Isaiah 6 Commentary

God’s call of Isaiah (6:1-13)

Isaiah has gone to some length to describe Judah’s spiritual and moral corruption before he mentions God’s call to him to be a prophet. His reason for doing this seems to be that he wants his readers to see why God called him. Their understanding of conditions in Judah will help them understand the sort of task that lay before him.

King Uzziah’s death marked the end of an era of prosperity unequalled in Judah’s history. Yet this era brought with it the corruption that Isaiah has just described, and left the people with no respect for God and no knowledge of what his holiness demanded of them. Isaiah sees that God is glorious and majestic, the supreme ruler over Judah and all other nations. Even God’s sinless heavenly servants dare not look on his glory, but busy themselves serving and praising him (6:1-4).

The vision of God’s holiness makes Isaiah realize that not only are the people among whom he lives sinful, but so too is he. Therefore, before he can be God’s messenger to others, his own sin must be cleansed. God graciously does this for him by removing his sin and transferring to him the benefits of God’s holiness, symbolized in the coals from the altar (5-7).

When God asks who will take his message to such a corrupt people, Isaiah volunteers; but God quickly tells him that his task is going to be difficult. The more he preaches, the more his hearers will reject his message. As a result they will sink deeper into sin, and so make it increasingly difficult for them ever to turn to God and be forgiven (8-10).

Isaiah asks God how long such hardness will last, and receives the reply that there is no hope for any rapid improvement. On the contrary the condition of the nation will worsen, till eventually judgment must fall. Judah’s cities will be destroyed and its people taken into captivity (11-12). But God will preserve the few who remain faithful to him, and from these will grow up a new people for God. To illustrate this destruction, apparent death and new life, God gives Isaiah the picture of a huge tree that is chopped down, so that only the stump remains; but from this stump springs new life (13).

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