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Isaiah’s Vision of God

I started school at St Clare’s Convent a little after my fourth birthday.  At first, I absolutely hated it, being an endless trouble to my mother who, having taken me there sitting in an exceptionally uncomfortable child’s seat on the back of her bicycle, quite frequently having completed the four mile journey back home in response to a panic phone call, had to turn around immediately to fetch me back home again so complaining was I about the whole thing.  Adding to my anxiety was my impression of the new school boiler.  True, during its installation a workman had trodden on my littlest finger.  True, mother superior had issued terrifying warnings about the consequences of approaching its controls and so dangerous and such a thing to be feared, it was enclosed in a cage right outside the Mother Superior’s office where I prayed she would keep an eye on the monster both night and day.  From time to time, I would have to walk by it, creeping along, hugging the furthest wall, I hardly dared look at the cream rumbling leviathan whose inner fiery unplumbed depths most likely went down to hell if not beyond.

The hem of the Lord’s robe filled the temple.  This wonderful picture is to give us an inkling of the awe and majesty that Isaiah felt for God.  As Paul Ingram said last week, the only way we can express and describe the unknowable, ineffable Lord is to use images and language that we can understand.  Here, Isaiah, who we may imagine in the temple, considers the least part of the robe, the hem, fills the space.  The temple of Jerusalem was huge; it covered some 35 acres and so a glimpse of such a hem would signify a robe of heavenly proportions.  Isaiah is afraid, the whole house filled with smoke just as Mount Sinai was covered with smoke when Moses received the Ten Commandments.

“Smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace the whole mountain trembled and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder” 

And in a second reference to Moses, Isaiah reminds us that no-one may see God and live:

“Woe is me I am lost, yet my eyes have seen the King the Lord of Hosts” 

Filled with fear and awe, a sinful man standing before the Holy perfection, he hears the question: “Whom shall I send?”  Surely, hardly daring to speak, perhaps creeping along, hugging the furthest wall, he says humbly, meekly, almost inaudibly whispered on the wind, “Here I am send me.”

Every time we have an encounter with God, and we all have them, those promptings, unexpected meetings, conversations, blessings, inspirations, apparently impromptu actions, every time we recognise one of these moments it would be well to remind ourselves of Isaiah’s vision for blessed are those who fear the Lord and who walk in his ways.

Blessed because an appreciation of the true majesty, awesomeness, infinity, power and glory of God and a sensible fear of these things are but the very beginning of our journey. 


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