Their Problems And Ours

EasyEnglish Bible Studies that show that God is sufficient whatever the problem

Study 9

Isaiah: The Problem Of Guilt

by Raymond Brown, M.A., M.Th., Ph.D.

translated into EasyEnglish by Mary Read

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.


About these studies

(Guilt means to be or to feel guilty)

Bible Passages about Isaiah:

The book of Isaiah;

Many times, books in the New Testament (the second part of the Bible) repeat Isaiah’s words.


G. K. Chesterton lived from 1874-1936. He was a famous author and poet. He changed his religion to become a Roman Catholic. Someone asked him the reason for this. His brief reply was: ‘To get rid of my *sins.’ This means to gain freedom from them.

Perhaps we do not understand this. We do not understand why he would go to a church system. The *Lord is the only one who can save us. He should have gone directly to God. We may have different opinions about this. But we should all agree with his desire for *pardon and peace.

We declare that God forgives us. We can only do this because of the cross. The *Lord Jesus died for each person. He took the punishment that I deserve. Praise God! What a wonderful Saviour he is. (Note: Saviour means One who saves.)

The experience of Chesterton is very common. In each century, it happens to millions of people. They become very aware of their *sin. This causes great mental pain. Their emotions suffer too. It can continue like this for a long time. Their *sins are like a heavy weight. They cannot escape from the memories of their *sins. They desire peace. So they look for it. This is one problem that each one of us has. At some time in our lives, we all feel guilty.

So, we will study a special experience. You can read about it in Isaiah 6:1-9. It happened to a famous man. He was a bold man too. He lived in Old Testament times. (The Old Testament is the first part of the Bible.) His name was Isaiah. He felt the pain and despair of guilt. He cried to God for help. We can be in a similar situation. His experience may help us.

1 Isaiah met with God

A person may first become aware of guilt in the same way. It often comes from a definite meeting with God. It can happen in a dramatic way. (Read Isaiah 6:1-4.) Isaiah was a young man. He seemed to have free entry to the royal palace. He seemed to be familiar with affairs of the State. This shows in his teaching. Much of it had political connections.

The nation’s future is in danger. So he goes to the *Temple to pray. Their successful king was dead. He had had a serious skin disease (leprosy) for a long time. This meant that he had to keep away from people. Isaiah appeals to God for the people. Then he becomes very aware of God himself. This upsets him very much. It makes a great impression on his heart and mind.

Guilt often begins like this. It is not with a sudden understanding of what we are like. It is by seeing the God who hates *sin. Isaiah’s picture of God is important here. He says: ‘I saw the *Lord.’ Isaiah saw him as:

1.1 The God who is holy

‘He was sitting on a very high and great throne’ (Isaiah 6:1). (A throne is a king’s special chair.) The *angels said, ‘Holy, holy, holy. The *Lord all-powerful is very holy’ (6:3). Isaiah saw, in a new way, that God is holy. It is not just that God is very great. It is not just that he is different from us.

Now Isaiah becomes aware of an awful truth. It is this. His own *sin is serious. It is like a wall between himself and God. It is the same for us. (Read Isaiah 59:2.) Later, Isaiah’s messages are often about the fact that God is holy. (You can read some of them in Isaiah 1:4; 5:19-24; 12:6 and 29:19.)

Isaiah needs to declare this truth in a powerful way. But he could not do that now. Something must happen first. Isaiah must see what this means for himself. Of course, someone can declare truth without this experience. But it would probably not have a good effect. It would not persuade people. It would not attract them either.

The actions of the *angels also emphasise that God is holy. They say it with words. They show it with actions. The Targum speaks about this. (Note about the Targum: It was translations of parts of the Old Testament (the first part of the Bible). It was also explanations of these parts. The language of the Targum was Aramaic. It was in writing from about 100 *AD. Before that time, people spoke it.) The Targum speaks about the *angels’ wings. They covered their faces so that they could not see. They covered their bodies so that nobody could see them.

God was so holy that they could not look at him. They knew, too, that they were not important. God must receive all the honour. The young man, Isaiah, was feeling upset. All this impressed on him that God is very holy. Isaiah saw him as:

1.2 The God who rules (6:1)

He was ‘sitting upon a throne’ - the special king’s chair. Uzziah, the king was dead. There was no king on the throne. The times were very serious for the nation that Isaiah loved. In those days, the death of a king would usually mean certain things. There would often be a revolution. There would be confusion and a lack of order too. Isaiah’s people were afraid when they saw the empty throne. But Isaiah saw the throne of the great God. His throne would always be there. It would never be empty.

God’s rule is a great Bible truth. It should make people aware of *sin. We often insist that we should rule our own lives. We continue to neglect the truth. We forget that God should rule over us. Here, *sin is refusing God’s authority. (Read Isaiah 1:2, 19-20.) *Sin is putting something or someone in God’s place. (Read 2:8, 17-18.) When we choose to rule ourselves, we make God very sad.

Then Isaiah sees him as:

1.3 The God who is successful (6:3)

He is ‘the *Lord of hosts’. This means ‘the God of armies’. God’s people were foolish. Their military resources were few. So they went to foreign nations for help. They forgot that their God was ‘the God of battles’. He could fight for them. (Read 1 Samuel 17:45-51 and Psalm 44:5-7.)

The people forgot something else. It was another great success of ‘the *Lord of hosts’. It happened in the rule of Jehoshaphat. (Read 2 Chronicles 20:15-26.) Before this event, God promised to deliver them. (Read Hosea 1:7.) Later, Zechariah speaks. He tells about the power of the *Lord of hosts. It has no limits. (Read Zechariah 4:6.)

This title of God’s was important for the people. (Note: a title is a name that describes a person and his job.) But it was important for Isaiah himself. Some things in his personal life were not good. He could never gain freedom from them by his own energy. It is not enough to see our *sin. We must know that we cannot overcome it. We must also know that God can overcome it.

Isaiah also sees him as:

1.4 The God who is full of *mercy

Isaiah saw God as very, very holy. But he saw God’s great *mercy too. We must never separate these two subjects. They go together. We must not emphasise one more than the other. If we do, we will get a wrong idea about God. He will be either very hard or far too weak.

Writers of the Bible taught truths in an equal way. We see this here. The *angels hide their faces because God is so holy. But they are eager to show that he forgives. (See Isaiah 6:7.)

When we feel guilty, we know that God is holy. But he also desires to give us freedom. He wants us to have the joy of his *pardon. God will help us. Then we will be on the way to peace.

First, we must be aware of our need.

2 There must be true *repentance

In chapter 5, Isaiah is bold. He records some words to his nation. Six times, he says: ‘There is no hope for you’ (5:8, 11, 18, 20-22). Now he cries out for himself. He says: ‘There is no hope for me.’ The sight of God convinces him. *Sin makes God very sad. Now Isaiah shares God’s feeling about *sin. He is sad too.

Then he says: ‘I am cut off.’ These words may refer to the dead king. Uzziah became proud and acted in a very bad way. Because of this, he suddenly got leprosy. (This is a very bad skin disease.) Immediately, he must be ‘cut off’ from God’s house. He cannot go there again. (Read 2 Chronicles 26:15-21.)

Isaiah now feels that his *spiritual state is similar. He appeals for God’s *mercy. In Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) times, there was a law. Anyone with leprosy must warn the people. He must cry out: ‘Not clean, not clean!’ (Read Leviticus 13:45-46.) Isaiah feels so guilty that he repeats this cry. ‘Not clean! Not clean! I am a man whose lips are not clean’ (6:5).

Here we must notice an important principle. We desire that God should forgive us.

3 We should confess our *sin clearly

We must not just confess our *sin in general. We must confess our *sins in particular. Isaiah did this (6:5). His *sins were to do with his speech. Maybe he wanted to join the *angels as they sang to God. But he could not sing: ‘The all-powerful *Lord is holy.’ His own lips were not holy. They were ‘not clean’.

We must think about our lips. Perhaps they are:

·           lips of a coward. Then people will not hear about God.

·           lips that pretend. Then we are not holy.

·           lips that are proud. Then it will spoil our service.

·           lips that are lazy. This will prevent our prayers.

·           lips that gossip. This will disturb our peace.

We could certainly cry: ‘there is no hope for me’.

4 As soon as Isaiah cried for help, the *pardon was certain

There had been a *sacrifice. The hot coal came from the fire of that *sacrifice. It was a clear sign. ‘This has touched your lips’ (6:7). God is eager to forgive. We do not need to feel guilty any more. You are not too bad for his *pardon. You are not outside the limits of his *mercy. If you *repent, you will discover many things. Two things are that there are no limits to his love and kindness.

There is an idea that there will be a chance to *repent after death. The Bible does not give any authority for this idea. But if we call to God now, we can be certain. He will make us clean from our *sins. (Read 1 John 1:9.)

5 God will forgive us immediately

He will forgive us completely. There is one way that we can know this. It is because we can always trust God’s promises. As the coal touched Isaiah’s lips, the *angel spoke. ‘Now you have no guilt. God forgives your *sins.’ These great words brought freedom to Isaiah.

Our peace depends on God’s word too. Its authority does not change. We can trust his word completely. He promises his pardon. The Bible uses word pictures to describe this. God:

·           wipes off our *sins (Isaiah 43:25a);

·           forgets our *sins (Isaiah 43:25b);

·           removes our *sins. He takes them as far away from us as the east is from the west. (Read Psalm 103:12);

·           throws our *sins behind his back (Isaiah 38:17);

·           buries our *sins at the bottom of the sea (Micah 7:19).

So, trust his word. Receive his *pardon. Enjoy his peace again. (Read Luke 7:48-50.)

One final thing:

6 The one whom God forgives will be very grateful

He will want to show this by service. God asked: ‘Who will go?’ Isaiah did not hesitate to reply. ‘Here I am; send me’, he said. His lips are now ‘clean’. He is so grateful for this. He wants to show it by his service. This is what he did. His service for God was loyal and without fear for many years.

Centuries later, someone else spoke. He appealed to people. John said: ‘Go and do the things that will show true *repentance.’ (Read Matthew 3:8.)

Isaiah goes out from God’s house. He is ready to share the news with other people. It is great news. God will forgive them. He will save them too. (Read Isaiah 12:1-6; 14:1-3; 25:1-5; 26:1-12; 30:15-18 and 35:1-10.)

For Discussion

1.    Isaiah was aware of his guilt (Isaiah 6:5). This was because of four things that he knew about God:
• He is sovereign, he is in control of everything (‘sitting on a
• He is great (‘important and wonderful’).
• He is grand (‘his long coat filled the temple, God’s special
  house’ 6:1). 
• He is without any sin, he is a very holy God (Isaiah 6:3). In our times of personal prayer, how can we be like Isaiah? How can we understand best that we have an amazing God? And how can we best worship him with great respect?

2.    Something often happened in ancient eastern countries. The death of a king might be a time for a revolution in that country. Or there might be an attack by neighbours who were not friendly. It was like this for Isaiah, at that time. He had his great experience of God when there was a serious national emergency (Isaiah 6:1).
    Why does trouble or anxiety sometimes cause people to pray to God? They are desperate for his help.

3.    Isaiah had a dramatic experience of God. And people might wish that they could have a similar experience. Then they could be certain that God had dealt with their sin and with their guilt (Isaiah 6:7). How would you help a person who has thoughts like that?

4.    Isaiah knew that the whole nation was as guilty as he was. So why did Isaiah’s own sin upset him so much?

For More Discussion

1.    People might know that God has forgiven them. But they might still regret things very much. They might find it hard to forgive themselves. What help from the Bible would you try to give to someone who is like that?

2.    Isaiah was a man who influenced other people. (Notice his meetings with kings who ruled in those times; Isaiah 7:1-9; 10-25; 38:1-8; 39:1-8.) But the people who were living at that time were sinning. And he told them about those sins. (Read Isaiah 1:4-17 for one example.) But he also told them that God promised to forgive them (Isaiah 1:18-19). This was because he loved them. Do we have any responsibility for the sins of other people?

3.    In Isaiah 6, we read about the death of a sinful, earthly king. (Read 2 Chronicles 26:15-21 and Leviticus 13:45-46.) And we read about the power of a holy, eternal king, who gives life. Could this be a deliberate contrast? If it is, does that mean something to us in our world today?

Word List (Words with a *)

AD ~ these letters are for 2 Latin words; the words are Anno Domini; they mean ‘In the year of our *Lord’; so, AD is any date after the birth of Jesus.

angel ~ a being from heaven who brings messages from God; God especially created angels to serve him; God sends them to serve people too (Hebrews 1:14).

Jew(s) ~ person or people from the Jewish nation; God chose them to be his special people (read Deuteronomy 7:6-8); our Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) gives their history; their language is Hebrew; Jesus was a Jew.

Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we do what they say.

mercy ~ kindness to someone who does not deserve it; it is a very strong word; there are several meanings in it; there is love and pity; to have mercy means to forgive *sins.

pardon ~ this word can be a noun or a verb; it is the act of someone in authority; it means that a guilty person escapes punishment; man is guilty; God, the Judge, pardons him; this is because of who God is; It is also because of the cross; read Micah 7:18, 19; Matthew 26:28.

repent ~ to turn away from evil and towards God; this choice will mean a complete change of life.

repentance ~ this is the act of *repenting.

sacrifice ~ something that a person gives to God; in Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) times, it was often an animal; this may be to say ‘Sorry’ or ‘Thank-you’; it can also be something that is hard to do or to give (read 1 Samuel 15:22 and Psalm 51:17).

sin ~ not reaching God’s standards; not obeying God’s rules; this word can speak about a state (Genesis 3; Romans 3:23; 5:12-17); it can also be an act; so the word can be a noun or a verb.

spiritual ~ holy; the part of life that is to do with the things of God; it speaks about things that start with God; so, they fit with his nature; it also speaks about people; when someone pleases God, he is spiritual; it speaks about attitudes too; we should have the same attitudes as God’s.

temple ~ the *Jews’ special building for God; it was in Jerusalem; the enemy destroyed it in *AD 70; since that time, *Jews’ buildings to meet in are called synagogues. (Note: the Bible calls a Christian’s body the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6:19.)


By full permission of author

EasyEnglish TRANSLATION: Mary Read


© 1999-2014, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

June 2003

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