What life lessons can we learn by reading the Old Testament prophets? Given the current state of our political and spiritual discourse, is there wisdom to be gleaned by re-reading Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel? Do they offer a coherent philosophy beyond their visions and mystic experiences? I think so. Fortunately, we need to look no further than the sixth chapter of Isaiah for a bit of guidance, wisdom, and advice.
1. “I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple.” Isaiah 6:1
Look around at your surroundings. Take a chance on letting the world inspire you to a new sense of awe. There’s no need to comment on everything. Parts of life are so engaging, we need only observe what’s right before our eyes.
2. “The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:4
We are surrounded by noise, some of it good and some bad. We need to be able to distinguish between the two. Sometimes the shouting isn’t about us or something we’ve done wrong. Instead, it’s a way of getting a message out to those needing to hear affirmation and encouragement. Many people are unable to speak for themselves or have been silenced by their circumstances. The real message isn’t in the shouting or the smoke. We wait for the pauses and silence that follow.
3. “I said, ‘Mourn for me; I am ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips and live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!’” Isaiah 6:5
We are taught and formed to be self-critical. In a world that feeds on negativity, our fragile self-images are easily overwhelmed when we encounter the smallest acts of kindness and goodness. On many occasions, we are doubtful of any good intention we encounter. As this text shows, we don’t have to live this way.
4. “He touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed and your sin is removed.’” Isaiah 6:7
Our emotional and moral baggage is not a permanent part of our lives. Was our “sin” present in the first place? Was the “sin” truly “sin” or was it another bag we’d been given to carry?
Four verses with four lessons. Take a look around and ask some questions. Where do we need to stand to see the world, listen to something other than the cultural noise, and realize we’re not the sinners we imagine ourselves to be? Isaiah 6 gives us a place to start.
Richard Lowell Bryant