Feast of the Holy Trinity
Beloved. St. David writes in the psalm [14.1]: The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” More often than not, in our supposedly “enlightened age”, we get the impression from the world around us, only the fool thinks there is a God. But this denial of God, of God’s existence is nothing new; our supposedly “enlightened age” is claiming nothing new. St. David dealt with it in his day and what he wrote by the Holy Spirit 3000 years ago is truth and still stands—the fool says there is no God. But why does he write this? Only the fool denies what is clear and obvious. The simple fact is that God has written on the human heart that He exists; that there is a God. Look at all the peoples of the world among them there has always been some idea/ notion of an existence of a Higher Being. There never has been a people historically that were atheistic. If God did not write the fact of His existence on the human heart so that instinctively people know there is a God, then where did the whole notion of God arise in peoples scattered throughout the world with no contact with each other? To make it “doubly sure”, God left signs in nature pointing to Himself as the almighty Creator who created all things so intricately and so perfectly. In its best and purest form isn’t that what science truly is—trying to understand all the how’s and why’s of the creation? So, it is only truly is the fool who thinks there is no God, no one above humanity who created us and all things. Only the fool would think that we can understand all the mysteries of the how’s and why’s of the universe around us. Not only do such people deaden their hearing to what God has written on the human heart; not only do they close their eye to the creation around them, but by doing these things and in their hearts saying “There is no God”, they are really denying their humanity, what it means to be truly human. After all, we are “wired” to know and love and serve God.
But here is where the problem comes in: because of sin, we don’t know who that God is—yes, people know there is a God, but who is He? That’s why we have all these different religions in the world—people are trying to understand/ give expression to what they instinctively know: there is a God. Left to ourselves and our own devices, because of sin, there is no way that we could ever come to know God rightly—who He is. That’s why He had to reveal Himself to us. And He did that as He revealed Himself to the Patriarchs, to the prophets, and finally most fully and completely by taking on human flesh and blood and coming into this world Himself. The holy writer puts it this way[Hb. 1.1,2]: God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son. So how did God reveal Himself to the patriarchs, the prophets and by His Son? –As the holy Triune God: one God but three distinct persons. That’s what we are remembering and celebrating today—God’s grace revealing Himself to us so that we can know, love and worship Him rightly.
This is the great and most basic doctrine—who is God. This is what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions of the world. None, except for Christianity, hold to the Trinity—there is one God but three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Each of the three Persons equally and 100% God, yet there are not three Gods, but only one. All the other religions have a god that can be understood and comprehended by a human mind, but that’s because their gods come out of the human mind. Take great comfort, dear Christian, that we cannot understand our God—3 in 1 and 1 in 3. What kind of God would He be if we understood Him?
We worship the holy Triune God. When we gather together in worship, we come into His presence. So how are we to come into His presence? As we examine our text, we will see that we are to come into presence with deep awe and reverence but also with confidence and joy.
Our text is the call of St. Isaiah into the office of prophet. At that time Isaiah is in the temple in Jerusalem and he describes what happens: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two they covered their faces. With two they covered their feet. With two they flew. One called to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Armies! The whole earth is full of his glory!” The foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of the one who called, and the temple was filled with smoke. St. Isaiah was given a great grace and blessing. What normally is not seen, he sees! The usual worshipper in Jerusalem did not see this. They would just see the priests doing their thing, the liturgy, the sacrifices, the smoke of incense, the adornments of the temple, etc. But Isaiah sees with his own physical eyes the blessed reality that exists but which we don’t see: God is in our midst. He revealed Himself in His glory and majesty and St. Isaiah saw it! Isaiah saw the Son, the Second Person of the holy Trinity, the pre-incarnate Jesus. How do we know? St. John [12.41] says about Isaiah’s prophecies about Jesus: Isaiah said these things because he saw His [that is, Jesus’] glory and spoke of Him. Here in our text is the account of Isaiah seeing Jesus’ glory. Notice how Jesus/ the true God is described in His glory: I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted. Here is the majesty of God—He is the King and Judge. Not only is He on a throne but it is high and exalted, high above all things, exalted above all creation, but also the train of his robe filled the temple, also by that showing He is permeates and fills all things, as St. Paul says [Ac 17.28]: …He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.
How this scene of the divine majesty that Isaiah here describes must fill us with deep awe and reverence—especially as we come to church. What Isaiah describes is the reality that we cannot see: the Lord, in His glory, is in our presence, the train of his robe [filling our] temple/ church. We simply see the outward, humble, adornments—the altar, pulpit, font, crucifixes, Stations of the Cross, pews, etc.—but what is the reality? The Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Doesn’t that affect how we act and what we do here in church? The Lord is here! How would we treat such an exalted guest? What would we do in His presence? –Well, that is the reality. Let us enter His presence here in church, especially, with deep awe and reverence.
Look even at the actions of the highest of the holy angels, the seraphim. Above him stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two they covered their faces. With two they covered their feet. With two they flew. They were positioned as though an honor guard. But even these holy beings not only covered their feet but with reverence they also covered their faces; they could not gaze directly at the glory of God; even they could not understand the mystery of the Trinity and so covered their faces. With two wings they flew, flying around the throne praising the Triune God: One called to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Armies! The whole earth is full of his glory!” Notice: the Father is Holy, the Son is Holy and the Holy Spirit is Holy but there is only one Lord of Armies. Here is the great humility of even the holy angels before God.
How we need to hear this description of what St. Isaiah saw because we all too easily forget that we are in the Lord’s presence—first and foremost in Church as we gather in His presence to hear His word and to receive His gifts; but as we live out our daily lives, we too are in our Lord’s presence. What we think is secret, isn’t. Would we live our daily lives differently knowing that we are in the presence of God? It is very easy to think that God is “way off” there somewhere in ignorance of what is going on here and now in my life; but the reality is The Lord sitting on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple, where we are. It is very uncomfortable to realize that we are always in the Lord’s presence; that there’s no place we can hide from Him. So often, this hits too close to home and is very uncomfortable and so we like to ignore or block out that fact but it remains.
We are in the presence of God, the holy God—especially in church, yes—but also in everyday life. When we realize that, then we realize that we are not God; we do not call the shots. Instead, there is someone to whom we are responsible. How greatly this humbles us as we see ourselves in the presence of God but feel and recognize our sin. In the presence of the holy Triune God, St. Isaiah very much felt his sins: Then I said, “Woe to me! I am ruined, because I am a man with unclean lips, and I dwell among a people with unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies!” What deep awe and reverence together with humility and confession fill us as we realize we are in the Lord’s presence.
But let it not stop there. Remember that we are in the presence of the Holy Triune God, who is the one true holy God but who is also a God of great mercy. To St. Isaiah who very much feels his sin, the holy Triune God doesn’t destroy him for being in His presence, but as soon as St. Isaiah recognizes and confesses his sin and unworthiness, the Lord forgives him his sin: Then one of the seraphim flew to me, carrying a glowing coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with the coal and said, “See, this has touched your lips, so your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven.” That same holy, majestic God before whom even the holy angels humble themselves is also a God who can and does richly forgive us our sin. So that means we can enter His presence with confidence and joy.
Notice, we can enter and be in the presence of God with all confidence and joy because of His work, and His work alone. Here He had one of the holy angels fly to Isaiah to touch His lips with the burning coal to take away his sin and guilt. There was nothing that made St. Isaiah worthy or deserving of this. He knew his sin and unworthiness: Woe to me! I am ruined, because I am a man with unclean lips, and I dwell among a people with unclean lips. This is God’s gift of grace to us when He forgives us our sin. This is the work of the merciful love of God. This cleansing is God’s work. It rests upon the fact that a sacrifice for sin has been offered. Think back to the temple of Isaiah’s day. There was an altar of burnt offering on which the sacrifices were burned which pointed the people forward to Jesus’ once for all sacrifice for sin. From that altar—which pointed forward to the altar of the cross—a coal was taken and touched St. Isaiah’s mouth giving him forgiveness of sin, a forgiveness based on the coming sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
See, this has touched your lips, so your guilt is taken away, and your sin is forgiven. Here, with the forgiveness of our sin we see the work of the holy Triune God. The Father sent the Son—and the Son willingly agreed, became also one of us and suffered and died on the cross—for the reconciliation and forgiveness of our sins and the Holy Spirit applies this forgiveness of sin to us sinners. So now our guilt is taken away and our sin forgiven. How beautifully this is pictured in our communion liturgy. In the Sanctus, we join in singing the song of the holy angels: Holy, holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth; Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. And from the altar, we do not receive a hot coal touching our lips, but instead we receive on our lips and in our mouths bread and wine which are united with Jesus’ body and blood. Here [our] guilt is taken away, and [our] sin is forgiven. Dear Christian, enter the presence of our holy Triune God with deep awe and reverence but also with confidence and joy. INJ