“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 my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said:
“ Behold, this has touched your lips;
Your iniquity is taken away,
And your sin purged.”
Isaiah 6:5-7Yahoo News ran a story on October 17, 2006 about a teen who had her tongue pierced. Stefania Fraccalvieri now knows that tongue piercing costs a lot more than expected. Just after she had a metal stud put through her tongue—a popular fashion trend among teenagers—Stefania began to experience sharp, stabbing pains in her face that lasted up to half a minute, 20-30 times a day. Doctors soon diagnosed her with trigeminal neuralgia, a condition more commonly known as ‘suicide disease’ because of the intense pain it causes. The metal stud she had implanted was apparently rubbing up against a nerve that runs along the jaw and is connected to the trigeminal nerve (a large nerve in the human head).
Stefania's condition is just one of many complications due to tongue piercing. Those who opt for the extra hardware in their mouth can get a tetanus infection, heart complications, brain abscesses, chipped teeth, and receding gums.
Kind of gruesome – but it reminds me of what happens when we allow sin into our lives. All of us have sinned; all of us fall short of the glory of God. The great prophet Isaiah acknowledged that he had lost his way; his profession of faith somehow lacked love and devotion to God. I’m sure that affected the way he dealt with others. I can’t accept that Isaiah was not trying to do the right thing. I’m sure he was a good man trying to the right thing; however, he states that he was unclean.
Isaiah was unclean but he was not alone. He dwelt in the midst of unclean people. The first rule of engagement in the battle with sin is to stop putting yourself in another category. If we know the Lord and remain oblivious to His glory around us, we need to come to the place Isaiah came in this verse: “Woe is me!”
Often, we just waltz right into the presence of God without an accurate concept of what we really are. We are irreverent and flippant with vain prayers and self-justifying excuses. Isaiah saw himself for the first time because he saw God for the first time. Enter humility. A good, healthy relationship with God will always challenge us to deal with some sin or another in our lives.
A live coal touching the mouth normally brings hurt; here, it heals. The coal comes from the altar and points to the finished work of Christ. His dying love is the only hope that will awaken people to who are as dead to God. People like us. When Isaiah hears that his sin is purged, he has been prepared for the ministry that will unfold in the rest of the book.
It is the same for us. Eternal ministry always begins with the acknowledgment of our sin and our need for cleansing.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1.8-9
So how did doctors cure Ms. Fraccalvieri of her condition? They first prescribed the usual array of painkillers. Then they moved on to stronger medications. Finally, they tried the solution that was seemingly most obvious: they removed the metal stud from the girl's tongue, and in a matter of a few days, all was well again.
Until we deal with the sin in our own lives, the pain will be too much for us. We will suffer and others will too. The only way out is to deal with it in a way commanded by the Great Physician.