THE CALL OF ISAIAH – Isaiah 6
Isaiah 1- 6 form an introduction to the prophecies of Isaiah. But chapter six is more than the conclusion to the introduction; it forms the bridge to what follows. Having shown Israel’s idealistic future and their present spiritual condition, the Lord’s desire was to call a prophet to stem Israel’s spiritual tail-spin. Isaiah is that prophet. This chapter recounts his call.
1-4 Isaiah’s call began with a remarkable vision of “the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.” The Lord was in his throne room, the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple. The throne was the symbolic Ark of the Covenant. The train represents is robes of righteousness.
Above the Lord “stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.” In Solomon’s temple, the Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies underneath two large cherubim whose wings spread from one end of the room to the other (1 Ki. 8:6). In Isaiah’s vision of God, he saw seraphim instead of cherubim. Seraphim comes from the Hebrew root saraph meaning “to burn.” Seraphim literally means “the burning ones.” The conclusion to the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer refers to “shining seraphs around [the Lord’s] throne” (D&C 109:79) many who are premortal spirits (D&C 38:1). They appear in this vision to serve the Lord. As servants, they were given “power, to move, to act, etc.”as in the case of similar beings in the Book of Revelation (D. & C. 77:4.).
One of the seraphs cried, “ Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” So powerful was this statement that “the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke” probably from the altar of incense.
5-8 Becoming aware of himself, the vision frightened Isaiah. He cried out, “ 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 mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” It is a truth that unless transfigured, “no man can see the face of God and live” (see Moses 1:11; D&C 67:11-12). This is true because of the sinful, fallen condition of man. But one of the seraphim (“the burning ones”) took a piece of coal from off the altar (of sacrifice where the sin offering was performed?) and touched Isaiah’s lips, saying, “thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” The Savior said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (Matt. 15:11). Isaiah was now forgiven and cleansed of his sins. He was now ready to serve the Lord.
Then Isaiah “heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I; send me.” The call had been issued and accepted.
9-13 His mission would be a hard one. He was to try to get the Jews to repent and follow the Lord. But they would instead reject him. Thus the Lord said, “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Isaiah asked the Lord how long the people would choose spiritual blindness. The Lord responded, “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the LORD have removed men far away, and [there be] a great forsaking in the midst of the land.” The Lord offers however a glimmer of future hope. “But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” That is to say, though a majority of Israel will be destroyed in the coming destruction, a small remnant shall remain. And though like a forest whose trees are cut down and burned, from the stumps a new shoot will come forth and the apparent dead tree will live again.
Typical of Old Testament prophecy which is filled with gloom, there is always a glimmer of hope offered the reader. It was this hope that Nephi wanted his reader to rejoice in (2 Ne. 11:8) upon reading the chapters just discussed. Like Isaiah, Nephi had seen the idealistic future awaiting scattered Israel.
Both Isaiah and Nephi saw the day when an ensign would be lifted up to scattered Israel signaling the restoration of the gospel. This restoration would mean better days ahead for wayward Israel – days of hope and happiness. For centuries, the children of Jacob “have been scattered upon the mountains for a long time in a cloudy and dark day” (D&C 109:61). They have found no ease among the nations whom they have lived, “neither [have] the sole of [their feet] have rest.” Rather they have had “a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind” (Deut. 28:65). They have “wandered from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they [have] run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD” but have not found it (Amos 8:12). But the restoration of the gospel would bring peace, comfort, and identity. With this identity would come hope.
We are living in the time Isaiah spoke of. The Church of Jesus Christ has been restored as an ensign to the nations. Israel is now gathering from the four corners of the earth. They are coming swiftly and with great strength. We who have gathered look forward to the time when “the mountain of the Lord’s house,” or the ways of God, shall be exalted above that of the world, when good is considered good and evil is regarded as evil. In such a time, peace will reign over the earth and “upon all the glory of Zion shall be a defense.”