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 Lord Almighty.Isaiah 6:5
As Isaiah observes the majesty of God, his immediate reaction is to see himself in a new light. When we see ourselves in the light of the greatness of God, we then realize how far we have fallen from that wondrous image. Seeing his own pollution, Isaiah cries,
I am a man of unclean lips.
Scripture frequently uses the symbol of the lips—the tongue or the mouth—as revealing what is in the heart. Jesus said,
The things that go into a man are not what defile him. It is not what you eat, what you wear, or what you read that defile you. It is what comes out of a man, according to Jesus:
Out of the heart come murders, adulteries, fornications, jealousies, envies... (Matthew 15:19).
Notice he does not say,
Woe is me! For I am worthless. The Scripture never teaches that man is worthless. In fact, Jesus taught quite the opposite. He said what a pity it is for a man to gain the whole world and lose himself! That is how valuable man is. Even the world, with all its kingdoms, wealth and glory, is not worth the life of a single individual. What Isaiah does see and what he declares is,
I am lost. I am ruined, defiled. Woe is me. There is a moment of fear, a sense of failure, and a cry of despair as he sees how far he is from ever measuring up to the wholeness and beauty of God.
When Isaiah saw the majesty of God, there came burning in his heart a desire to be used of God, to have a part in God's glorious work. There is no greater hunger than the hunger to be used of God. But when Isaiah became aware of that hunger, he also became aware that he was not fit to be used; he would mess everything up if he tried. It is not a pleasant way to feel, but it is a very hopeful place at which to arrive, because pride is the source of all human evil. All the agony of life flows from our feeling that we deserve more than we are getting. We desire to be bigger, better or more noted than others. Humility, on the other hand, is the source of all virtue. The first of the beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount corresponds to what Isaiah declares of himself as he viewed the majesty of God.
Blessed are the poor in spirit [the bankrupt ones, the ones who recognize they have nothing in themselves], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, (Matthew 5:3). God labors constantly in our lives to bring us to this same awareness as Isaiah.
If you feel this way, thank God for it, for God never uses anybody without first bringing him to an awareness of his own weakness. Many find themselves unable to do what they would like. They feel powerless, unable to control their own destiny. All of us are faced with moments of truth when we see what Isaiah saw, that the cause of our problems is our own inner defilement. When you see yourself in this way, thank God for it, for it can be your moment of healing.
Thank you, Lord, for those times in my life when I have been so aware of my own weakness and sin. Help me not to lose hope but to turn to you for your promise of healing.
Since pride is the source of all evil, and humility the source of all virtue - are we eagerly choosing the supreme value of a humble heart? Do we have a growing consciousness of God's majesty?