Perhaps the place in the Old Testament where we see the richest and fullest agenda of all the implications of worship is in the sixth chapter of Isaiah, the story of the prophet’s vision. It begins, as all worship must, when the prophet enters a realization of the presence, the holiness, and the glory of God. The moment of encountering the Holy is the given moment of the numinous with all the power that is latent within such a religious experience.
It is a moment of vision and insight. It is a moment when the doors of perception, normally closed by man’s cerebral censorship, are flung wide open. Ears which had previously seemed deaf begin at last to hear. Eyes which must have been blind in the past are opened at last. It is a definite moment in time (the year of King Uzziah’s death), yet its significance breaks through the limits of time and the finite into the realms of eternity and the infinite. Although it is localized in the temple, its message not only strikes at the heart of the nation but also has spoken most eloquently to men and women of every age and every culture. The vision speaks at the same time of the glory of God and the holiness of God.
Here is no religious “kick” for its own sake, but a demanding clarion call which originates in eternity, yet speaks directly to men and women in history, calling the nation to repentance and its citizens to service within the community. The impact, reverberating with glory from the heart of heaven, powerfully evokes a sense of sin.
Worship and a sense of unworthiness come in the same breath. They invite repentance, renewal, and rededication. The ecstatic brought about a dislodging of perspective for Isaiah as real as the physical dislodging suffered by Jacob when he was lamed in his wrestling with God. The prophet finds himself seeing things now from a very different viewpoint, and a very uncomfortable viewpoint at that. There can be nothing cheap about such a gracious and given moment; it will issue in nothing less than costly commitment to the voice and purposes of God—a renewal of life and a new obedience in service.