Why We Need Mirrors

by Sep 10, 2015

Why We Need Mirrors

by Sep 10, 2015

I’m a pretty good guy. I love my wife, I provide for my family, I volunteer my time in the community. I even serve God full-time. Compared to many people in the world, I think I’m doing well.

I’ll bet Isaiah felt the same way. As a prophet, his job was to go around warning other people. In Isaiah chapter 5 he gave warnings like this:

  • “Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field.” All you guys who just can’t stop buying, and accumulating, and hoarding houses, and properties, and cars, and clothes, and jewelry, and gadgets … woe!
  • “And woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink.” All you guys who wake up and pound a six-pack before lunch … woe!
  • “And woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood.” All you guys who pretend like you didn’t see the line of cars waiting to turn left, and try to cut in at the front of the line … WOE!

I’m imagining myself with that job. I think I’d be pretty good at it! But I can imagine going around, giving all the warning God told me to give to all those sinners all around me, and thinking to myself, “Good thing that I’m not like those guys.” I don’t wake up and pound a six-pack. I’m not a hoarder. I don’t try to cut in to the left-hand-turn lane … most of the time.

And so I imagine that’s probably Isaiah’s thinking. Compared to everyone else, he stands tall. But then something happens in Isaiah chapter 6 that changes everything:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)

Suddenly, Isaiah is face-to-face with the glory, holiness, sovereignty, and majesty of God. There are so many symbols of God’s glory packed into those few short verses, and here’s the most striking thing: after his personal encounter with God, Isaiah doesn’t tell us anything about what God really looks like! The closest he comes is to tell us about the robe God’s wearing and how long it stretches.

Similarly, in Revelation 21 when John saw a vision of heaven, he couldn’t really tell us what God looked like either. He talked about the floor under God, and how it was made of gold. None of the people in the Bible who’ve seen God can give us a good description of him. That’s because when they see God, they instantly bow so low that all they can tell you about is the color of God’s flooring, or the length of God’s robe.

Isaiah is literally floored by the glory of God. And so he says:

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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)

Isaiah isn’t looking at other people anymore, he’s looking in the mirror. And now that he’s seen the glory of God, he’s not comparing himself to others, he’s comparing himself to the Lord of hosts. Now that he’s in the presence of this holy, majestic, sovereign, glorious God, he can’t even stand anymore.

The more you see God’s glory, the more you see your own fallenness. When the light of God’s glory shines down on you, it shows you what you really look like. It’s not pretty! Warts, zits, wrinkles, and unclean lips. Isaiah is torn up about his unclean lips, because they represent his unclean heart. His sinful heart. Now that he looks in the mirror, he can see that he’s a wretch compared to God. So he’s not saying, “Woe to you,” he says, “Woe is me! WOE is me!”

And that’s probably what he’d be saying for the rest of his life after an experience like this. But the good news is that the story doesn’t end there:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. (Isaiah 6:6-7)

This burning coal is a symbol of forgiveness and atonement. Atonement simply means covering over your sin. How does God cover over your sin. Well, later in Isaiah, he says there’s someone coming who was going to be “pierced for our transgressions … crushed for our iniquities. … With his wounds we are healed.”

Isaiah didn’t know his name, but now we do. Jesus Christ died on the cross to take the punishment for your sin. He covered over your sin with his grace and his righteousness. You just have to put your trust in him as your savior and your king! And then your sins are covered.

It all starts by looking in the mirror.