Take the Coal, Cleanse my Lips, Here I Am

Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am!

Burning Coals

Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8

Summary: We recently reintroduced a song which contained the lyrics “Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am”. Most of the people in the church had no idea what they meant. Sadly, this is not unusual. Isaiah 6 was a great study of the coal from the altar of God!

Have you ever been driving somewhere and your mind is wandering and suddenly you realize, “How did I get here?” Are we ever like that in a worship service or when we go over our memory Scriptures or when we are singing in worship?

What a beautiful song, “Take me into the holy of holies”

Much that is found in the lyrics of Christian music is imagery from the Bible. Look at some of some of the phrases in the song:

 

Take Me In

Lyrics

Take me past the outer courts
Into the holy place
Past the brazen altar
Lord, I want to see your face

Pass me by the crowds of people
The priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
And it’s only found one place

Take me in to the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood of the lamb
Take me in to the holy of holies
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am

Take me past the outer courts
Into the holy place
Past the brazen altar
Lord, I want to see your face

Pass me by the crowds of people
The priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
And it’s only found one place

Take me in to the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood of the lamb
Take me in to the holy of holies
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am

Take me past the outer courts
Into the holy place
Past the brazen altar
Lord, I want to see your face

Pass me by the crowds of people
The priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
And it’s only found one place

Take me in to the holy of holies
Take me in by the blood of the lamb
Take me in to the holy of holies
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am
Take the coal, cleanse my lips, here I am

Take the coal – Cleanse my lips?

Isn’t coal dirty?

Isn’t coal something you get in your Christmas stocking if you’ve been bad?

So, why on earth would we sing, “Take the coal, cleanse my lips?”

In order to find out we need to go back to the OT and look in

Isaiah 6:1-8

“In the year that King Uzziah (Azariah) died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of His robe filled the temple.

“Above Him were seraphim, 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.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’

And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

  • So, we see that in the presence of the LORD Almighty Isaiah was able to see his true spiritual condition. And we see that there is a big difference between coal and burning coals.

This verse, Isaiah 6:5 could very well be rendered;

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of defiled language, and I live among a people of defiled language, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Now this “defiled language” doesn’t mean that they were using poor grammar. It doesn’t mean necessarily that they were cursing.

We know that Isaiah was not a cursing person as we would define a person who uses the name of the Lord in vain or a person who uses vulgar, immoral language.

At this point in his life the Lord had already used Isaiah to write five chapters of prophecy, from the mouth of God to paper. God will not use a vile person for such a task. For instance, the Lord speaking through Isaiah says this in – Isaiah 2:6-11 (ESV)

“The LORD has rejected His people, the descendants of Jacob, because they have filled their land with practices from the East and with sorcerers, as the Philistines do. They have made alliances with pagans.

“Israel is full of silver and gold; there is no end to its treasures. Their land is full of warhorses; there is no end to its chariots. Their land is full of idols; the people worship things they have made with their own hands.

“So now they will be humbled, and all will be brought low,  do not forgive them. Crawl into caves in the rocks. Hide in the dust from the terror of the LORD and the glory of His majesty.

“Human pride will be brought down, and human arrogance will be humbled. Only the LORD will be exalted on that day of judgment.”

So, does that sound like someone who would use defiled language?

And, yet, in the presence of God Isaiah came to a dramatic realization of his sinfulness and the coal was touched to his lips by the angel.

We almost always see ourselves as spiritually superior to what we actually are. For example

A team led by Constantine Sedikides surveyed 85 incarcerated offenders at a prison in England about their prosocial traits. The inmates were aged 18 to 34 and the majority had been jailed for acts of violence and robbery….

Compared with “an average prisoner” the participants rated themselves as more moral, kinder to others, more self-controlled, more law-abiding, more compassionate, more generous, more dependable, more trustworthy, and more honest. Now, remember , that’s comparing themselves to other prisoners.

Remarkably, they also rated themselves as higher on all these traits than “an average member of the community”, with one exception – law-abiding. The prisoners rated themselves as equivalent on this trait relative to an average community member.

The writer goes on to say,

I encountered this once, years ago, when I came across a blog post written by an incarcerated murderer, wherein he mentioned he was “a good person.” I was stunned – not because of how wrong that particular person obviously was, but because at that moment I realized just how deep the human capacity for self-deception is. And I recognized that I and everyone around me were included in that sobering realization.

Self-deception.

Here’s the thing that happened to Isaiah and that happens to me and to you every time we enter the presence of the LORD Almighty, self-deception vanishes and our true spiritual condition floats to the top, no longer hidden by the murky waters of this world.

  • Back to defiled speech or defiled language.

If the people of unclean lips or defiled language of Isaiah’s time were not necessarily cursing God or being vulgar how was their language defiled?

Whenever we speak with the passion of our heart we reveal what we worship and if what we worship is not the LORD Almighty we are idol worshippers and our language is defiled.

  • I’m not talking about when you’re at work and you need some supplies and you call the storage room to place an order so you can continue working, or, when you’re calling home to let whoever is home know that you’ll be late because of a flat tire, or, when you’re telling how cold it was at your house this morning. All of that is just normal conversation.

On the other hand we obviously know that telling people that you have an altar to baal in your home is idol worship. And, you would never ask your ouija board if you should come to church today. Nor would you proclaim your undying love for mother earth and how saving her is the ultimate goal of your life.

Of course we know that all of these are idol worship and we know that the previous examples are just a matter of normal communication.

However, what someone really worships is evident if you spend enough time with them. Sometimes it will come out very quickly.

Why? Well, it says in Luke 6:45

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

And, the evil stored up in a person’s heart may not in itself be evil; it is only when that thing displaces God as the focus of their life that it becomes and idol and therefore evil.

I know of a person whose great desire is to make lots of money. If you talk to that person for just a few minutes you will discover that making as much money as possible and having lots of high quality material possessions is their highest priority.

For others it might be a great physique or beauty or talent or power or their home or it could be a multitude of things but if the storage place where you keep it is in your heart then God is not there. And, if the storage place of your heart is filled with something other than God that fact will eventually make its way to your mouth and you too will be a person of unclean lips.

If you were to be trapped in an elevator for hours with a total stranger how long would it be before they found out that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ? Or, have you ever even thought of yourself in those terms? A disciple of Jesus Christ? A follower? A devotee?

When we sing a song, we need to know what it means when we are singing it. We are going to sing the song below for the special today and when we sing, “Take the coal, touch my lips” we all need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us if we are people of unclean lips and if we are then we need the Holy Spirit do for us what He did for Isaiah.

 

Are you willing to set aside everything for the cause of Christ? Once Isaiah’s lips had been touched by the burning coal he was changed and his response to the Lord was, “Here am I, send me!”

Our hearts grieve for the lack of fire of the Holy Spirit today. We hunger and thirst for Him to cleanse us and take away our unclean lips, our unclean hearts.

As we sing this song, the altar is open. Come today and pray.

 

Isaiah commissioned

1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and [a]his train filled the temple.

2Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3And [b]one cried unto another, and said,

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts:

[c]The whole earth is full of his glory.

4And the posts of the [d]door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am [e]undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.

6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, [f]having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:

7And he [g]laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, [h]Here am I; send me.

9And he said, Go, and tell this people,

[i]Hear ye [j]indeed, but understand not;

And see ye [k]indeed, but perceive not.

Make the heart of this people fat,

And make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes;

Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,

And understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered,

Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant,

And the houses without man,

And the land be [l]utterly desolate,

And the Lord have removed men far away,

And there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.

But yet in it shall be a tenth, [m]and it shall return, and shall be eaten:

As a teil tree, and as an oak, whose [n]substance is in them, when they cast their leaves:

So the holy seed shall be the [o]substance thereof.

Footnotes:

  1. Isaiah 6:10 Hebrew; Septuagint ‘You will be ever hearing, but never understanding;you will be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’This people’s heart has become calloused;they hardly hear with their ears,and they have closed their eyes
  2. Isaiah 6:1 Or, the skirts thereof
  3. Isaiah 6:3 Heb. this cried to this
  4. Isaiah 6:3 Heb. His glory is the fulness of the whole earth
  5. Isaiah 6:4 Heb. thresholds
  6. Isaiah 6:5 Heb. cut off
  7. Isaiah 6:6 Heb. and in his hand a live coal
  8. Isaiah 6:7 Heb. caused it to touch
  9. Isaiah 6:8 Heb. Behold me
  10. Isaiah 6:9 Or, without ceasing, etc.
  11. Isaiah 6:9 Heb. hear ye in hearing, etc.
  12. Isaiah 6:9 [Heb. in seeing]
  13. Isaiah 6:11 Heb. desolate with desolation
  14. Isaiah 6:13 Or, when it is returned, and hath been broused
  15. Isaiah 6:13 Or, stock, or, stem
  16. Isaiah 6:13 Or, stock, or, stem

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of Isaiah

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