Woe is Me


Elder Mark D. Rowell

From The Banner of Love  March, 1999

I trust we are all familiar with the theme/thoughts brought to mind when we read the writings of Isaiah in the 6th chapter of his prophecy – especially the first few verses. Isaiah was blessed to see “...The Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.” with His glory filling the temple. He then saw the seraphims which cried “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts...” What a glorious vision! Oh that time and space would allow us to go over the wonderful truths that are presented to us in the first four verses of Isaiah, chapter 6. But our mind is drawn to a profound statement uttered by Isaiah based on his understanding of what he saw.

Verse 5, “Then said I, 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.”

Now some might say that this is a strange reaction to this vision. Some may even say that great joy should have befallen Isaiah since he was blessed to see the Lord as he did. I believe that Isaiah experienced the joy, but only after some things were revealed to him. Although we sometimes fall into the snare of crying, “Woe is me!” when troubles assail us, this was not the case of the lamentation of Isaiah. At this time, he was not overwhelmed by his tribulation. He was not cast down because of his walks through the valleys He was not disheartened by his Physical frailties. Rather, he was engulfed in the revelation of his depravity. Isaiah was made to realize the depths of his depraved nature in the presence of an August and Thrice Holy God.

We cannot begin to understand the depths of our depravity until the Lord reveals Himself to us. There was once a man by the name of Saul who was "...breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." In his own mind, he was perfect and upright, swallowed up in his pharisaical 'religious' ways.

But this man Saul [who became known as the Apostle Paul] spoke of the experience on the Damascus road to King Agrippa; "At midnight. 0 King, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me..." Paul saw a light so bright that it brought him to his knees and even blinded him for three days! The light he saw was the Lord! As Saul asked, "Who art thou Lord?', the reply came, "I am Jesus whom thou persecuted." Now how/ many of us can say we've seen a light that brought us to our knees and blinded us like Paul? Paul writes of the experience and what was revealed to him in Romans chapter 7, "For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, Sin Revived, and I died." Paul is saying the sight of his Saviour and being in the presence of the glory of the Lord caused him to realize that he was not perfect but rather undone, as Isaiah, and in need of a Saviour. If you will, Saul had his sins brought right up before his face when he found himself in the presence of the Glorified Saviour!We must certainly already be born of the Spirit of God before we can realize our depravity, but above, and beyond this. we must have revelation - like that of Isaiah and Saul of Tarsus - of the awesome glory of God. We, like they, must be made to fall down from our pride and in the dust of humility, declare that God is "holy, holy, holy" and we are vile wretched sinners.

As it was for Isaiah and Saul. it is by the grace of God that we are humbled to see our depraved state. But as harsh and traumatic an experience as that is - and surely it was for Isaiah and Saul - it is only when we are brought to this most abject state, that we can see that God's grace, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. has delivered us from our sins.

Paul wrote, "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Paul realized that he was carnal...sold under sin." But Paul answered his own question with, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Isaiah also saw this deliverance. When one of the seraphims took a live coal and laid it on Isaiah's mouth, the seraphim said, "Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." The Lord then asked, 'Whom shall I send." And the same man that cried, “Woe is Me," then says "Here am I; send me!"

Even though Isaiah was made to realize his fallen nature he was also made to realize that he had a redeemer, he had a Saviour, he had a deliverer! You see, even though we are fallen by nature, we have a redeemer, a Saviour, a deliverer! We are risen with Him in the Covenant of Grace. We rose with Him when He arose from the grave. We rise with Him in the new birth. And some sweet day, we'll  rise  from the grave by His power and dwell with Him for eternity, beholding His glory in perfection, absent from depravity, and instead of crying, 'Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!" we will sing with joy, "Holy, holy, holy!"