Isaiah and the Altar – Gospel in Life

Isaiah and the Altar

Tim Keller |  November 24, 1996

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  • Sanctification
Isaiah 6:1-8
RS 272-10


We’re looking at historic accounts of people who had direct encounters with the living God. Isaiah 6 is a seminal passage: all of biblical religion is in here. It tells us so much about what it means to be a Christian and what it means to really meet God.

In this passage, Isaiah’s just going to the temple like he’s gone to the temple hundreds of times before. It’s the Sabbath day. He walks into the temple, and the very last person in the whole world he expects to actually see is God.

This passage tells us four characteristics of the Christian experience: 1) the reality, 2) the diversity, 3) the beauty, and 4) the festivity.

Understanding Isaiah 6:1–8

Isaiah 6 tells the story of Isaiah’s deep interaction with God, showing us what it means to really connect with Him. This story shows us the truth, variety, beauty, humility, and celebration that comes with a real relationship with God.

1. The truth of having a relationship with God

Isaiah’s life-changing meeting with God in the temple took him from just knowing about God to really experiencing Him. Similarly, Martha was too busy with religious tasks to really get to know Jesus. Being a Christian isn’t about following rules or doing religious tasks. It’s about knowing and experiencing God, actively praying, and letting our actions come from a full relationship with Him, not trying to earn something.

2. The variety in our experiences with God

Everyone’s experience with God is different. Look at Isaiah and Jeremiah. One had a grand call to serve, the other a humble one. But both were chosen by God and reassured that He was with them. We should respect each person’s unique journey with God. This leads to a deep understanding of our wrongs and thankfulness for God’s mercy.

3. The beauty of knowing God

The angels in Isaiah’s vision show deep respect for God’s holiness, covering their feet and eyes, recognizing they are unworthy and God is pure. A real Christian loves God’s holiness, which includes all good things like generosity, justice, grace, and trustworthiness. This love leads to a deep change in us and unconditional obedience. C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” beautifully illustrates this, where Sarah Smith’s soul reflects the beauty of holiness, showing that those drawn to God’s holiness, like the angels, have really experienced His grace and are connected with Him.

4. The joy of knowing God

Isaiah’s deep interaction with God’s holiness in the temple made him see his own wrongs. But through forgiveness, he was ready to serve God in any way, even if people didn’t listen or understand. This shows the power of truly seeing God. It replaces worry about success or failure with boldness, joy, and courage. This encourages us to seek a similar encounter with God, opening the door to a fuller Christian life.



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