Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the middle of a people of unclean lips…
"Then said I, Woe is me!" etc. It is always thus when God draws near to man. When Moses saw that bush in the desert, which burned and was not consumed, he took the shoes from off his feet and hid his face, for it is written, "He was afraid to look upon God." At Sinai the people trembled and said, "Let not God speak with us lest we die." And when that glorious vision of the living Christ appeared to the apostle in Patmos, he says, "I fell at His feet as dead." Revelations of the unseen, of the eternal, of the unnameable Jehovah have filled men always with alarm and with fear. And when the saints of God — men of pure and irreproachable lives — have been going home to heaven, it has been said of many of them, "They died under a cloud." The sense of eternity drawing near has filled even them with apprehension. Is it that the unseen, the mysterious, must always be to creatures such as we are, the source of terror? as it was with those disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, of whom revelation records, "They feared as they entered into the cloud." It is nothing that you say our fears are vain and foolish under the circumstances, that blessings in disguise coming in this way have filled men with terror, that Jesus Christ Himself drawing near to His tempest-tossed disciples upon the Sea of Galilee, and drawing near to bless them, approached after this fashion and alarmed them in this way — the fear is there, and the trouble is that this bondage of fear is upon some men all their lives, and that we do not leave it behind even in the most exalted moments that come to the saints of God. Men may have their theories which explain, or which contradict, the fact — it is true nevertheless. Isaiah's experience sums up that which is noblest and best in human life.
I. First of all, it was THE SENSE OF SIN, which moved Isaiah in that hour and in this way; sin in himself, sin in others, sin in the world around, sin which the sense of the nearness of God's presence made all the more vivid and real to him, just as the light reveals the darkness and the things of darkness to men who are immersed in it, men who otherwise may not have had and would not have had a thought concerning it. Live away from God, and sin is nothing, lies light as a gossamer upon the conscience; draw near to God, and sin begins to be a trouble, a perplexity, a burden to man.
II. In the Divine way of dealing with men there is A PROVISION MADE FOR REMOVING THIS FEAR AND PURGING THIS INIQUITY. It is not so much the method which is illustrated here as the fact itself. Sense of sin and unworthiness there must be to that man who comes near to God. But it need not be an abiding sense as of terror. There comes a day, or there ought to come a day, when God says, "Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." The sense of the remission of sin is as real as the sense of sin itself.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.