The Call: Woe To Me! Send Me!-Isaiah 6a

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Isaiah 6:1-13 (1-7, 8-13)

"I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne..." “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips ... and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty(Isa 6:1, 5).

Have you heard "the call"? In a sermon 1,500 years ago, St. Augustine describes a man who has heard the call as a man in love, and one who yearns, is hungry and thirsty:

"Give me a man in love; he knows what I mean. Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in this desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of the eternal country. Give me that sort of man; he knows what I mean. But if I speak to a cold man, he just does not know what I am talking about."

Pertinent questions to ponder and ask yourself:

  • Have you "seen" God? Do you really want to see God? How?
  • Do you have a defining "(God) moment" in your life?
  • Have you felt woe? Doomed by your sins?
  • Do you have a sense of what your specific calling is?

Hearing the voice of God calling you. Isaiah 6 towers like a majestic peak. It records a pivotal turning point in Judah's history and is clearly of central importance for the message of Isaiah. The theme and the topic of Isaiah 6 is the call of Isaiah. It was his encounter with the Lord that Isaiah's understanding of both God and his own mission was crystallized. It is intimately related to what precedes (judgment and darkness) and what follows (a call to faith; a call to trust God).

Check out: Reflections from commentaries on Isaiah 6.


  1. Contronts a vision (1-4): Sees the Lord.
  2. Confesses his sin (5): Experiences woe and ruin.
  3. Cleansed by grace (6-7): A fiery conversion.
  4. Called by God (8): Hears "the call."
  5. Cautioned about calloused people (9-10): O unbelieving generation!
  6. Context explained (11-13): Judgment, exile and the holy seed.

Alternate outline:

  1. Confronting a vision of God (1-4): Confronts a vision.
  2. Conviction and confession (5): Confesses his sin.
  3. Cleansing, conversion and consecration (6-7): Cleansed by grace.
  4. Calling, commissioning, caution and context (8-13): Called by God.

I. Confronting a vision of God (1-4)

Holiness is the Lord's hidden glory; glory is the Lord's visible (omnipresent) holiness.

Holiness is the essence of God's nature and God himself is the supreme revelation of holiness (Isa 6:3). God's absolute holiness reveals how separate, different, or totally other he is in comparison to all other aspects of the created world.   Glory is the shining out of who God is, and therefore it is of his holiness. Holiness is part of the inner distinctiveness of God that is revealed in all his activity and his "glory" is the outward manifestation of the brightness of his majesty and holiness.

* What Isaiah saw (1-2).

  • 740-739 BC is the year King Uzziah died. Isaiah's ministry spanned 50 years from 740-690 BC.
  • The glorious majesty of God on his throne ruling the world in that dark time (1b; 5:30).

* What Isaiah heard [and saw] (3-4).

  • The threefold recital of 'holy' indicates the absolute holiness of Him who sits on the throne.
  • Smoke may be part of the "Shekinah" or "glory-cloud," which was often a manifestation of the presence of God.

II. Conviction and Confession (5)

* What Isaiah felt (5).

  • Ruined. Despair (5a; Eze 1:28; Dan 10:5-10; Rev 1:17).
  • Guilt (5b).
  • The reason is because his eyes saw God (5c; Ex 33:20; Lk 5:8).

The necessary first step before any true confession of sin is having an understanding of the glory and holiness of Almighty God who rules the heavens and the earth. Not rapture but terror. When Isaiah saw God in all of his majesty and glory (6:1-4), it produced not rapture but sheer terror (Isa 6:5). He knows himself to be utterly ruined and he knows his absolute need for deliverance because he is unclean (6:5b). Before the presence of God Isaiah identifies himself so completely with those whose sins he has been denouncing throughout chapters 1-5. Before God degrees of sin become irrelevant.

III. Cleansing and consecration (6-7)

  • A life coal from the altar (6). Approached by a seraphim.
  • Isaiah's guilt is taken away and sin atoned for (7). Purged on his sin, he could now worship and offer acceptable service (Ps 51:12-15).

The messenger is just as guilty as his congregation. Isaiah's words and message will be those of a forgiven man (Isa 6:7), himself as guilty as those to whom he will offer life or death.

Experience fire before cleansing. It is characteristic that judgment is prominent in the cleansing. The fiery messenger and burning coal must have seemed at first anything but salvation (Isa 4:4), yet they come from the place of sacrifice and spoke the language of atonement. Fire, in the OT, is not a cleansing agent but the expression of the active, even hostile, holiness of God (Gen 3:24; Num 11:1-3; Dt 4:12, 33, 36).

IV. Call, Commissioning, Caution and Context (8-13)

Brought in to be sent out. The immediate effect of atonement is reconciliation (Isa 6:8). Being joined to God means joining a missionary society. Isaiah has been brought in in order to be sent out. Isaiah first saw the Lord far off (Isa 6:1), but now he is near enough to hear the divine musing (6:8). He had once been silenced by sin (Isa 6:5), but as the redeemed sinner he is free to speak. The God who shuts him out with smoke (Isa 6:4) has brought him home.

* God calls and Isaiah responds (8).

  • "Us" may represent the triune nature of God (Gen 1:26; Jn 1:1; 12:39-41).
  • Free from guilt, Isaiah has no fear in serving the Lord.

* His mission described (9-10).

  • What to say and what effect it would have on people (Mt 13:13-15).

* Isaiah is told how long he must prophesy (11-13)

  • Preach until the day of judgment has come and passed. In Isaiah's day, until cities are destroyed and people taken captive.
  • The stump shall contain the holy seed (the faithful remnant) - cf. Ro 11:5.


  1. There are very few dates elsewhere in Isaiah, so why might Isaiah have dated his experience (1a, 5b; Jn 12:41)? How do you think one sees God (Mt 5:8)? Have you seen the Lord?
  2. What does "high and exalted," "sitting on a throne" convey (1b)? What does this say about the identity of the Servant in 52:13 (57:15)? If the hem of his robe filled the temple (1c), how big was the Lord? Why do you think that this is the only description of God in the poem (Ex 24:10)?
  3. Why do you think the seraphim covered their faces and feet (2)? What is the appropriate attitude of worship?
  4. 6:3 says two things about Yahweh. One has to do with his essence: The Holiest One. The other has to do with his relationship to creation. What is the point of this latter statement (Isa 11:9; 40:5)?
  5. How loud was the cry of the seraphim (4; Ps 19:1–3)? What affect does "filling with smoke" convey?
  6. Why do you think Isaiah reacted in such a strong way (5; Gen 32:30; Ex 33:20)? What does seeing the King have to do with it (Lk 5:8)? Why doesn't he say "a man of unclean heart" (Mt 15:18)? Why does he include the people? Why does he repeat "Lord of Hosts" (Lord Almighty, Lord of Heaven's Armies) from the cry of the seraphim?Have you felt woe? Have you felt doomed by your sins?
  7. What is the significance of a coal from the altar touching Isaiah's lips (6–7)? How hot was the coal? What is the part of fire in all of this? What kind of an experience was it? Fun?Has God revealed sin to you in order to remove it?
  8. Why does Isaiah only now hear God speak (8)? Why doesn't God speak directly to Isaiah? Why does Isaiah respond so readily? Have you heard "the call"? Do you have a sense of what your specific calling is?
  9. Why would God say such a thing (9–10)? Does God not want the people to be healed? How might Bible study make a person worse? How might this be a caution to yourself? Why do you think the New Testament quotes these verses so frequently (Mt 13:14-15; Mk 4:12; Lk 8:10; Jn 12:39-40; Ac 28:26-27; also Rom 11:7; 2 Cor 3:14)?
  10. What does Isaiah's question say about the level of his commitment (11a)? (What questions might you/I have asked?!)
  11. Why was the destruction to be so thorough (11b-13a)? What is God's intended last word (13b; Job 14:7–9)?


  1. Do You See God (Isa 6:1-7). Preached at West Loop in 2012. There are at least 6 glimpses of God in Isa 6:1-3:
    1. God is alive.
    2. God is ruling.
    3. God is majestic.
    4. God is revered.
    5. God is holy.
    6. God is glorious.
  2. Smith, Gary V. Isaiah 1-39. The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture. B & H Publishing Group. Noshville, TN. 2007. A Holy King's caling to a calloused audience (6:1-13).
  3. Motyer, J. Alec. Isaiah. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP. Downer's Grove, IL, USA. 1999. The individual, atonement and commission (6:1-13).
  4. Webb, Barry G. The Message of Isaiah. The Bible Speaks Today. IVP. Downer's Grove, IL, USA. 1997. I saw the Lord (6:1-13).
  5. Kidner, Derek. New Bible Commentary. IVP. Downer's Grove, IL, USA. 1994. The prophet's call (6:1-13).
  6. Isaiah 6 - Isaiah's Conviction, Cleansing and Call.

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