Atonement

With the exception of Isaiah 1:18-19, Isaiah 1:25-27,Isaiah 2:2-4, and Isaiah 4:2-6, the first five chapters of the book of Isaiah emphasize sin and wrath. Needless to say, this is a bleak way to start a book. So, finally, we come to Isaiah 6, a chapter that shows us how God will atone for the sin of His people.

Though this chapter too has its share of bad news (see Isaiah 6:8-13), the predominate message is hopeful. For example, look at the words of the seraphim to Isaiah: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7)! This chapter outlines the full countours of the Gospel in a four-fold pattern that is paradigmatic for Judah and all humanity.

(1) King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1a). As far as kings go, Uzziah was a good king. He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD (2 Kings 15:3). Therefore, God blessed him by expanding his borders, giving relative peace, and sustaining his reign for 52 years. However, the high places were not taken away (2 Kings 15:4). Therefore, God cursed him with leprosy and isolation. The portrait of King Uzziah is a picture of the institution of the Davidic monarchy. On the whole, it was a God-intended office (Deuteronomy 17:14-20) that would lead to the eternal reign of the Son of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16). Therefore, it was sanctioned and blessed by God.

However, for all of its potential good, and in spite of its “good kings,” the institution itself had spiritual leprosy. Therefore, in 586 B.C.E. God put an end to the throne of David at the hands of the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:1-21). Though Jehoiachin was released from prison in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30), and though Zerubbabel returned from exile to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 3:1-3, Ezra 3:8,Haggai 1:12-15), both heirs failed to sit on the throne of David their father.

The reign and death of Uzziah is a picture of the rise and fall of the Davidic monarchy.

(2) The LORD of hosts is King (Isaiah 6:1b-4). In contrast to the dead King Uzziah is the True King of Israel, the Lord of hosts. Isaiah was here reminded that the Rightful King of Israel is God Almighty. Whereas the seraphim sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory,” we can imagine that the song for Uzziah and the Davidic kings would go something like this: “Leprous, Leprous, Leprous is the king of Judah; the whole kingdom is full of his leprosy!”

We are here reminded that God is the Ultimate King and that the Davidic seed is not. And yet, this introduces a serious theological problem. Did God not promise to install David’s son as King forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16)? Herein is the wonder and awe of this chapter. When Isaiah looked upon the LORD of hosts in heaven, he was gazing upon THE Davidic King, the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ (John 12:41). So it is that God both condemned the Davidic kings and preserved the Davidic throne by becoming THE Davidic King, an heir of David according to the flesh through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-6, 2 Timothy 2:8).

(3) Isaiah confesses his sin and repents (Isaiah 6:5). We do not know how aware Isaiah was of his sin before this moment. He may have been painfully aware or he might have lacked a full awareness of his sinful heart. Regardless, when he came face to face with the TRUE Davidic King, the three-times Holy LORD of hosts, Isaiah saw himself for who he truly was, a man of unclean lips. Consequently, he issued a damning woe oracle against himself and fell prostrate before the King.

Unlike Isaiah, however, Judah neither recognized the LORD’s kingship over them, nor did they repent of their sin, for the LORD had hardened their hearts against Him (Isaiah 6:8-10). Indeed, we know that this rejection of God and unrepentant spirit continued right up until and during the Incarnation of their True King, the Lord Christ Jesus (John 1:11).

(4) Isaiah’s sin is atoned for (Isaiah 6:6-7). Isaiah knew that he was in a place that he should not be and that he had looked upon One whom he should not have seen. And, therefore, he was scared for his life. His fear was not quickly abated, as one of the burning ones (seraphim) flew toward him with fire in his hand (Isaiah 6:6). Surely, Isaiah must have been bracing himself for immediate death by fire. Instead, however, the burning one touched the burning coal against Isaiah’s lips and atoned for his sin. His sins were covered as God symbolically burned them away.

Again, by contrast, just as Judah did not recognize their King, they did not repent of their sin. Therefore, their atonement was to be much more severe. God prophecied that he would burn away their sin by destroying their land and by carrying them into exile (Isaiah 6:11-12). But even this would not be sufficient. Though a remnant was to return, this “tenth” would have to be burned again (Isaiah 6:13a-13b). How far down would God be compelled to burn His people? Until there remained but a remnant of One; one righteous man, the holy seed. This “holy seed” was to be their King, the Lord Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:7, Galatians 3:16). Yes, the sin of Judah was so great that their atonement required that this remnant of One, the holy seed, a sinless man who kept covenant perfectly with God without exception, would have to be burned. And, in so burning the holy seed, atonement was to be made for Judah. O the cost of the sin of God’s people, that their God must become their King to be burned for them!

This leaves one crucial question: What about the nations? What about us? Are we left outside of God’s severe mercy? Is there atonement for us? Of course, Judah is a picture-lesson for the nations. As God deals with Judah, so God deals with all nations and all peoples. The holy seed is not only the King of Judah. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And therefore, the burning of Judah’s King is an offer of atonement for all who might believe (John 3:16).

Isaiah saw the King and kissed a burning coal and was healed. The King became a burning coal as He hung bleeding on the Cross. Therefore, we kiss the crucified, bloody, burning feet of our King by faith and are healed.

Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him. (Psalm 2:12)

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