- Angels of God
- In the Book of Enoch
- Holy, Holy, Holy
- Cleansing & Purification
- Unclean Lips
- Volunteering to Do the Will of God
- A Message Not Meant to be Heard?
- A Remnant
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is brought before the throne of God, in which we get a glimpse of God's Heavenly home and His angels. Can you imagine experiencing this!? It had to be a life changing event. Isaiah tells us it occurred the year Uzziah died, which was near the beginning of his career (Isaiah 1:1). If something that amazing was how your career as a prophet kicked off, can you imagine what else God would show you?
Angels of God
Isaiah paints a picture of God seated on a throne in some sort of flowing garment that filled the Heavenly Temple. Above this throne are angels called Seraphim. I love this passage because it reminds me of how much we allow non-Biblical ideas to seep into our beliefs. If you go to many churches or Christian homes, they have depicts of angels that resemble humans with wings and halos. There are plenty of movies in which angels are required to perform some duty to "get their wings," which has become some sort of folk lore. Not to mention halos are actually relics of pagan sun worship. You'll notice that while the angels do have wings, they don't really fit the description of what we see painted in renaissance art.
While no one can contest that angles are able to shapeshift into humans (evidenced in Genesis 18 and 19 when angels disguised as men visit Abraham and Lot), Isaiah 6 gives us a look at one type of angel (Seraphim) in their natural state. Each Seraph is described has having 6 wings, not just two. What's interesting is that the wings have purposes other than flying. One set of wings was used to shield the eyes, possibly to signify that they were unworthy to look at the glory of God. Remember Paul had trouble with his eyes until his death after witnessing the brilliance of Jesus (Acts 9:1-9). Another set was used to cover the Seraph's feet. The final set of wings is the one actually used to fly over the King's throne.
Isaiah doesn't tell us what the angel's faces look like, or much else about the angels for that matter; probably because they are covered by their wings. Depending on the size of these wings, the effort to cover the eyes and feet likely covered most of the body.
Descriptions of Cherubim, the other type of angels mentioned in the Bible, are given in Ezekiel and Revelation. In reality, we aren't told much about angels in the Bible, which explains why people people have made up their own mythology about them (reminder, this is dangerous, we should stick to the facts of the Bible).
In the Book of Enoch
Isaiah is the only one who describes the Seraphim in our Bible, but apparently there are also descriptions in The Book of Enoch (which I have not read, yet). Although some Jews consider The Book of Enoch a valid document, it isn't even part of the Christian Apocrypha. Most scholars consider it to be falsely attributed to Enoch, the man God took to heaven without experiencing death. Others, however, believe it is a historical document with both fact and fiction contained in it. Still, there are some who believe it is genuine revelation from God and thus study it as the Word of God.
Those who believe the book of Enoch is inspired by God often cite Jude 1:14 as proof. In that verse, Jude appears to be quoting a prophecy given by Enoch. Although the verse doesn't specifically mention a book or the prophecy being written, sources suggest the passage is similar to one found in the Book of Enoch. The verse in question is Enoch 1:9. Opposers argue that Jude could be verifying a portion of the book to be true without canonizing the whole book. We'll go deeper into this when I get to Jude (which may take a while, unfortunately), but in the mean time I've provided a few references on this issue below (note I don't necessarily agree with each reference, I'm just providing a multiple perspectives upfront).
I just want to make you aware of where the book stands (as non-canonical) before talking about its description of Seraphim.
Enoch 71:7 makes the claim that there are 3 types of angels, with Seraphim listed as one of the three. The standard canon of the Bible only mentions Seraphim and Cherubim. Since I have not read the Book of Enoch, I cannot say exactly what the book says about Seraphim, however, sources suggest it provides more information. Much of the theology about angels comes from this book, despite its questioned authenticity.
Seraphim is the plural of Seraph (i.e., the equivalent of people versus person), and Seraph means "fiery one." Seraph may also mean serpent, suggesting that the serpent who spoke to Eve in the garden was a Seraph. If so, it would follow that the devil is a fallen Seraph. In Isaiah, we see the Seraphim above the throne of God, furthering the Bible's description of Satan has a highly ranked angel before his fall.
Holy, Holy, Holy
If you attend church regularly, I'm sure you've sung the song "Holy, Holy, Holy" or some version of it. This phrase appears often in worship, and it was inspired by the praise offered to God by the Seraphim in Isaiah 6:3. Most Christians believe that holy is spoken each time to represent one member of the Godhead, thus God is thrice holy. Others believe it is merely repeated to produce emphasis.
Cleansing & Purification
Before one can start serving in the name of God, they should be purified. If you remember from the Books of Law, there were statutes put on the priests that they should not perform priestly duties while in an unclean state. In the New Testament, we see Paul go through a purification ritual in Acts 21. Many times, before we can work for God, we have to take a minute to fix ourselves. This isn't just for new believers, but even those of use who have believed for long periods of time. Regardless of where we are in our walk with Christ, we have sinned and fallen short of God's perfect righteousness.
When Isaiah saw the glory of God, he became acutely aware of this fact. Can you imagine? If God whisked you up to His throne right now, and you were standing before Him, would you not feel unclean and naked? Much like Adam and Eve—and now Isaiah—we would have the desire to hide from His perfectness in embarrassment of our own faults.
Isaiah confesses his unworthiness by proclaiming that he is a man of "unclean lips" from a people with "unclean lips." Many of us can relate to Isaiah's dilemma; we say things we know are not of God. Perhaps it was fowl language or promotion of unholy thoughts and ideas, we know we shouldn't have said these things. Isaiah doesn't just stop with his own lips, though, he mentions the people of Israel as well. He recognized that even though they were the chosen people of God, they had drifted astray and were not in a position of righteousness. Here, Isaiah is pointing out that he is not better than his fellow Israelites—he was just as sinful as they were.
When I first read this passage, I speculated that the specific reference to unclean lips versus an unclean body had to do with blasphemy and/or idolatry. The Israelites had a long history of worshipping pagan gods, at which point their words and actions would have blasphemed God. It is possible that at some earlier point in Isaiah's life, he too had fallen to the temptation of idolatry. Can you imagine being seated before the throne of God knowing you had said something to diminish Him? As I mentioned, this is pure speculation on my part, but I definitely think it adds a layer of severity to the scene which helps us think about our own behavior and what is to come.
Nonetheless, nothing we have done can keep us from God if we let Him clean us. When Isaiah admits to his faults, one of the Seraphim cleanses his lips with a hot coal from God's altar. Immediately, the sin is purged. The three steps in Isaiah's purification reveal three steps to repentance.
First, Isaiah admitted to his sin. We cannot repent if we never admit that we are wrong. The first step in repentance is always our admission of wrong doing to the Father. We must fight the urge to bottle it up and hide it away as though we could ever hide anything from God. Instead, we lay it all out before him and confess our unworthiness. Revealing our deepest, darkest secrets is scary. Not only does it reveal weaknesses and insecurities that live within us, it usually comes with some type of consequence. The whole reason we want to hide certain things is because we're afraid of what people will say or do when they find out. The consequences we have to live with because of our sins sometimes arise right after we confess.
Second, the angel burned away the sin with a live coal. There are two revelations in this: the cleansing must be done by God, and we may experience discomfort for a moment. Isaiah was unable to cleanse himself, because as sinners we don't have that power. Instead, the angel, a representative of God, took something holy and performed the purification. Note also, that by using a live coal to cleanse Isaiah, this purification parallels the act of passing a sin offering through the fire (Malachi 3:2-3).
Third, the sin is forgiven. Once we have admitted our sin and allowed the sin to be purged by God and His angels, we are forgiven. Many times, we dwell on the past and circle back to the things we should have let go. The angel tells Isaiah the sin is gone, not just for the moment or for the week, but forever.
Volunteering to Do the Will of God
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
God waits for the moment when Isaiah has been purified to ask for a volunteer to deliver a message to the Israelites. God is King of all things, how easy would it have been to say "Isaiah you will deliver this message" or assign the task to one of the angels? Instead, He demonstrates our free will by merely asking for a volunteer.
We'd all like to think that when God calls we will respond the way Isaiah does. How powerful it is to be able to say "here I am, Lord send me" without hesitation or fear.
A Message Not Meant to be Heard?
Isaiah 6:9-10 almost sounds like God didn't want Israel to receive the message. However, I think the telling part of the message comes at the end of verse ten where God says they will be healed if they understood the message. We often put off approaching God because we feel like we're too far gone and unsavable. Here, God is saying that if the people repent before the appointed time they will be healed and avoid the judgment! It's not too late until the final moment. Right after God makes this statement, Isaiah asks "how long?" proving that he understood the message in this same manner. Isaiah is asking how long they have to correct their ways and heal the nation.
During Isaiah's time, there were several big moments yet to come for Israel. The judgment spoken of here could refer to the Israelites being taken into captivity or it could refer to the actual end of times. Today, we have two events we can assign this warning to: our death and judgement day. We have until judgement day or our own death (whichever comes first) to heed God's message. If we repent and follow Him before the time is up, we too will be healed. Like Isaiah, we often wonder how long that truly is. Both God, here in Isaiah, and Jesus, in the New Testament, only give signs to identify the time is at hand. Neither give an exact date or hour. If they did, I'm sure people would wallow in sin until the very last moment before repenting just in the knick of time. Instead we should heed God's Word as soon as possible and not procrastinate.
God tells Isaiah that a tenth of the people will survive. This leans toward the interpretation that God is talking about captivity, since this tenth is to return. It is also possible that only a tenth of all humanity will be saved during the judgment, but most commentaries I've read attribute this to those who returned from captivity. What I love the most about this, regardless of which judgement it refers to, is that before God enacts something, He always gives us the good news to hope for. Before He cursed Adam and Eve, He prophesied Jesus. Before He sent the flood, He prepared Noah. Before He sent the Israelites into captivity (in Egypt and in Babylon), He prophesied deliverance and a return home. Before He brings the final judgment, He prophesied that we can be saved. We always have hope.
References and Footnotes
- "Seraphim". Bible Study Tools; visited March 2018
- Emil G. Hirsch and Immanuel Benzinger. "Seraphim". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1906
- Wayne Jackson. "Did Jude Quote from the Book of Enoch?". Christian Courier; visited March 2018
- Enoch 1
- "What is the book of Enoch and should it be in the Bible?". GotQuestions.org; visited March 2018
- (Jude 9, 14-15) Why does Jude quote the Assumption of Moses (v.9) and the Book of Enoch (v.14-15)?". Evidence Unseen; visited March 2018
- Enoch 71
- Moe. Seraphim: The Burning Angels of the Serpent". Gnostic Warrior. March 20, 2014
- Ángel Manuel Rodríguez. "Serpents and Seraphim". Biblical Research Institute; visited March 2018
- "Halo". Encyclopædia Britannica. November 29, 2007
- "What does the Bible say about halos?". GotQuestions.org; visited March 2018
- When I wrote this post, I had only done a cursory study of the Apocrypha. At the time I thought the Apocrypha was a standard set of books either fully rejected or fully accepted by each denomination. In actuality, Apocrypha refers to a large number of books, each of which can be individually accepted or rejected by churches that affirm Apocryphal scriptures. The Ethiopian church (which is also one of the oldest churches in the world) recognizes the Book of Enoch in their canon.
Other Pages to View