The Bible shouts loud and clear that God is holy. But God’s holiness is no mere abstract idea. It defines how our lives must be:
Be holy, because I am holy.
(1Peter 1:16, NIV)
Isaiah did not just see the words about God’s holiness written on a scroll. He had a vision which he recorded in Isaiah 6. It had a profound effect on him and on the seraphs surrounding God’s throne, each I suggest for different reasons.
Firstly, the seraphs in the vision are themselves holy in their life and conduct. There is no grubbiness of sin about them. But their reaction before God is maybe surprising. They cover up their faces and feet with their wings. What caused this? I suggest that the gulf between God as creator and them as creatures is so vast that they feel compelled to do so. God is so very ‘other’ than his creatures.
Secondly, Isaiah’s immediate response to the vision is to become acutely aware of his sins. He knows he is “a man of unclean lips”. Well, who knows what “unclean lips” meant! In our day profanity and vulgarity are commonplace and we just live with it. So it might be difficult to imagine such an extreme response from Isaiah. But it reminds us that anyone who comes before God (and we all shall) will become intensely aware of his every moral failure, great or small. God’s holiness makes this inevitable.
The awareness of our sin is not just new interesting information about ourselves, like doing some kind of Myers-Briggs personality test. It carries implications. The consequences of moral failure, having seen God, led Isaiah to cry out, “Woe to me! I am ruined!” He knew he was in deep trouble, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
One day we all will see God. We will all sense our impending ruination, unless we are saved somehow.