Have you ever had something happen to you that left you completely “undone?” Something so devastating, shocking, surreal, or life-altering that you thought you would never be the same again? Where do you suppose God was in that moment?
It happened to Isaiah.
Isaiah 6 (Common English Bible)
6 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, the edges of his robe filling the temple. 2 Winged creatures were stationed around him. Each had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew about. 3 They shouted to each other, saying:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of heavenly forces!
All the earth is filled with God’s glory!”
4 The doorframe shook at the sound of their shouting, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 I said, “Mourn for me; I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips. Yet I’ve seen the king, the Lord of heavenly forces!”
6 Then one of the winged creatures flew to me, holding a glowing coal that he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips. Your guilt has departed, and your sin is removed.”
8 Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?”
I said, “I’m here; send me.”
This holy (and wholly frightening!) encounter occurred around the year 742 BC. It was the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, which lasted through four kings, ending with Hezekiah. His audience comprised the people of Judah and Jerusalem after the time of Israel’s separation into the Northern and Southern Kingdoms.
In one breath, Isaiah states that in the year King Uzziah died, he saw the Lord. Ever wonder if these two things are connected? Perhaps the popular and successful earthly king was a distraction from the heavenly one. In any case, Isaiah is standing in the temple and he suddenly sees the Lord on the throne.
We get a clue about what had caused Isaiah to look away from God in the first few verses. Isaiah saw the high and exalted Lord wearing a train so magnificent that it filled the entire temple. Kingly trains were designed to be long, heavy, and imposing, as though to convey the image of a man who was so powerful, he had attendants just to carry his train. The attendants in this case were flying creatures called seraphim; they spoke only to each other as they cried out, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” in voices so thunderous the pillars shook. Isaiah’s response immediately reveals that he is overcome with his sense of unworthiness. He woefully cries out in fear and shame, declaring himself to be ruined, or as the King James Version says, “I am undone.”
Several years ago I attended a women’s retreat where one of the participants sought me out at the end of a very intense session. We sat under a piano in the dining hall late into the next morning, and her story spilled out between sobs and whispers. It was a story of failed marriages, alcohol and drug abuse, infidelity that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and the loss of her family and every job she had. Here we were on the cold, hard floor when she finally saw God for the first time. But her feeling of shameful disgrace was like a blindfold over her eyes. She could not see how God could possibly love or forgive her. She had truly come undone.
In Luke 5:8, we see Simon Peter having a similar response when sees Jesus. He fell to his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man” (NIV).
And yet in every case, the activity of Christ on the cross makes the sinner worthy. We can never achieve this on our own, but the shed blood of the atonement brings us into a place of redemption in the eyes of God. To deny him that power is to proclaim that our sin is greater than the cross. Are we really so boldly arrogant as to say that to God?
That is what I told that woman that night, and she woke up the next day with perfect spiritual eyesight. She clearly saw God’s grace-filled presence in her redemption. She has never looked back from that moment.
Have you ever come undone? Do you struggle with feelings of unworthiness?
Charles Spurgeon once said, “God is faithful to his purpose. He does not begin a work and then leave it undone.” So maybe a takeaway from this lesson is that it is good to be undone! What God has begun in you, he will be faithful to complete.
We are invited to give God all of our brokenness, our ruin, and our “undone-ness,” and ask him to make us whole. With repentance comes forgiveness. Don’t wait another day.