A Guide to Isaiah's Interactions With Seraphim Angels in Vision of God

Looking Directly of God Can Mean Death

Bible angels seraphim Isaiah 6
Seraphim surround God's throne in heaven. Public Domain

In the book of Isaiah found in the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible, there is a story about the prophet Isaiah's vision of heaven in chapter 6. In this vision, he sees seraphim angels worshiping God. Isaiah becomes aware of his sinfulness in the presence of God, he looks at God, cries out in fear, and an angel comes from heaven to help Isaiah overcome his sense of unworthiness.

Even Angels Cannot Look Directly at God

Verses 1 through 4 describe what Isaiah saw in his heavenly vision:

In the year that King Uzziah died [739 BC], I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six ​wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

The seraphim used one pair of wings to cover their faces so that they would not be overwhelmed by directly looking at God's glory, another pair of wings to cover their feet as a sign of respect and submission to God, and another pair of wings to move around joyfully as they celebrate. Their angelic voices are so powerful that the sound causes shaking and smoke in the temple where Isaiah is praying when he sees the heavenly vision.

Isaiah Looks at God

In verse 5, Isaiah is struck with a sense of his own sinfulness, and he's overcome with fear about the potential consequences of seeing God while in his own sinful condition. While the Torah and Bible say that no living human being can see the essence of God the Father directly (doing so would mean death), it is possible to see signs of God's glory from a distance in a vision.

Bible scholars believe that the part of God Isaiah saw was the son, Jesus Christ, prior to his incarnation on Earth, since the apostle John writes in John 12:41 that Isaiah "saw Jesus' glory."

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty."

God Sends Angels to Rid Isaiah's Guilty Feelings

Verses 6 and 7, God's sends one of his angels to help Isaiah stop feeling guilty for looking directly at God in the vision:

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

By honestly confessing his feeling of being unworthy to look upon God, God sends his angels to purify his soul. It's significant that the part of Isaiah's body that the seraph angel touched was his lips since Isaiah would begin speaking prophetic messages from God to people after experiencing this vision and angelic encounter. The angel cleansed, strengthened, and encouraged Isaiah so that Isaiah could call others to turn to God for the help they needed in their own lives.

Isaiah Becomes a Prophet of God

Immediately after the seraph angel purifies Isaiah's lips, God interacts with Isaiah, calling him to deliver messages to people who need to change their lives.

Verse 8 records the beginning of God's conversation with Isaiah:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Isaiah, freed from the guilt that had been holding him back, offered to enthusiastically accept whatever assignment God wanted to give him. He becomes a prophet of God.