A People of Unclean Lips
6 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. 2 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. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 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 ESV
When you read these verses, you may be amazed that Isaiah actually saw the Lord God seated upon His throne, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1). You may also wonder about what the seraphim really looked like, as they sang God’s praises (Isaiah 6:2-3). You might even feel trepidation at God’s power when “the foundations of the thresholds shook” (Isaiah 6:4). Indeed, the whole scene testifies to the unlimited power of God. But it also testifies to the mortality of man. Notice that Isaiah realized just exactly who he was (Isaiah 6:5): a lost man living among a lost people — a sinner in a nation of unclean lips, just like every one of us. Indeed, the overall picture of Isaiah’s vision is one of holiness and power, and our unworthiness. How can we imagine this scene without being humbled by the greatness of God?
King Uzziah was the tenth king of Judah and a very godly man. He was one of only a few kings who didn’t stray from worshipping God. During his reign, Judah was rewarded with wealth, power and success. And even though this was a remarkable time for Judah, most of its citizens didn’t understand the part God played in its achievements. Nor did many thank God for His blessings, in fact, many didn’t worship God at all. They either took God for granted or thought they alone were responsible for their success. Eventually, King Uzziah became so self-centered that he bypassed the temple priests to offer incense directly to God (2 Chron. 26). He immediately became leprous and soon died. And I think this is the lesson to be learned from King Uzziah — know who you are!
But when bad things happen, good things often follow close behind. Though the people lost their good king and were frightened of what was to become of their nation; Isaiah had an amazing vision of the Lord with angelic beings singing His praises. There was hope for a future and it didn’t rest on King Uzziah, rather it rested on our God, who is powerful and mighty. Isaiah continued to warn the people and share God’s message. No matter what the future held, those who honored and believed in God could move forward in hope. They were assured of who was really in charge and what they had to do to repent. The people didn’t need to be lost anymore.
We live in an uncertain world: with a volatile economy, dysfunctional families and chronic health problems. We are a people of unclean lips, who criticize others instead of encouraging them. We also have unclean lips when we give ourselves credit for what God has done for us, when we don’t speak up for someone who has been wronged, and when we blame God for our troubles.
Many are lost, but God has put us on this earth to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have friends and family that are going through really tough times. I know you do too. Many are unsure of what the next day will bring. But we can make a difference. We can assist them in crises and we can also pray for them.
Furthermore, God gives us His peace. And because God is with us, we can sleep soundly through the night and wake each morning with hope (Romans 8:31-39). We are not lost! We are shown God’s power through Scripture, the Sacraments, and His Son, Jesus. And yet, we too “dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5), a people who often make the wrong choices, with disastrous results.
My husband loves going to the NALC Convocations. He says that it feels like old home week when a family gathers together and shares its Christian beliefs. We feel like that in our home church on Sundays. We come together to praise God and be strengthened for the week ahead. But how many people don’t have a refuge, a family to go to? How many families are breaking apart or struggling because they don’t know how to be strengthened in their marriages and child rearing? How many young girls and women choose abortion because they don’t know what else to do or don’t believe they have adults who are willing to help them during their pregnancies? How many older folk don’t ever get phone calls or visits? Isaiah was lucky, he actually saw “the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Maybe each of us can work to show others the loving face of Jesus during the coming year.
Prayer: Father, we pray, we repent, and we lean on Jesus, who forgives our sins and gives us eternal life. May we pray always — as we wake, as we work, and as we go about our day, continually giving thanks and sending up intercessions for the lost.
Pro-Life Action: Find someone who needs loving and give it.
Today’s devotion was written by Rosemary Johnson, a member of the NALC executive council and a volunteer at CareNet. Rosemary lives in Wisconsin.
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Judges 12:8–13:8 (ESV)
Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon
8 After him Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel. 9 He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters he gave in marriage outside his clan, and thirty daughters he brought in from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried at Bethlehem.
11 After him Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel, and he judged Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.
13 After him Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys, and he judged Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.
The Birth of Samson
13 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” 6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ ”
Psalm 4 (ESV)
Answer Me When I Call
4 To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
7 You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
Acts 16:25–40 (ESV)
The Philippian Jailer Converted
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” 38 The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. 39 So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. 40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
We know that in 1513, when [Luther] began his lectures on the Psalms, he still operated with the fourfold sense of Scripture, the sensus literalis, allegoricus, tropologicus, and anagogicus, but that already in the course of his lectures he combined three of them into one and occasionally designated the sensus literalis as the sensus primarius scripturaebehind which the sensus tropologicus must retreat. In his lectures on Romans, 1515-1516, and on Galatians, 1516-1517, this view becomes increasingly evident, and after 1519 his exposition is entirely controlled by the principle: Scripture has but one meaning, even though in his practical explanations of the Scriptures he still oftentimes pays tribute to the allegorical sense. He now declares in his writing against Emser, “Scripture shall not have a double meaning but shall retain the one that accords with the meaning by the words,” and again, “The Holy Ghost is the most simple author and speaker in heaven and earth, therefore His words cannot have more than one, the most simple meaning.” In his Christmas Postil of 1522 he even writes, “If we concede that Scripture has more than one sense, it loses its fighting force.” (10)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.