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Isaiah 6:5

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Wo is me! - That is, I am filled with overwhelming convictions of my own unworthiness, with alarm that I have seen Yahweh.

For I am undone - Margin, ‹Cut off.‘ Chaldee, ‹I have sinned.‘ Septuagint, ‹I am miserable, I am pierced through.‘ Syriac, ‹I am struck dumb.‘ The Hebrew word may sometimes have this meaning, but it also means “to be destroyed, to be ruined, to perish;” see Hosea 10:15; Zephaniah 1:2; Hosea 4:6; Isaiah 15:1. This is probably the meaning here, ‹I shall be ruined, or destroyed.‘ The reason of this, he immediately states.

A man of unclean lips - This expression evidently denotes that he was a “sinner,” and especially that he was unworthy either to join in the praise of a God so holy, or to deliver a message in his name. The vision; the profound worship of the seraphim; and the attendant majesty and glory, had deeply impressed him with a sense of the holiness of God, and of his own unfitness either to join in worship so holy, or to deliver the message of so pure a God. A similar effect is recorded in reference to Abraham; Genesis 18:27; see also Exodus 4:10, Exodus 4:12; Jeremiah 1:6. A deep consciousness of guilt, in view of the holiness and majesty of God, is also described by Job:

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear

But now mine eye seeth thee.

Wherefore I abhor myself,

And repent in dust and ashes.

Job 42:5-6.

An effect also remarkably similar is described in reference to the apostle Peter, Luke 5:8: “When Simon Peter saw it (the miracle which Jesus had performed), he fell down at Jesus‘ knees, saying, ‹Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. ‹“

A people of unclean lips - A people who are unworthy to celebrate the praises of a God so pure and exalted.

Mine eyes have seen - In Exodus 33:20, it is said: ‹Thou canst not see my face, for there shall no man see me and live;‘ compare John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:16. Perhaps it was in recollection of this, that Isaiah said he was undone. It is not, however, to be understood that the prophet saw Yahweh Himself, but only the “symbol” of His presence. It was for this expression, according to the tradition of the Jews, that Manasseh took occasion to put the prophet to death; see the Introduction, Section 2.

The Lord of hosts - Yahweh of hosts. John applies this to the Lord Jesus, and this proves that he is divine; see John 12:41.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
In this figurative vision, the temple is thrown open to view, even to the most holy place. The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. See God upon his throne. This vision is explained, Joh 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ's glory, and spake of Him, which is a full proof that our Saviour is God. In Christ Jesus, God is seated on a throne of grace; and through him the way into the holiest is laid open. See God's temple, his church on earth, filled with his glory. His train, the skirts of his robes, filled the temple, the whole world, for it is all God's temple. And yet he dwells in every contrite heart. See the blessed attendants by whom his government is served. Above the throne stood the holy angels, called seraphim, which means "burners;" they burn in love to God, and zeal for his glory against sin. The seraphim showing their faces veiled, declares that they are ready to yield obedience to all God's commands, though they do not understand the secret reasons of his counsels, government, or promises. All vain-glory, ambition, ignorance, and pride, would be done away by one view of Christ in his glory. This awful vision of the Divine Majesty overwhelmed the prophet with a sense of his own vileness. We are undone if there is not a Mediator between us and this holy God. A glimpse of heavenly glory is enough to convince us that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Nor is there a man that would dare to speak to the Lord, if he saw the justice, holiness, and majesty of God, without discerning his glorious mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. The live coal may denote the assurance given to the prophet, of pardon, and acceptance in his work, through the atonement of Christ. Nothing is powerful to cleanse and comfort the soul, but what is taken from Christ's satisfaction and intercession. The taking away sin is necessary to our speaking with confidence and comfort, either to God in prayer, or from God in preaching; and those shall have their sin taken away who complain of it as a burden, and see themselves in danger of being undone by it. It is great comfort to those whom God sends, that they go for God, and may therefore speak in his name, assured that he will bear them out.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Wo is me! for I am undone - נדמיתי nidmeythi, I am become dumb. There is something exceedingly affecting in this complaint. I am a man of unclean lips; I cannot say, Holy, holy, holy! which the seraphs exclaim. They are holy; I am not so: they see God, and live; I have seen him, and must die, because I am unholy. Only the pure in heart shall see God; and they only can live in his presence for ever, Reader, lay this to heart; and instead of boasting of thy excellence, and trusting in thy might, or comforting thyself in thy comparative innocence, thou wilt also be dumb before him, because thou hast been a man of unclean lips, and because thou hast still an unclean heart.

I am undone "I am struck dumb" - נדמיתי nidmeythi, twenty-eight MSS. (five ancient) and three editions. - I understand it as from דום dum or דמם damam, silere, "to be silent;" and so it is rendered by the Syriac, Vulgate, Symmachus, and by some of the Jewish interpreters, apud Sal. b. Melec. The rendering of the Syriac is אני תויר tavir ani, stupens, attonitus sum, "I am amazed." He immediately gives the reason why he was struck dumb: because he was a man of polluted lips, and dwelt among a people of polluted lips, and was unworthy, either to join the seraphim in singing praises to God, or to be the messenger of God to his people. Compare Exodus 4:10; Exodus 6:12; Jeremiah 1:6.

Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 246

Night was the only favorable time for fishing with nets in the clear waters of the lake. After toiling all night without success, it seemed hopeless to cast the net by day; but Jesus had given the command, and love for their Master moved the disciples to obey. Simon and his brother together let down the net. As they attempted to draw it in, so great was the quantity of fish enclosed that it began to break. They were obliged to summon James and John to their aid. When the catch was secured, both the boats were so heavily laden that they were in danger of sinking. DA 246.1

But Peter was unmindful now of boats or lading. This miracle, above any other he had ever witnessed, was to him a manifestation of divine power. In Jesus he saw One who held all nature under His control. The presence of divinity revealed his own unholiness. Love for his Master, shame for his own unbelief, gratitude for the condescension of Christ, above all, the sense of his uncleanness in the presence of infinite purity, overwhelmed him. While his companions were securing the contents of the net, Peter fell at the Saviour's feet, exclaiming, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” DA 246.2

It was the same presence of divine holiness that had caused the prophet Daniel to fall as one dead before the angel of God. He said, “My comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.” So when Isaiah beheld the glory of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Woe is me! for I am 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.” Daniel 10:8; Isaiah 6:5. Humanity, with its weakness and sin, was brought in contrast with the perfection of divinity, and he felt altogether deficient and unholy. Thus it has been with all who have been granted a view of God's greatness and majesty. DA 246.3

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Ellen G. White
The Upward Look, 257.5

O that God would so impress His people that they may behold His glory, and exclaim, I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!—Manuscript 93, August 31, 1903, “Concerning the Signing of Contracts.” UL 257.5

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 175.3

True holiness and humility are inseparable. The nearer the soul comes to God, the more completely is it humbled and subdued. When Job heard the voice of the Lord out of the whirlwind, he exclaimed, “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). It was when Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord and heard the cherubim crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts,” that he cried out, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:3, 5). Daniel, when visited by the holy messenger, says, “My comeliness was turned in me into corruption” (Daniel 10:8). Paul, after he was caught up into the third heaven and heard things that it was not lawful for a man to utter, speaks of himself as “less than the least of all saints” (Ephesians 3:8). It was the beloved John, who leaned on Jesus’ breast and beheld His glory, who fell as one dead before the angel. The more closely and continuously we behold our Saviour, the less shall we see to approve in ourselves.25 TMK 175.3

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 122.4

God has been waiting long for His followers to manifest true humility that He may impart rich blessings to them. Those who offer Him the sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit will be hidden in the cleft of the rock and will behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. As Jesus, the Sin Bearer, the all-sufficient Sacrifice, is seen more distinctly, their lips are tuned to the loftiest praise. The more they see of the character of Christ the more humble they become, and the lower their estimate of themselves.... Self is lost sight of in their consciousness of their own unworthiness and of God's wonderful glory.... TMK 122.4

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