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Blazing with Glory

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
October 10, 2023 12:01 am

Blazing with Glory

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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October 10, 2023 12:01 am

When Isaiah saw a vision of the sublime glory of God, it changed his life forever. Today, R.C. Sproul explains what the prophet witnessed when he gazed into the throne room of the Holy One.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

The Seraphim, creatures created by God with six wings. With two wings, they covered their face. With two wings, they covered their feet. And with two wings, they flew.

Why did they cover their face? Well, you see, the purpose and the function for which these creatures were made was to serve in the immediate presence of God. I can still remember the first time I heard R.C. Sproul teach on the Seraphim from Isaiah 6 and the way that helped me see the otherness, the holiness of God. So I encourage you to keep listening today as Dr. Sproul will be walking us through that section of Isaiah. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind, a daily outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Ligonier exists to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.

That's when you hear R.C. Sproul teach on the holiness of God that you begin to see why that is our mission. People need to know who God is, and they need to know, by God's grace, who they are and their need for the gospel. This week, we're featuring messages from the extended edition of His Holiness of God series, in addition to listening and requesting the 25th anniversary edition of the Holiness of God book at renewingyourmind.org, which you'll also consider sharing the Renewing Your Mind podcast with someone that you know so that more people can hear about our holy creator. A topic that is sadly missing from many pulpits today.

Well, here's R.C. Sproul on the vision of God recorded for us in Isaiah chapter 6. As we continue our study of the holiness of God, we turn once again to the experience that is recorded by the prophet Isaiah, in which he speaks of the circumstances of his call, of his call, of his moment of consecration to this divine task that God laid upon him. We recall that Isaiah begins his testimony by giving us the historical setting, saying that it was in the year that King Uzziah died, a year when a ruler who had reigned for 52 years had passed from the scene, leaving the people of the land in a sense of fear and uncertainty. This was an epic moment in the time of Israel. In fact, some look back and say this is a watershed where from this day forward the decline of national prosperity, national faith, national hope began to accelerate, and Israel's destiny as a nation was beginning to fall apart. One of the oddities, the coincidences of history is that in the same year that King Uzziah died, the same year that Isaiah was called and consecrated by God to become a prophet, a village was founded and established on the shores of the Tiber River in Italy. It was the birth year of the city of Rome.

It would be interesting just to trace the movement in history of the decline of Israel that coincided with the rise of the great Roman Empire. And at that crossroads in history was the moment that God appeared to Isaiah. He says, in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on the throne high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. It's significant that when Isaiah speaks of this visionary experience, he says, I saw something. I didn't just hear something. I didn't just imagine something.

I didn't just read about something. I saw something. I saw the Lord, and I saw the Lord in a specific context. I saw him enthroned. I saw him occupying the seat of cosmic authority. John tells us in the New Testament that the vision that Isaiah had was not a vision of God the Father, but it was a vision of the heavenly presence long before the incarnation it was a vision of the heavenly presence of the exalted second person of the Trinity. Before Mary bore the child, before Simeon held him up and declared that he was witnessing now in the flesh the consolation of Israel, Isaiah was privileged to peek behind the veil, to look behind the curtain of God's destiny and God's plan for history, to see seated in heaven, in the heavenly Jerusalem, in the heavenly temple, the King of the kings, the Lord of the Lord.

He said, in the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. If you look in your Bible, you'll see that that word Lord is printed with this manner. It's capital L, little o, little r, little d. Now if you look in your Scriptures and move down to verse 3 where we read, Holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. You see the word Lord there appears in all capital letters, capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D. It's not because the printer has made a mistake here. The reason why one is in all uppercase letters and the other one is in lowercase letters is to give us a clue from the printer of the English edition of the Bible that even though the same English word Lord appears both in verse 1 and in verse 3, there are different Hebrew words that are being translated. Whenever you see the word Lord all in capital letters, you can assume that in the Hebrew text, what is found there is the sacred name of God, Yahweh. But when we see Lord in lowercase letters as we do here in verse 1, the Hebrew behind it is the Hebrew word Adonai, which means simply the sovereign one, the one who is vested with absolute authority.

In fact, the title Adonai is higher than the title king because even the king in Israel was subject to Adonai, to the sovereign God of heaven and earth who raises up kings and who brings down kings. And now the year that this most popular king, Uzziah, had died and the vacuum set in in the nation, Isaiah sees the Lord. He sees Adonai. He sees a vision of the one who is absolutely sovereign, and he sees him in his investiture. He sees him after his coronation.

He sees him after his coronation. He sees him occupying the throne high and lifted up, images of exaltation, images that bespeak the glory of God, the glory of the Lord's anointed, the glory of Christ. So, it's in this context that he has this vision in the inner chambers of heaven itself. He says of this that the train of his robe filled the temple, let me work backwards on that verse, that he speaks of the garment of the sovereign Lord is all-encompassing, completely filling the temple. What temple? Isaiah doesn't tell us, and perhaps that Isaiah is having this experience in the earthly temple in Jerusalem.

That's a possibility, but most Old Testament scholars agree that the vision that Isaiah is having is not something that simply takes place. It may have taken place in the earthly temple, but he is seeing inside the heavenly temple, the ultimate temple of which the earthly temple is but a shadow or a pattern. And as he gazes now into the inner chambers of heaven itself, into the throne room of God, he sees the deity established on his throne where the train of his robes fill the entire heavenly temple.

Now, what's the significance of that? Well, you know, kings today and kings then were very much concerned with their status symbols. How big was their throne?

How large was their domain? How glorious was their scepter? How many gold vessels could they boast of owning? There was a sense in which all of the status was focused on the luxury of their garments. There was a royal dye, a purple, that was reserved only for monarchs. But not only the color of their robes distinguished their status, but also the kind of material that was used. Some had mink. Some had chinchilla. Some had sable.

Some had ermine. And one's greatness was related to the kind of precious fur that was used. But in addition to that, the size of the robe was everything. I remember that one of the first internationally televised events on broadcast television in America was the coronation of Princess Elizabeth to become the queen, the monarch, of the British Empire. And the pomp and circumstance that only the British can bring to bear was magnificent on that occasion. And the commentators were speaking about the regal stature of the princess as she came to Westminster Abbey and approached the throne. And as she processed down the aisle, she was wearing this glorious dress and magnificent robe whose train was so long that it required pages to walk along behind her, holding up her gown, her robe, lest it be soiled from the ground.

I don't remember the exact length of that train of her robe, 10 feet, 12 feet, who knows. I remember my wedding day, and I remember the tradition in America that the groom is not allowed to see the bride on the day of the wedding until on the day of the wedding, until she processes to the bridal march the beginning of the service. I had gone with my wife for eight years. For eight years we planned this wedding. She went out with her mother and bought her wedding gown. I didn't lay eyes on it.

I wasn't allowed to see it. And I remember coming out of the side of the church and walking to the front of the chancel steps with the best man and the minister and standing there listening to the organ music in joyous anticipation and then going through the whole process of the procession of the bridesmaids and their beautiful dresses. And then finally the strains of the organ changed into full diapason, and the sound of the wedding march was announced.

Her mother stood up. The congregation rose, and my wife appeared at the back of the church on the arm of her father standing beside her. And she marched down the aisle, and I began to beam like a little kid, and I was overcome with awe at this magnificent dress, the bridal gown. And I just grinned from ear to ear, and it's still something that we treasure on our 25th anniversary. We got our pictures taken to commemorate our marriage, and I went out and rented a tuxedo, and my wife just went upstairs and opened the box and got out her wedding gown and got right into it.

I couldn't get into the tuxedo that I was married in. But we make such a fuss and celebrate such matters of appropriate and proper dress for special occasions. But the robe that Isaiah saw furled down from the shoulders of the king spilling out over the sides of the throne, and then in gigantic folds came down into the sanctuary moving across the floor and up the sides of the wall completely engulfing the whole of the heavenly temple.

There's never been a robe like that on earth. The image and the symbolic significance of what Isaiah gazes upon here with the outfit of the king calls attention to a kind of majesty that knows no parallel on earth. It is a transcendent majesty that he observes, for the train of his garment filled the temple. And then Isaiah describes the accompanying beings that surround the king.

He says, And above him stood Seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

Isaiah takes the time to give us a detailed description of the anatomical structure of these heavenly beings, these angelic beings that are mentioned only here in Scripture. We hear throughout the Bible of various kinds of angels and archangels and cherubim that the Renaissance painters depicted as sort of like baby angels, but here we have the description of the Seraphim, creatures created by God with six wings. Why six wings? They didn't need six wings to fly. Are the other four wings just unnecessary appendages, vestigial remnants that were useless?

No. There was a purpose for these wings. With two wings they covered their face. With two wings they covered their feet, and with two wings they flew.

Why did they cover their face? Well, you see the purpose and the function for which these creatures were made was to serve in the immediate presence of God. The Seraphim are an integral part of the heavenly host, angels who attend God at every moment. And these angelic beings are so equipped by their Creator to be able to adapt to their environment. That's the way God makes things. When He creates fish, He gives them fins. He gives them gills because their natural habitat is the water. When He creates birds, He gives them feathers. He gives them wings because they are designed specifically for an environment in which they can fly through the air.

But what is the habitat? What is the environment of the Seraphim? It is the immediate presence of God.

And so God equips them with appendages that are designed to cover their faces. Now we know that in Scripture that it is said of human beings that no man can see God and live. We remember how Moses earnestly sought the beatific vision to be able to gaze directly into the unveiled face of God. He had experienced the presence of God. He knew the power of God.

He was an eyewitness to tremendous miracles of redemption in the battle with Pharaoh. But Moses wasn't satisfied with that. When he went up to Sinai, he said to God, "'O God, show me Your glory, and it will suffice me.'" And you remember what God said? He said, "'Moses, I will speak to you man to man, face to face, as it were, and I will come over here, and I will carve out a hollow space in the rock, and I will place you in that niche in the rock, and I will allow my glory to pass by, but I will cover you, and I will allow you to see.'"

And literally what it says in the Hebrew, the hindquarters or the backward parts of Yahweh. "'But Moses, my face shall not be seen.' For no man can see God and live."

It's not because He's invisible that we can't see Him. It's not because there's a deficiency with our eyes. It's because there's a deficiency in our character.

There's a deficiency in our heart. We are not pure in heart, and because of sin, we are not allowed to gaze on the unveiled presence of God. Well, I'm not suggesting that the seraphim were fallen creatures, that they were sinners, but even these unfallen, spotless, heavenly beings are equipped to shield their eyes from the blazing, burning glory of God. Think of it. Even the angels must shield their eyes from the light that is brighter than the noonday sun, and they are given two more wings to cover their feet.

Why? Again, Moses, when he entered into the presence of God, when God appeared to him in the Midianite wilderness and spoke to him from the burning bush, said to him, "'Moses, Moses, put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the ground whereon thou standest is holy ground.'" It wasn't holy because Moses was there.

It was holy because God was there. And our feet are the feet of creatures, feet of clay, and our feet indicate our being bound to earth. And Moses is called to take off his shoes, a symbolic gesture to acknowledge that now he, as a creature, stands in the presence of Almighty God. Even the angels, whose natural habitat is heaven itself, are creatures. And when they come into the presence of God, they must cover the sign of their creatureliness. They cover their eyes to shield them from the blazing glory. They cover the feet to acknowledge in humility they are creatures before the living God. But, beloved, the purpose of this description of the seraphim is not to tell us so much about their anatomy, but rather to tell us of their task, to give us a message of the nature of God.

That's the heart of this experience, where the angels cry an antiphonal response one to another daily in the presence of God, holy, holy, holy. I want us to think about some of the words that we choose in our language to express things that we consider extraordinary or wonderful or great, words that are used so often that they become, for a while, the catch words, the buzzwords of a generation until they simply die the death of triteness and staleness, words like in the 40s that became popular, like swell. And then in the 50s, it was the word cool.

And it seems like every generation has one of those words, doesn't it? Today, I think the stale word of the decade is the word awesome. When we see the Michael Jordans of this world perform in uncommon greatness, we say He's awesome.

We hear a remarkably gifted singer and say she or he is awesome. If ever a word was misused, it is the word awesome. Awesome is that which provokes by its sheer being a sense of dread, a sense of dread, a sense of reverence, a hushed stillness, a sense of awe.

Properly speaking, only God deserves that epitaph. Only God is truly and ultimately awesome. And what Isaiah sees and what Isaiah feels is adjoining into the awe of the angels themselves as they contemplate the presence of God.

Fish have fins, birds have feathers, and the seraphim, they have a pair of wings with the sole purpose of covering their face from the immediate presence of God. This is the God we serve, and this is the God who loved us and chose a people for himself. If you're a believer, consider refresh the mercy and the grace that has been shown to you.

You're listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Tuesday, and you heard a message from R.C. Sproul's series, The Holiness of God. This series and his book on the holiness of God has been used by the Lord to transform many lives. We hear stories still every week, and this week the digital edition of that series, along with the special 25th anniversary edition of the hardcover book, can be yours for a donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. You can also call us at 800-435-4343. And when you do, the series will be added to your Ligonier Learning Library so that you can stream it on the go in the free Ligonier app.

We recently released a major update, so if you use it already, make sure that you have the latest version. And if you don't, now is an excellent time to search for Ligonier Ministries in your favorite app store, as the new app has search functionality so you can easily browse thousands of free resources. And we've also added Renewing Your Mind and all of Ligonier's other podcasts so you can easily listen right there in the app.

So give your gift at renewingyourmind.org and we'll send you the 25th anniversary edition of the book, and we'll give you lifetime digital access to the extended edition of the series in the brand new free Ligonier app. What do the angels in Isaiah 6 say? They don't declare that God is love, love, love, or grace, grace, grace, or even wrath, wrath, wrath. They declare that He is holy, holy, holy. And that's R.C. Sproul's topic tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-23 23:30:40 / 2023-10-23 23:39:01 / 8

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