I am old enough to remember when there were no seat belt laws. Back in the day, wearing a car seat belt was optional. When mandatory belt laws came along, some folks did not like their freedom interrupted. They felt “restrained” in more ways than one. I had a few friends who felt like this, that is, until they were in car accidents that nearly did them in. The experience of near death changed them in profound ways, not the least of which that they embraced wearing a seat belt every time behind the wheel of a car.
The prophet Isaiah had the kind of experience that absolutely changed him to the core of his being. He had a vision of God. I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke (Isaiah 6:1-4).
Real worship changes us so that we are never the same again. The essence of worship is the recognition and celebration of the triune God. Worship is a relational rhythm between God and humans where God reveals himself and people respond. Worship is an experience of seeing and hearing God in his self-revelation.
Worshiping the triune God is to occur every day. It is a lifestyle and not the result of one cleverly planned hour on Sunday. The Jews of Isaiah’s day had drifted into going through the ritual motions of worship without having their hearts in it. They had come to see worship more as a kind of rabbit’s foot in which, as long as they had regular temple attendance, they could do whatever they wanted with their lives outside the temple. As a result, the people as a whole really never saw or heard God in their worship. Indeed, it was not genuine worship at all. Authentic worship of God does not have to do with the environment, the fellowship, or the music; true worship of the triune God comes down to a heart desire to see and hear God.
If worship does not happen in the sanctuary in the way we think it should happen, it is because worship fails to occur in the daily routine of living. Real worship is a life-changing encounter with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Real worship experiences God’s revelation and changes our view of him.
Isaiah saw a vision of God in his throne room. It was a grand, majestic, and transcendent vision of a God who dominates the entire setting. The train of God’s robe filled the temple. This is Isaiah’s way of saying that the vision was really big. If the train of his robe fills up the temple, then God himself is immense. It is vital that we see the bigness of our God. Gaining a vision of the hugeness of God is what causes our human problems to be seen as small.
Isaiah’s vision also included seeing seraphs. Seraphs are angels with a job description to glorify God with ceaseless praise. Their physical description symbolizes their function: covering their face represents humility in God’s presence; covering their feet identifies it as holy ground; and flying signifies their work to do God’s will. So, then, we have the seraphs having two-thirds wing power for worship, and one-third wing power for work. If this is any kind of indication how God’s creatures are to conduct their lives, we as humans have a great deal of adjusting to do in order to accommodate the worship of God.
The sound of worship that came from the seraphs was to proclaim God’s holiness. Isaiah’s view of God changed as a result. As he saw God’s glory, he saw God as much bigger than he had before. Oftentimes European visitors who come to the United States really have no frame of reference to how spacious and large the geography of our country is. They seem to have a notion that they can make day trips from the Mid-West to places like San Francisco, Houston, or New York City because where they live is much more geographically compact. But once they get here they experience the land in all its glory and they gain an appreciation for the bigness of America.
Experiencing God in worship will and ought to transform our lives so that we are never the same again. The church’s worship ministry must have as its ultimate purpose a life-changing encounter with Father, Son, and Spirit. A proper liturgical movement will encourage seeing God in his immensity and foster a divine conversation with the people. The measurement of knowing whether this takes place is whether people are renewed in the very depths of their souls. After all, no one can see a vision of God and walk away unchanged. Maybe we ought to have mandatory seat belt laws for church pews.