Isaiah's Vision of God

God spoke to mankind “at various times and in various ways” (Hebrews 1:1). Sometimes these ways included the use of visions – strange and fantastic scenes given by the Lord that were somehow distinct enough to avoid being identified as a mere dream or figment of the imagination. In one such vision, a man named Isaiah was allowed to see an amazing and startling sight. In his own words, “In the year that Uzziah died, I saw the Lord” (Isaiah 6:1). More than one Hebrew word is typically translated as “Lord” in the English language; this “Lord” is a generic term for a ruler of men. However, as Isaiah’s vision continues, he specifies which Lord he saw: “my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts” (v. 5). Many translations render this as “LORD” in all capital letters. These capital letters indicate that the Hebrew word being translated is a proper name: Yahweh (a name which used to be rendered as “Jehovah”).

Yahweh is sometimes called God’s covenant name; it is the name by which God revealed Himself to the Hebrews. Jewish tradition holds that there was a time when this name was held in such reverence that whenever scribes copied it in a manuscript, they threw away their writing utensil. Whether this happened or not, the Bible indirectly preserves a record of people being uncomfortable saying this covenant name in the Psalms. Psalm 53 is almost a repetition of Psalm 14 with a few key differences, one of which being the removal of the name “Yahweh” (it reads “God” instead). Yahweh is clearly a special, specific name.

Some theologians dogmatically hold that this covenant name is to be applied only to “God the Father” as He is described in New Testament passages. This teaching presents a dilemma, as John said in describing the Father, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). If no man has seen the Father, whom did Isaiah see? And what does this reveal about God?

Some say that Isaiah saw only a representation of Yahweh. This seems to conflict with Isaiah’s plain statement that he saw the Lord. Maybe the answer to what Isaiah saw is found in the remainder of John’s statement above quoted: “The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18). Though Jesus was the Word prior to His incarnation (John 1:1-3, 14), even in that form it can be safely said that He still revealed God to mankind. We’re not left to wonder as to Who Isaiah saw; John said, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him” (John 12:41). The pronoun Him in this text can be none other Jesus Christ; the quotation found in the previous verse shows John to be talking about Isaiah 6 (specifically verses 9, 10). So, when Isaiah saw Yahweh, he saw Jesus.

Further investigation of the New Testament uses of Isaiah 6 demands that an additional question be asked: Whom did Isaiah hear? Isaiah 6:9, 10 can be found quoted again in the New Testament in Acts 28:26, 27. However, prior to quoting this passage, the inspired apostle Paul says, “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25). The conclusion that must be drawn is clear; when Isaiah heard Yahweh, he heard the Holy Spirit.

It is sad that some have relegated Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to a status somewhere beneath Yahweh when Bible evidence simply does not support this. It is even sadder that some consider Jesus to be an angel or some other kind of created being and consider the Holy Spirit to be nothing more than a force or energy of God. Individuals influenced by such teachings would do well to answer Isaiah’s plea, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) by asking themselves the question, “Whom did Isaiah see and hear?” Isaiah saw Yahweh, the one and only God of the universe, but he did not see God the Father. Whom He saw and heard testify to the Deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and remind us that even though there is “one God” (Ephesians 4:5), He is three distinct Persons.
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org

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