In Isaiah’s vision in chapter six, the heavenly temple is quite literally bursting with the glory of God. The train of God’s robe was already filling the temple, indicating God’s majestic glory. And if that was n’t indication enough, as soon as the seraphim begin to shout God’s praises back and forth to one another, the foundation of the heavenly temple itself begins to shake and smoke fills the temple. This place is literally bursting at the seams with God’s glory!
And there, in the midst of it all, feeling completely out of place, is little Isaiah. He knows the truth. He knows that he doesn’t deserve to be in this glorious place. He doesn’t deserve to be in the presence of the glory of God. He knows that he should be utterly destroyed in the glorious presence of this thrice-holy God. He doesn’t belong. Simply being in the presence of this holy God demonstrates very clearly to him the stark contrast. He is a sinner.
Just like the foundation of the temple, so Isaiah himself trembles at the holiness of this great God. He is so struck with the holiness of God and his own sinfulness that he is only left with one option: repentance.
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 –
When Isaiah says “I am a man of unclean lips,” he is indicating a deeper reality of his heart. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Your mouth is directly connected to your heart. Whatever is in your heart is going to come out of your mouth. This is why Jesus also said that it’s not what goes into a person, but “what comes out of a person is what defiles him,” (Mark 7:20). The mouth is the conduit of the heart. Your mouth is the litmus test of your heart .
So when Isaiah confessed that he was a man of unclean lips, he was confessing that he was sinful to the core. He saw more clearly than he ever had before that he was sinful at heart. Sinful at root. David had a similar vision of his sinfulness after being rebuked by the prophet Nathan:
For I know my transgressions
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you and you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
– Psalm 51:3-5 –
We are no better than Isaiah. We are no better than David. We are just as sinful, just as wicked. If you desire to worship God in all his glorious holiness, you must learn this about yourself, confess your utter sinfulness, and repent. Any attempt to worship God without repentance is not only rejected by God, but is an abomination to him .
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
– Proverbs 15:8 –
True worship requires repentance. And worship is the only thing that will not get boring throughout the endless ages of eternity. You ever wonder why you get bored and dissatisfied with things so quickly? Why does that new toy that brought you so much joy at first now just sit in the closet or garage? Why is it that nothing fully satisfies you? C.S. Lewis describes this phenomenon well:
If we find ourselves with a desire
that nothing in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that
we were made for another world.
– Mere Christianity –
Here are three applications:
True corporate worship: Corporate worship requires corporate repentance.
Our worship gatherings must include an aspect of “we are a people of unclean lips.” When we get together to worship God, if we are not struck with God’s holiness to the extent that we are driven to repentance, we are not experiencing God’s holiness in a tangible enough way.
True individual worship: Individual worship requires repentance.
For help in this area, two passages that are extremely helpful are Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. Use these psalms as templates for prayer. They will walk you through how to appropriately respond to God’s Word in repentance.
True family worship: Family worship requires repentance.
When a family is committed to repentance and reconciliation, there is great joy in that family. A family that is constantly emphasizing forgiveness and biblical communication is at peace. Even when there is sin (and there always will be on this earth), that family knows that repentance will come, forgiveness will follow, and reconciliation will win the day.
It brings incredible joy to know that even when your family sins against you, you can rest in the hope that they will ask for forgiveness and you will forgive; or when you sin against your family, you will ask for forgiveness and they will forgive you.
And that’s what the gospel is all about: the joy of reconciliation.