Then said I, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)
There is a pattern that can be found in the pages of Scripture: when a man is confronted with a manifestation of God and His glory, the man’s face will be on the ground and/or he will make a declaration of his sinfulness and his unworthiness. So it is here with Isaiah, who sees a vision of God on His throne (Isaiah 6:1-7). When Ezekiel sees the vision of the heavenly chariot, he falls upon his face to the ground (Ezekiel 1:1-28). When John has a vision of the Risen Christ as the Ancient of Days, he falls at the Lord’s feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17). Upon hearing the voice of God during Jesus’ transfiguration, Peter, James, and John fall on their faces in fear (Matthew 17:7). Previously, that same Peter, upon perceiving the miraculous power of Jesus, fell before Him and begged Him to depart, for Peter was a sinful man (Luke 5:8). What would possess all of these people over the centuries to conduct themselves in this way?
Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Apostles all perceived that they were in the presence of the most holy God, and they perceived a glimpse of God’s majesty. It stands to reason that when we understand God’s majesty, glory, and holiness, we also will be greatly humbled, and our sinfulness will be apparent to us!
In reality, no man has ever seen God (John 1:18, 1 John 4:12). In the flesh man is unable to see the true glory of the One True God. No man can see the face of God and live (Exodus 33:20). But man can and has seen manifestations of God and His power and glory. We may not be as privileged as the prophets and Apostles of old, yet, as Paul says, God’s everlasting power and divinity are evident in His creation (Romans 1:20). Have you ever marveled at the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, been astounded by the power present in sun, water, or wind, or been amazed at the complexity of the creation from the smallest to the grandest scale? In truth, you have stood amazed and astounded at the majesty of God!
It is very easy for us to want to focus on God’s mercy, love, kindness, and graciousness, and distort our image of God into a being who can be tamed. This is why it is important for us to always remember that while it is true that God loves us, is merciful, kind, and gracious, that He is also holy, powerful, and mighty beyond human imagination (Leviticus 19:2, Isaiah 55:8-9, Revelation 4:11).
This helps to keep ourselves in perspective. God does not need us (Psalm 50:1-12); we need God. God, in His holiness and righteousness, would have been just to condemn us all for our transgressions of His holy will (Romans 3:1-23). Job learned to the full the folly of presuming to challenge God, for God is awesome and mighty, and we are literally dirt before Him (Job 38:1-42:6, Psalm 8:4). This is why man is fully aware of his limitations and his sinfulness when confronted with God’s majesty– the difference between God and him is obvious!
We must also resist the tendency to distort our image of God based upon His power, majesty, and holiness. The pictures of God as a cantankerous old miser with great authority, seeking to find ways to condemn people, are based on an overemphasis on God’s power and holiness to the exclusion of His love and mercy, and such a view is no better than its foil.
Yet this is not to deny God’s great power, majesty, and glory. We see it manifest in the creation, and we ought to understand that even if our eyes cannot see Him now, He is present, for it is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). We live our lives before the face of the most holy, righteous, and powerful God. If we try to pray to Him, we are making our petitions before that very throne envisioned by Isaiah and John (Isaiah 6, Revelation 4)!
In our blindness it is easy for us to blame God for our difficulties and problems, yet in truth, the real miracle is that God still loves His broken creation and gives us any consideration at all! We must remember that God is a God of love, mercy, and kindness, but He always remains the God of truth, righteousness, holiness, splendor, and majesty. He is always beyond worthy of our respect and adoration. Let us properly understand who God really is, remain humble before Him, and praise Him for all that He has done for us!
Ethan R. Longhenry