Friday, April 29

Friday, April 29

Reader: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

    The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Response: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—

    the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-4  

 It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

    The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke.

Revelation 4:1-11

Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on the throne was as brilliant as gemstones—like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow. Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.

In the center and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty—

    the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”

Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say,

“You are worthy, O Lord our God,

    to receive glory and honor and power.

For you created all things,

    and they exist because you created what you pleased.”

See also: Ezekiel 1:4-28

Some thoughts:

In these two passages we have Isaiah and John both having visions describing the throne of God. Of interest to us is what we can glean about God from studying their descriptions. Both describe God as sitting on a throne, an indication of absolute power, authority, and majesty. God’s words to John, “Come up here,” reminds one of his words to Moses on Mt. Sinai, “Come up here to me.” (Ex.24:1) In both cases God had something to say first to Moses and then to John some fifteen hundred years later. In Isaiah’s case, God’s words were a call to ministry.

In John’s vision, the throne was surrounded by a rainbow, reminiscent of God’s everlasting covenant with Noah. Neither Isaiah nor John try to give us a specific description of the face of God sitting on the throne. John uses gemstones and brilliant colors for his description of the scene. Included are twenty-four elders perhaps symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel (the Old Covenant) and the twelve apostles (the New Covenant). In the time of John, torches were often set before rulers to reflect their authority. The torches described here may represent the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit with seven being the number of perfection. The four living creatures represent four created beings: the lion representing wild animals; the ox representing domesticated animals; the human representing all of humanity; and the eagle representing birds. (cp. Eze 1:10). Ancient people associated fish with the sea which was viewed as evil, so nothing of sea life is mentioned. In the ancient world whatever physical attribute was most prominent indicated that feature was the strength of that particular being. So creatures covered with eyes probably indicate a gift of knowledge or understanding. Those beings are ever diligent in observing everything all the time, never sleeping.

The Trisagion, or “Holy, holy, holy,” appears in both Isaiah and Revelation. To repeat a word makes it emphatic. To triple the word, makes it ultimate. “Holy” is the only word tripled in speaking of God. Love, mercy, just, or kindness are never repeated thrice in describing God. While those words are words describing God’s character, “holy” is different. Of multiple meanings, one is to be “set apart.” For example, God’s love is holy love; his mercy is holy mercy; his justice is holy justice. God is set apart from everything in existence. Everything has an origin; it was created, it had a source. God is the only uncreated Being. He never wasn’t. That can be said of nothing else that is. These men’s visions point us to the mysterious and wondrous holy God.  

What do we glean from the visions of these men concerning God? Our holy God cares about his people and seeks communion with us. He is all authority. He shares the throne with no one. There is no other God. All bow before him. He alone is worthy of our worship. He is overwhelmingly beyond us yet is earnestly desirous of redeeming his children to live with him throughout eternity. Those are all things we know and have heard before, but are they changing the way we live? In Peter’s words, “you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (I Peter 1:15-16) If your world is like mine, I don’t hear words urging people to live holy lives very often. Holiness doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of people’s minds in their daily living. Let us encourage each other. Again in Peter’s words, “You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” (I Peter 2:9) One day will be our turn to be called to “come up” and we shall see God in his holiness. What will he say? Let’s spend the rest of our days here on earth preparing for that moment.

Music: “Take Time to Be Holy”   Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing to the tune Slane

Two different settings of the Isaiah and Revelation holiness texts below by two different composers seeking to express the glory of God’s holiness.

“Sanctus”        Faure        Voces8

 “Sanctus”     Durufle            Atlanta Symphony and Chorus    Robert Shaw 

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts

Heaven and earth are full of thy glory

Hosanna in the highest!

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

Prayer:It is right and proper that we should give you praise and hymns and glory O uncreated Father of Jesus Christ, who is your only Son. We praise you, God uncreated, unsearchable, ineffable, beyond the grasp of any created being.  We praise you because you are known by the Only Son, proclaimed and explained by him to created beings and known in turn by them. We praise you because you know the Son and reveal to the saints the glories that are his. We praise you because you are known by the Word you begot and are seen by the saints and understood by them after a fashion. We praise you, Father, invisible, Giver of immortality. You are the source of life and light, the source of all grace and truth; you love men and you love the poor, you seek reconciliation with all men and draw them all to you by sending your dear Son to visit them. We beg you, make us really alive. Give us the spirit of light, that we may know you, the supremely true, and your envoy, Jesus Christ. Give us the Holy Spirit and enable us to discourse at large upon your ineffable mysteries. May the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit speak in us and praise you through us, for you are high above all princedoms, powers, virtues and dominations, above everything that can be named, both in this world and the world to come . . .  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Heaven is full, earth is full of your wonderful glory . . . ―Bishop Serapion, 4th century, from The Oxford Book of Prayer P. 64