Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Isaiah 6 (i)

My notes on Isaiah 5 have gone walkies... :(

(1-4) In the year King Uzziah died, the LORD appears, enthroned in the Temple, surrounded by seraphs who proclaim his holiness

(5) Isaiah’s response – woe is me, for I have unclean lips

(6-7) atonement for Isaiah as a result of the operation of the altar

(8) The LORD calls out for a messenger

(9) Isaiah’s response – here I am, send me

(9b-13) Command to proclaim the people’s unrepentance to them – for how long, O Lord? – until there has been almost total devastation. But the holy seed will yet survive…

NB. King Uzziah was generally a decent bloke, but he entered the Temple unlawfully (2 Chronicles 26) in an act of hubris. So his last few years were marred by a nasty disease.

The year Uzziah dies, is also the year that another king, Jotham, is crowned – so at the time of changeover we see the contrast – YHWH doesn’t die, succeed anyone, need crowning with human hands, etc. The splendour of YHWH’s kingship [the international kingship of God is prominent in chs 2 and 9, as well] is also needed to put all the discussion of rulers, kings and kingdoms in the rest of the book into perspective (and to provide context for the Servant Songs, for the servant is a divine ruler, too…).

Do we play down the kingship of God and all its trappings because of our disillusionment with contemporary politics – both in its structure (which we pretend to support, though we pay it only lip service) and its practice (which, in rather self-defeating fashion, we delight in mocking)? It’s very easy to dash onto the holiness of God in this passage, but we should focus first on the kingship, and seek to work this out in every area (including science, for example, as Alexander & White’s, Beyond Belief, which denies the existence of ‘methodological naturalism’, as some believers want to call it, since God is king of all and there is no autonomous ‘nature’).

The kingship of God also keeps the fatherhood of God from becoming sentimental in our thinking. [NB. The Pope is not the Holy Father, God is – sorry to bring that up, as I feel a lot more ecumenical than I did when I was a firey undergraduate, but certain elements in Roman Catholicism are really offensive.] Kingship and Fatherhood are together through the whole Scripture – just look at Adam, son of God, steward/vice-regent of God…

The kingly fatherhood of God comforts us when we have to deal with Alzheimers and all the other effects of ageing. Not a sentimental pat on the shoulder from an ineffective beardo, but the Almighty Himself is a Father to us and guarantees our inheritance and our glory as part of his care for us.

For all this comfort, we must remember covenant judgement. You can’t try to set up on your own (10-13). God is holy, indescribably so, and this gives Isaiah the willies, rather than the awesome majesty of YHWH the King. This holiness means that sin and corruption must be judged and destroyed, which spells bad news for us, unless God provides a way for us to ‘catch’ his holiness and participate in it somehow, unless he forgives our sins. Which he does for Isaiah (6-7), and this transforms the distraught, hopeless viewer into a dynamic servant of the King (5 versus 8b).