospel. The hypocrite becomes the champion of truth.
The sinner becomes a saint. The murderer becomes a martyr. ‘Woe is me!’ then becomes ‘Worthy are you, O Lord!’
Grace and peace,