Reading Time: 4 mins

Old Testament: Isaiah 6:1-8 (Trinity Sunday: Series B)

Reading Time: 4 mins

We look on the face of God in Christ and rejoice on account of His shed blood and righteousness which sets us free to be the people of God.

Isaiah 6 is the first of three accounts in the prophetic books which are labeled “Call or Commissioning Narratives.” Five of the six components that pervade these call narratives occur here in Isaiah. They are: Divine Confrontation, Introductory Word (verses 1-2), Commission (verses 3-7), Objection (verse 11) and reassurance (verses 11-13). The sixth component, the sign, is missing from Isaiah 6, unless you count the live coal used to touch Isaiah’s lips.

The liturgical context for our reading will have to inform the details we mine from this text for preaching. Our situation in the life of the liturgical calendar means we are preaching Isaiah 6 on Trinity Sunday. This festival is a day for confessing the truth about who our God is and how He makes Himself known. So, it is seasonally appropriate that in verse 1 we see and encounter God. However, that meeting is wrapped in mystery and mission. Isaiah is on duty in the Temple, and he has the “urge to liturge,”[1] as my colleague used to say. When this happens, an earthquake shakes the Temple and the temple mount. In that moment of natural disruption, the Temple curtain is thrown back and poor Isaiah sees what he is not permitted to see. He peers into the Holy of Holies and is filled with awe and dread, with wonder and woe. This appropriately large reaction is because he sees the Ark located within the Holy of Holies and the two cherubim on it. The LORD is, “The One enthroned on the cherubim” (1 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 6:2; Psalm 80:2). The LORD is “high and lifted up.” Furthermore, the smoke from the sacrifices, the incense, the light from the Lampstands, and the light from the rising sun coming through the gate illuminate this vision of God which sweeps Isaiah away. In Isaiah, this description of God as “high and lifted up” is used only of the LORD or His Servant (33:10; 52:13; 57:15). Mercifully, the seraphim (on the curtains) in verse 2 shut Isaiah off from fully seeing the LORD, but the theophany (Exodus 19:16; 20:18; Ezekiel 1:13) has happened.

The triple cry of “holy” in verse 3 gives us our hook to hang Trinity Sunday on. The “One enthroned on the cherubim” is heralded as thrice holy. This is how you know your one God: He is Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty. But calling Him holy reveals some interesting things about Him. Holy means the LORD is in a totally separated state from humanity (Revelation 4:8). “Glory,” in verse 3, refers to the revelation of His presence, either in nature (Psalm 19:1) or in history (Exodus 33:18,22; 1 Kings 8:11; Isaiah 40:5). Glory also refers to His presence in the incarnation (John 1:14). Making heavy use of John 1:1-14 in your preaching with this text will serve as your “Gospel Handle.” The Gospel Handle from this Holy unapproachable and yet forgiving and sending God in Isaiah comes when the LORD dwells among us as the approachable and forgiving (not by a coal but by His shed blood) and sending God (as evidenced by the work of the Spirit in Acts and Paul).

Isaiah saw God and trembled on account of his sin. We look on the face of God in Christ and rejoice on account of His shed blood and righteousness which sets us free to be the people of God. Perhaps, focusing on an image, the image of the Temple curtain or veil, can help us to bridge this text and how we encounter God. The veil with the seraphim prevented Isaiah from being in God’s presence where he would need atonement by the burning coal, cauterizing His sin. The veil was torn from “high and lifted up” all the way down to the ground on the day Jesus died, making Jesus’s suffering and death the cauterizing of our sin on the cross. Take His body and blood to your lips and by faith you sacramentally receive atonement on account of what Christ did for you on calvary and His empty tomb. The Spirit sent by the Word of the Gospel (Acts 2) on your lips to all creation commissions you into speaking the prophetically fulfilled good news of Jesus Christ. This Gospel is the only thing that can turn a wayward people back to God. In this, you have a message which is both Trinitarian and concerned with the mission of God for all people.

Take His body and blood to your lips and by faith you sacramentally receive atonement on account of what Christ did for you on calvary and His empty tomb.

Since we are using the image of the veil from our text and the New Testament, we will utilize an Image Based Structure with a Single Focus.

“This sermon structure uses a single image throughout the sermon and fosters devotional contemplation of an image.

In the opening of the sermon, the preacher describes the image for the hearers. The preacher then uses that image as a source for continuing devotional contemplation throughout the sermon: the image serves as a lens through which one views the textual exposition, the theological confession, the evangelical proclamation, and the hearer interpretation of the sermon. Having a single image lends coherence to the sermon.

As the preacher returns to the image periodically throughout the sermon, he may approach it in one of two ways: Through a single focus or a multiple focus.

With a single focus, the image remains the same throughout the sermon. The preacher may approach the image from one perspective (for example, viewing the image from the perspective of the artist who created it) or the preacher may approach the image from a variety of perspectives (for example, viewing the same image from the perspective of different people who come into contact with it), but the image itself remains the same.

If approaching the image from one perspective, the sermon can reinforce a single theme in a variety of situations. For example, the first encounter with the image can establish a theme, and then, as the preacher uses the image again in the sermon, it can locate that theme in relation to the text, and then, later, in relation to the hearers.

If approaching the image from a variety of perspectives, the sermon can develop or unfold the theme. For example, the first encounter with the image could evoke an interpretation which will later be expanded or even corrected in the sermon. By changing how the image is seen, the hearers are able to track the basic development of a larger theme in the sermon. Each stage of development is captured by preaching the image through a different perspective.”[2]


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out out 1517’s resources on Isaiah 6:1-8.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Isaiah 6:1-8.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Isaiah 6:1-8.

Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!


[1] Reverend Robert Rossow used to make a play on the words for serving in the worship service as the liturgist. He would often quip that he had “the urge to liturge” when talking about his duty of serving at the altar.