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Isaiah chapter 6

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New International Version

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King James Version

What does Isaiah chapter 6 mean?

Isaiah 6 describes Isaiah's call from God to take His message to the people of Judah. Some scholars believe the book may have been meant to begin with this chapter, but many see this as the fitting conclusion to the introduction of Isaiah 1—5. This chapter is as if Isaiah is answering the question of what gives him the authority to the tell the people of the Judah of the coming judgement of the Lord.

This chapter establishes the beginning of Isaiah's work as a prophet. This came in the year King Uzziah died, around 740 BC. Uzziah was one of the great kings of Judah. At the time of his death, the Assyrians were beginning to mount the great war machine that would roll over the nations of the middle east (Isaiah 6:1; 2 Kings 24:10–16).

Isaiah describes a remarkable experience, either a vision or an actual appearance of the Lord. This was for his eyes only in the temple in Jerusalem. He sees the Lord dressed in royal robes sitting on a throne high up in the temple. Above the Lord stands an unnamed number of seraphim, six-winged angelic beings possibly in the form of fiery serpents (Isaiah 6:1–2).

The seraphim call out to each other in voices that shake the foundations of the temple. They proclaim the holiness of the Lord and declare His glory. Smoke fills the temple as they call (Isaiah 6:3–4).

Hearing their voices proclaim the pure praise of the Lord, Isaiah is overwhelmed with his unworthiness to be in such a place. He knows he has "unclean lips:" that he is a sinful, mortal man who has no business seeing God. He is not worthy even of praising the holiness of the King as the angels do. He deserves death (Isaiah 6:5).

Instead, one of the seraphim flies to him and touches Isaiah's mouth with a coal from the altar. The angel says simply that this action has taken away his guilt. His sins are atoned for. The implication is that Isaiah has been cleansed to speak on behalf of the Lord (Isaiah 6:6–7).

Only after this does Isaiah hear the voice of the Lord. God asks who He should send and who will go for "us." This could be referring to Himself and the angels or Himself as the trinity. Isaiah, now cleansed and eager to serve the Lord, quickly answers that He is there and asks God to send him (Isaiah 6:8).

The Lord tells Isaiah the message He wants His prophet to give to the people of Judah. They are to hear without hearing and see without seeing. In other words, the Lord knows the people of Judah are too far gone into their sin and rebellion to receive Isaiah's warnings about God's coming judgment. Yet they will not be given the excuse that they were never warned. In response to Isaiah's question of "how long?" the Lord tells him to continue to preach to his unresponsive people until the judgment comes. He is to continue until the land is laid to waste and the people are carried away into exile (Isaiah 6:9–12).

The tiniest bit of hope remains. The Lord's promise is there that even after everything is destroyed a "holy seed" remains. This seed is referring to when the Messiah will come and bring salvation to the world. (Isaiah 6:13).
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