Cleansing Fire

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I feel a need to follow up the last post with another one that speaks to how God sometimes chooses to cleanse our lives of junk. Let me start with a story about a guy named Isaiah. He lived a very long time ago, before Jesus. He was chosen by God to speak to the nation of Israel about their disobedience to God. I bet that was like working the lost baggage counter at the airport- you never really have a “good” day at work. Even though he was not participating in the blatant sinning of the general population, he (as I said previously) was a sinner. He was a good man, so to speak but not perfect and remember, God demands perfection, even from his first round draft picks. In chapter 6 of Isaiah we read about a pivotal moment in Isaiah’s life. Isaiah writes:

1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3And they were calling to one another:

Holy, holy, holy is the LordAlmighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5“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 LordAlmighty.”
6Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:1-8)

It is often called the Commission of Isaiah. He sees a vision about seeing God on his throne. (I get that some of you may not buy the whole vision thing. I’m not here to argue with you about whether it actually happened or if it was a dream just stay with me here as there is a valuable lesson.) He sees God and cries, “Woe to me! 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). Basically he realizes right then and there that he is so unworthy to be in the presence of God that he thinks he is ruined or about to die. But he doesn’t die, instead, something remarkable happens. It is one of my favorite parts of the Bible. The angel of God comes to him and cleanses him from his sin. He writes, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for,” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

There are lots of things that are fascinating about this chapter but the thing that sticks out to me is how God chooses to purify Isaiah. He could have just snapped his fingers, or said a magic word but instead, he has an angel take a hot coal to his lips. Nice, right? Notice, the angel wasn’t dumb enough to use his fingers. Instead he uses tongs. I think part of the reason Isaiah adds this detail is to emphasize what was about to happen. When you touch something hot you are going to get burned. God uses the coal as a way of burning away Isaiah’s impurities.
Burning. It doesn’t sound like a good time to me. I think this story points out something very important. Sometimes when God is changing our lives, it hurts or at the very least is uncomfortable. When I was making changes in my life from old to new, I had to make some decisions that were difficult and some of them hurt. Could God have just snapped his fingers and magically changed me and my circumstances? Yes. Do I wish it had worked that way? Yes and no. It would have saved me a lot of pain and uncomfortableness in my life but the lessons probably wouldn’t have been seared into my heart the way that they were.
What does this mean for us today? I don’t claim to be a Bible scholar and there is a lot in this chapter that I glossed over but I do think there is a take away here. Yes, God can change us. Yes, sometimes it hurts. Yes, we are made better for it despite the pain. The very next verse describes Isaiah as becoming willing to do God’s work presumably because of his cleansing. Imagine what the Church of God could accomplish if only we quit trying to hide our imperfections and instead faced them, allowed God to sear our hearts and became willing to go where ever He was willing to send us and do whatever he wanted us to do. Imagine a Church on fire because of the burning, cleansing purification that can only come through Christ.
For those of you out there who may not be Believers, let me tell you that I know that this all sounds scary. A face to face confrontation with God can be terrifying, even, but it it is always worth it. It’s not easy to let go of all we think we know and trade it for something that is new and unfamiliar, especially when it can be painful. All I can say from experience is that God can work miracles in our lives if we let him.
The end.
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