Sermon Manuscript, 28 January 2007

1In 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. 2Above 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. 3And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
(ESV)

I have always loved the mountains. Part of it is their beauty, of course – I think most people who look at the Rockies, especially for the first time, are taken aback and even left breathless with how impressive they are. For me, well, I was born in those mountains. More than 5,000 feet up, in a little B.C. mining town at the end of the road to the wilderness.

The mountains – They’re in my blood. They’re in my bones. During those seven and a half long years I spent living in Quebec, and Ontario, and New Brunswick, I missed the Rockies. I missed them bad – I was actually homesick at times. There just isn’t anything like them out there – Quebec has the Laurentians, which aren’t bad, and Cape Breton Island has some fairly impressive ones around the Bras-d’Or Lakes, but there really isn’t any comparing them to what we have out here. When I used to come back to Alberta at Christmas or in the summer, I made a point of going out of my way to get into the mountains – a trip to Banff, or a long drive to Vancouver, just something to get out there and to stand at the foot of one of them.

Just to look at them – the carpet of green trees draping their slopes, the jagged peaks that soar above the clouds, scraping the heavens, the shadow they cast over the valley below. Seeing them on a cloudy or rainy day, the mist clinging to the side of the mount, rising from its slopes – like smoke. I’ve been around mountains literally since my birth, and yet they never get old for me. I never get used to them. They still make me stop, they still take my breath away.

Why is that? It’s not just the beauty of it. For me, they hold a special, spiritual meaning. Think about it for a moment – mountains don’t change. They don’t move. They are so huge, you feel tiny and insignificant next to them. They are the definition of strength, the very image of stability. In many ways, they are a metaphor for God Himself. I see them, and I think of the psalmist saying, “O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer… As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people,from this time forth and forevermore.” They are a picture of God’s strength, of His unchanging character, of His immovable purpose and will.

And yet, as impressive and unmoving and unchanging as they are, I am reminded that they are just that – a mere picture or image. Their strength and size and weight and beauty are but a pale imitation, a mere shadow, of the glory of God. They tower over us, over the land, and have for thousands of years, and yet they were once nothing. Nothing at all! And at a mere word from the mouth of our God, they sprang into place. His hands shaped and molded them. His arm set them in place, arranging them like my son pushes around his toys. Great they may seem to us, but compared to God? “The one who by his strength established the mountains?” The psalms make the mighty mountains seem pitiful by comparison: “Before the mountains were brought forth,or ever you had formed the earth and the world,from everlasting to everlasting you are God…” “In his hand are the depths of the earth;the heights of the mountains are his also…” “Then the earth reeled and rocked;the foundations also of the mountains trembledand quaked, because he was angry…” “The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.”

Mountains, to me, are a glimpse of the glory of our awesome God. They remind me how tiny I am before Him, how weak I am compared to His power. They reassure me of His strength and His faithfulness. And there are those moments, early in the morning when I drive down the hill to school, when the sun rises and the light breaks over the eastern hills and strikes the Rockies – when I lift my eyes up to the mountains, and see them on fire, glowing in the morning light, a dazzling display of pink and red and gold. And when I see that – then sings my soul, as the song goes, my Saviour God, to Thee.

Have you ever been there? Have you felt that sense of wonder and awe, that feeling of insignificance before God and what He has done? And if so, what did it for you? Maybe it’s looking at the ocean, hearing the waves roaring on the rocks, smelling the salty air. Or perhaps it’s looking at the earth from the window of an airplane, 30,000 feet up. Or maybe it’s the feeling of joy and amazement, holding the tiny, delicate fingers of a brand new baby. See, God reveals His glory through what He has made. The earth is filled with it! And when we look at it, we’re supposed to feel that way. We’re called to look beyond it to the One who made it all, and to stand in awe of Him.

That’s just a tiny, tiny taste, I think, of the awe and wonder that Isaiah felt when he found himself standing before God’s throne. Imagine what that must have felt like! He saw the LORD – the King of all the earth, the one who just spoke words and all those mighty mountains and crashing seas and breathtaking landscapes just popped into being. The Lord – who holds our lives in the palm of His hand, who gives us each breath as we breathe it, who causes our heart to beat each time. The very Lord who owns us and watches us, protects us and loves us, disciplines us and judges us. And He was high and lifted up! What an understatement that must be, higher than the stars themselves, lifted up not even by the hands of men and angels but by His own power alone.

It says the train of His robe filled the temple. God is clothed with glory, and it spills from Him like water from a fountain. It can’t be contained. It can’t be measured or held back. What blazing heat and what blinding light must have hit Isaiah’s face as he looked at that throne! And even the creatures around the throne are beyond human understanding, fantastic and awe-inspiring. It seems so unlike anything we know, and isn’t that just it? The ways of God are beyond our understanding.

And ringing in Isaiah’s ears as he stood – terrified, unable to move – was that chorus: Holy, Holy, Holy. There is no higher emphasis in the Hebrew language than repetition. This is the song of God’s own throne room. This is God’s most precious possession – His holiness. He is utterly perfect, totally spotless, absolutely unique, completely set apart from all other things. There is no shade of evil or shortcoming in God.

This is the God we worship. This is the Father we pray to. This is the Rock and Redeemer who saved us and will keep us forever. This is the Judge who calls us to reflect that purity and perfection in everything we do.

I have no other point this morning, no other purpose than to set our God before you, in all His beauty and glory. Do you see it? If this image of our God does not move you or affect you, why not? What is in the way? But if it does – what else can we do? Adore Him and worship Him.

– Jeff Jones

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