Isaiah’s Vision and NT Parallels: Part 1
In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up. The house was full of His glory. (Orthodox Study Bible)
Isaiah’s commissioning for his current assignment began with a vision of the Lord. Presumably, he had already been prophesying. The chapter breaks into two major sections: 1) a description of Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, including his cleansing (vss 1-7), and 2) Isaiah’s conversation with the Lord (vss 8-13).
Isaiah 6 contains amazing dialogue between Isaiah, the heavenly beings, and the Lord himself. Key concepts are:
- Isaiah saw the Lord.
- He was cleansed with fire.
- The Lord sent him with a message.
- restoration of a remnant
A New Testament Parallel
Isaiah is very much a “New Testament” book. It could easily be called, The Gospel According to Isaiah. The themes of Chapter 6 are themes Isaiah already presented in chapters 1 through 5. One new element, however, is Isaiah’s personal cleansing by means of the burning coal taken from the altar that is positioned in the Lord’s presence. Another new element is that the reader witnesses the Lord’s commissioning of Isaiah.
When attention is focused on the three key concepts stated above, a New Testament parallel also comes into view.
1. Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord
Isaiah personally “saw the Lord,” exalted and glorified. Who is this “Lord”? The Septuagint uses the word kurios, which is the same word for “Lord” it uses throughout the Old Testament. It corresponds most frequently to the Hebrew word YWHW, or Yahweh. Yahweh is Israel’s personal Lord and Savior. Here, however, the Hebrew word is Adonay. He is called “the Lord Yahweh” (Adonay Yahweh) in Exodus 23:17.
In verse 2, Isaiah sees the Lord seated on a throne, “high and lifted up,” i.e., exalted and lifted up. The train of his robe “filled the temple” (ESV), or “the house was full of his glory,” (LXE). Seraphs, or angelic beings, “stood round about him,” (LXE). They cried, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory,” (Isa 6:3 LXE).
New Testament Parallels
- Jesus himself envisioned a time when he would be “lifted up,” (John 12:32).
- He references his “heavenly origin and divine authority” (NET) in John 1:51.
- Jesus in effect claims the throne when he states in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
- Revelation 22:1 identifies one throne, which it labels, “… the throne of God and of the Lamb.” In other words, both the Father and Son occupy the same throne. (… The river came from the throne where God and the Lamb were seated. CEV) The Orthodox Study Bible provides a note which states, “God the Father and the Lamb, the Son incarnate, share one throne, for they are consubstantial and one worship is offered them. (1)
The NT Parallels Continue
Isaiah 6:1 tells us that Isaiah “saw” the Lord. The New Testament authors also saw the Lord.
2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. (Matthew 17:2 NIV, from the passage Matthew 17:1-5)
3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (Act 9:3-5 NIV, from the passage Acts 9:1-7)
12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,
13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man,1 dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.
14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.
15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.
16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Revelation 1:16 NIV)
In the latter two examples, the visions were given to Saul (later renamed Paul, who was the Apostle Paul) and to the Apostle John respectively. Each of these men were given a specific commission from the Lord shortly after their visions. In contrast, God’s voice from heaven told the three disciples–Peter, James, and John–to “listen” to what Jesus would speak to them. In this context, the word “listen” means to listen, understand, and obey. This, too, was a commission, though more general.
Conclusion and Reflection
In considering Isaiah’s vision and NT parallels, the first key concept in Isaiah 6 is that Isaiah had a vision of the Lord. He saw the Lord on a “high and exalted throne.” His commission occurred during this vision. The New Testament gives parallel accounts of several occasions when various of its writers had similar visions of the Lord Jesus in heaven, high and exalted. Likewise, their commissioning occurred either during or shortly after these visions.
Today especially, we hear of people (such as Muslims in Islamic lands) receiving dreams or visions of a lordly being. Perhaps some of you reading this have heard the Lord speak spiritual, rather than audible, words into your conscious understanding. What are we to make of all this?
I find it personally reassuring to know that God loves us and wants to communicate with us. The same Lord who appeared and spoke to Isaiah is the God who prophesied to him in the next chapter, Isaiah 7:14, that a Child would be born whose name is Immanuel, God with us.
I listened to a sermon recently in which the pastor emphasized that God’s movement is always toward us. God has not left us the burden of finding him (Ephesians 4:9), which would be impossible. Rather, he finds us. Our sole responsibility is to respond in faithful obedience, to “listen to him,” when we hear his voice. I pray that God will give everyone reading this opportunity and grace to do so.
1 CEV, Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society. The Orthodox Study Bible, Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, Elk Grove, California. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008.