I Am Ruined

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty." Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)

When I was growing up I was taught that I dare not come to the dinner table without washing up first. There were times when I thought my hands were clean only to be told to go back and wash my hands, and this time with soap. This same scenario has been played out with my son. How about this one - your child takes a bath without washing behind his ears. One thing my mother did which I promised never to do, is lick a tissue and wipe my son's face!

If we are not careful we tend to approach worship the same way. We think that before we can come into God's presence in worship that we have to clean ourselves up first, that when we approach Him the first thing He does is inspect our hands or look behind our ears to see if we are clean enough to sit at His table. When Isaiah found himself face-to-face with the Lord he immediately realized that he wasn't prepared. He thought, "Wait, I haven't washed up!" I suspect that he wanted to turn around and run. He thought he was a dead man. But notice how the Lord responds to Isaiah's reaction. He is not shocked or upset at Isaiah's lack of cleanliness. The Lord simply directs one of the Seraphs to take a coal from the altar and touch Isaiah's lips with it and says, "There, all clean now!" (my paraphrase)

There is an important lesson to be learned about worship here. Yes, it is important that we live a life of holiness before God, but we must realize that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves clean or righteous. Only God Himself can do that. We don't clean ourselves up to enter His presence. We enter His presence to get cleaned up. I can hear the holiness crowd cringing at this concept. Don't get me wrong, we have a huge responsibility to live holy and to be separate from the world. We can't live like the world and just walk into His presence thinking God will overlook our sin. But, we must be careful not to go to the other extreme and think that God will only accept us after we clean ourselves up first.

I like how the King James version puts it. It says, "I am undone!" Isaiah came to the place where he realized that he had come to the end of himself and his only hope was to let the Lord take over and make him what only God could. The more we worship, the more we realize how unclean we are. That's when God steps in and says, "There, all clean now!"

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