In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1–5)
Here is the great vision of Isaiah, a vision he sees just before he receives his commission as prophet. It is this sight which sets him up for all that follows in his ministry, and shapes his understanding of who God is. It is a glorious vision of God seated upon the throne, and the beings around him calling out “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts…”.
In the Hebrew tongue there is a custom that if you use a word twice then it strengthens its meaning. “King of kings” means the most regal king, and “lord of lords” is the lordliest lord. Song of songs means the ‘songiest’ song. It is a way of emphasising a superlative, to lay it on thick.
With that in mind, consider what the seraphim call out to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”. God is ‘thrice holy’! This is holiness raised to another degree! Not only is God the holiest of all those who might be called holy, he is the holiest of the holiest of all those who might be called holy! Well, you get the point.
This is the only time in the Bible where we find a word tripled in this manner, and as such we could say that it is a key description of who God is: he is holy. In fact, since all things were created by God we might say that he is the very definition of holy. All that we might see as holy is, in fact, a reflection of the creating hand of the God who is thrice holy.
I’ll return to this passage tomorrow, but for now dwell on this fact. The essence of God is holiness. We might seek God’s blessing or his comfort. We might seek God’s guidance, or praise his mighty acts. All this is well and good, but we must remember that above all God is holy. And that is humbling.