In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord —
So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.” — Isaiah 6:5
The whole passage of what Isaiah saw is beautiful, and I have read it and heard it read a hundred times in my church-going life.
But when I read it yesterday, I had to ask Jesus, why did Isaiah respond to this vision by declaring, “Woe is me … I am a man of unclean lips from a people of unclean lips”?
I felt like I could sort of hear Jesus chuckling … “Isaiah had just seen the Lord clearly for the first time in His life, and realized everything He had been saying — and thinking — about God was wrong. And he came from a people who had been saying and thinking the wrong things about God as well. Sound familiar?”
Indeed, yes, it did!
I grew up in an evangelical tradition that preached God’s wrath and judgment, that you had to live right to please Him and when you didn’t live right, you were alienating Him.
What I learned, when I actually came into an intimate relationship with Christ, to feel His presence and hear His voice, is that He loves — you, me, everyone — that He is love and the last thing you can do, by your behavior, is alienate Him.
Most everything I had been saying and thinking about God was wrong, and I came from a group of people who also were saying and thinking the wrong things about God!
Woe is us — we’ve been telling people they have to clean up their act so they won’t be sinful and God can relate to them … telling people they have to make big changes so God will be pleased with them … telling people that how they act has a direct bearing on whether Jesus can and will save them.
But it’s not true. Jesus loves everyone, can and will save anyone who wants to be saved, and His love and acceptance hinge on nothing we can do but flow always from Him. He’s the Giver, the Lover, the Accepter, the Savior.
Telling anyone that God is anything other than their loving Father is wrong — and woe is us if we do it.