White as Snow
Isaiah 6: 1-8
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!’ And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said:
“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 my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.’
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.’ Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”
White as Snow
Isaiah 1:18 promises us that we can be white as snow. As we near Christmas Day, the snow here in Southern Ontario is on the ground; it is cold and looks to stay that way right through Christmas Day. The snow can be dangerous of course for driving, but it is beautiful. It makes everything look white and clean. It lights up with the car lights and makes the fields almost glow.
I did not grow up with snow; in Barbados we had warm, green Christmases. We still sang “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” but we did not ever have one. The first time my brother and I experienced snow was in December 1977. We flew from bright and sunny Barbados to Montreal, Canada to spend Christmas with my aunt. My brother and I had an awesome time. We played and played until my parents had to literally drag us in. Snow makes everything look beautiful.
There is a lot of emotion around Christmas time, and there is such a focus on family and friends, gift giving and food that many often forget the real reason we celebrate the birth of Jesus our Saviour. Some 700+ years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Isaiah promised that a virgin would be with child. In Isaiah 7:14 we see this prophecy,
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
This was the promised sign to the nation of Israel; and thankfully to us Gentiles as well, a sign that God loved us and was going to redeem us. As we see in history, King Uzziah died about 740 BC, so this promise was made to us 740 years before Jesus was born. In chapter 6 that we are looking at today, Isaiah has an experience with the Lord that transforms him for life.
This is what the Christmas story is all about. God came to offer us the power and the opportunity to be transformed by Him. He could have left us in our state of sin and death, with no hope and no way out.
We will all die – getting older and seeing friends and family die, seeing celebrities die all frail and gaunt, seeing the Terminator begin to look old and the muscles don’t stick out like they used to. Death haunts us all, and the Lord could have simply walked away and left us to the obvious demise – death and hell. But He did not; He made a way. He offered an opportunity to get back to Him and have eternal life.
Please, it is important that we make this very clear: God does not need us; we need Him. God is self-sufficient. He needs no one and He needs nothing else to complete Him. There is a common thread running through the Christian world of a God who needs us. Nothing could be further from the truth. We make ourselves out to be more, way more than we really are.
While the account of the Prodigal Son is a stirring account from the mouth of Jesus, make an honest recollection of the story. The Father did not go looking for the son. He did not chase him down and He did not need him. The Father had all he needed at home. He did not go hungry; his son did. He did not end up serving a Gentile man; his son did. The Father was looking for the son, but it was the son who had to repent, turn back to his father, realize that he needed the Father, and then return home. The father ran to meet him when he saw him, but it was the son who needed the father’s food, home, safety and provision.
Let me share with you for a few moments about the awesome Christmas story. It never loses its wonder for me, and I am 51 years old. The more I study it, the more precious and real it is to me. The more I read the Bible, the more the power of it becomes apparent. I just want to share a few things as we enter the Christmas time:
Isaiah saw the Lord, verses 1-3
If we take the time to look at the world around us, we will see the Lord more than any people or generation before us. Science and archeology remind us of the wonders of the world; it reminds us that this world is carefully and deliberately made. Every part of it is knit together for our benefit. The more we explore the human body and the more we explore the creation around us, we see this amazing design, and of course, the Designer, the Lord God himself.
The heavens declare the glory of God, the Psalmist writes. The shepherds rejoiced when they saw Jesus and went to tell all who would listen about Him. For 2,000 years countless men, women and children have carried the name of Jesus all over the world, telling the story of when God came as a man to redeem us and live with us. His name is called Immanuel, meaning ‘God with us.’ If you see Jesus, you have seen God.
Isaiah was awed by the Lord, verses 4-5
Isaiah was terrified by his state. He saw himself, dirty and wretched before the Holy Living God, and he was terrified. He expected imminent death. The Old Testament prophets did not all understand the mercy of God, nor did they always understand His grace. But God made it clear that He wanted to have a relationship with us. From the days of the Garden of Eden, God walked with Adam and Eve. He came to them and fellowshipped with them. He came to Noah; He came to Abraham; He came to Moses; He came to Joshua, and on and on we can go. And yet it was hard for these persons to see His grace and mercy.
One night a long time ago, back in 1981 when I was 15 years old, I saw myself as dirty and sinful. I asked the Lord to forgive my sins and be my Saviour. Here is the irony of the relationship I have with Jesus: I see myself as dirtier now than I thought I was then. The more of the Bible I read, the more of the truths that I see, the more I read of the awesome loving, merciful and gracious character of our God, the more I see that I am ‘undone, a man of unclean lips.’
My thoughts are not holy; my teeth act more as a gate for my mind than ever before. I constantly have to shake my head to get out a bad idea or thought, and I constantly need to fall on God’s mercy for my sinfulness. I do not even think I knew what sinfulness was back then. Now it haunts me front and center every day in the mirror. I am the chief of sinners.
I am awed by the grace of God. The fact that the infinite and eternal God would make any time for me at all is awesome. The idea that the Holy Living God would make time for a sinner like me is awesome. The idea that the most powerful God would make time for a weak pile of dust like me is awesome. It is awe inspiring, and I wake in wonder every day that the Lord would continue to help me, supply for my family and me, use me to tell others about His Son, and ever be mindful of me.
If you have walked with Jesus for any length of time, and if you read and seek to have the Holy Spirit apply His word to your life, you will begin to see how sinful you are and how rebellious you are. I am. But the Lord should awe you; He should blow your finite human mind. He does mine.
Isaiah feared God; he thought he would die, but he did not. Often, I live in fear of God. I fail Him and I wonder if this is the day His patience runs out. Will this be the day that my portion of grace is exhausted? Thankfully, the Lord has a new supply of mercy for me each day. He does for you as well.
Isaiah was cleansed by the Lord, verses 6-7
The Lord sends out an angel with a hot coal to touch his lips and make him clean. Isaiah’s sins are removed and his sin is purged. Long before Jesus was born, the Lord, in looking forward to the birth of His Son, was already in the redemption business. And, this is what redemption is: to have our sins burned away, removed and purged. God has been doing that since the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.
This is the essence of Christmas, that Jesus came to make sinners clean. There is no other way, no other hope, no other remedy for our sin nature. Jesus is the Way. Like the apostle Peter said, Jesus alone has the words of life. One night about 2,000 years ago, a little baby came to fulfill the promise that God made to Adam in Genesis 3:15: the Seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. Jesus crushed the devil and destroyed the power of death and hell.
Have you been cleansed by God? Jesus is the soap you are looking for. No one else will take the stench of your sins away, no one can wash away the dark stain of sin on your life, and no one can make you clean like Jesus. You too can be clean. It is instant and permanent; salvation is forever.
Isaiah was ready to serve the Lord, verse 8
You and I are saved to serve the Lord. It is our DUTY to take the Christmas story to all who will listen. We must take it to friend and foe alike. We must be ready for every opportunity to name the name of Jesus and to lift him up. Isaiah did not have to be asked twice; he was eager to tell of the wonder of the Lord Jesus. Are you eager to tell others about Jesus? Are you a bit shy? A bit scared you might say that wrong thing? It is our duty to be ready to answer any and all who would ask about the hope in us.
Will you carry the Christmas story to those around you? Trust me, there are many who still have never heard even living here in North America. Many this very season will have sung along with the Christmas carols on the radio and in the malls, yet they will miss the message, as if these songs are some kind of folklore.
Oh, the job the devil has done to make the greatest message and the best gift just a passing holiday for food, family and presents. But no! God sent His ONLY Son to scream to us ‘come, come you lost; come you broken; come you sinners; come you at death’s door; come and see that the Lord is good. Come get clean and have your sin removed.’ Merry Christmas!
Luke 2: 4-7 “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”