Then I said, “My destruction is sealed, for I am a sinful man and a member of a sinful race. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD Almighty!” - Isaiah 6:5
Most men are aware of their weaknesses. They may not spend a lot of time beating their breast over them, but if confronted with obvious evidence that they have failed they will usually admit that they are not perfect and may even reluctantly concede that they have a problem in that area. Even a strong man, in his nobler moments, will confess to an Achilles’ heel.
Isaiah was different. He confessed he was deficient in what others probably regarded as his greatest strength, his speech. Isaiah was a reputed wordsmith, a skilled communicator, a man capable of sublime statement and exquisite poetic expression. From his lips and quill flowed truth and beauty. But Isaiah confessed he had a problem with his lips! “Woe is me! . . . because I am a man of unclean lips” (6:5, KJV). Even his strength was flawed with weakness!
Apparently Isaiah was aware that his lips were capable of saying “unclean” things—unkind, untrue, unhelpful, and unacceptable things. There were at least two reasons for this sad state of affairs. First, by Isaiah’s own admission, he was “a sinful man” (6:5)—he had an inbuilt tendency to deviant behavior, a tendency that his lips expressed. Second, he lived in a society where sinful speech was accepted: “and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (6:5, KJV)—and he had acquiesced in the wrongdoing. As a result, Isaiah’s guilt was not so much in his weaknesses as in his strength!
But this realization did not come to Isaiah as he compared himself with his contemporaries. It could not, for they were no better than he. He needed an external reference point, and he got it in his vision of the Lord (6:1-4). Seeing the Lord in his holiness helped Isaiah see his own fallenness.
Repentance comes in different shapes and sizes. Some “repentance” is nothing more than being sorry that I got caught. Some is a matter of being sorry that I am suffering because of what I did. Some is regret that I do bad things. But deep-down repentance—real repentance—goes beyond being chagrined about what I’ve done to being distressed about what I am. This kind of repentance recognizes that I am a fallen man, shot through with deviancy. Deep-down repentance leads me to say not just, “I’ve done some bad things,” but to confess, “I am a sinful man.” It involves acknowledging that I am fallen—especially in my strengths.
For Further Study: Isaiah 6:1-13
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