THE BURNING ONE
Vuthy Nol-Mantia — Boston, Massachusetts, USA
SERAPHIM THE SERVANT
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the
Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled
the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he
covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. (Isa
The prophet Isaiah heard the voice
of God in a vision saying, “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Isaiah
responded, “Here am I! Send me.” In the vision, he also saw the seraphim show
him the meaning of true servitude. From the seraphim’s example, he was able to
answer God’s calling with readiness, confidence, and fervor—because he
understood what it takes to serve the Lord.
In the same way, we have to learn
from the seraphim the attitudes of a servant before we come out to serve God.
And it is when God sees that we are ready and prepared vessels that He will call
us to His work.
Seraphim are God’s angels, and
their name means “the burning one.” This adjective is often used in the Bible
to describe a person’s holiness and zeal towards God—both of which are
extremely important when we serve Him.
Many servants of God in the past
had this burning desire to serve God, even when they faced many trials and
persecutions for speaking the truth to people who did not want to hear it. It
would be so much easier to give up their service to God, but they couldn’t
because their hearts burned with His message and His work.
If we know the Lord we serve, our
hearts would be burning with the same zeal as the seraphim. We can’t help but
proclaim God’s word because His spirit smolders in our hearts and motivates us.
Since I came to Christ five years
ago, I have met many older members of the church who always amaze me. Some of
them have served God all their lives, and their hearts continue to burn with
On the other hand, I’ve also met some
younger members who do not have the desire to serve the Lord, even though they
have been given great talents and gifts. They lack the zeal for God because
they do not truly know Him nor see the value of serving Him. Therefore, our
zeal in service comes from knowing the One we serve.
Knowing Him also means that we
have to see ourselves from His perspective, just as the seraphim also
understood their place.
The seraphim in Isaiah’s vision
each had six wings.
With two wings, he covered his
face. This gesture symbolizes self-denial. In the world today, it is hard to
cover our faces because they are so important to us. Every year, people spend
thousands of dollars on makeup, facelifts, or cosmetic surgeries. Many of us
would not forget to put on makeup before we go out to make our faces beautiful.
Yet, the seraphim that Isaiah saw
each covered his face.
“Then He said to them all, ‘If
anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
daily and follow Me’” (Lk 9:23). The Lord’s words are a hard saying—He wants us
to deny ourselves by covering our faces.
Maybe we can go two or three days
without looking at our faces. But to not look at our own faces our whole lives
would be almost impossible. However, in a spiritual sense, all servants of God
have to cover their faces and deny themselves, no matter how difficult this may
Why is it so important to deny
ourselves? Read the account of the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12-14. Why was
he cast down from heaven? God said to him, “[F]or you have said in your
He was driven out of God’s
presence simply because, in his heart, he thought himself equal to God, the
Most High. Pride had taken control over him.
The way pride festers in our
hearts is similar to the process of internal bleeding. We may be bleeding
inside, but we may not realize it until it’s too late. It often builds up in us
before we know it, and we may even be rejected by God before we realize it.
God said to Lucifer, “Yet you
shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isa 14:15).
God humbles those who exalt themselves and He will bring them low.
Knowing the seriousness and
dreadful consequences of pride, we have to learn to deny ourselves if we wish
to worship and serve God. We need to remove the “I” in our thinking—take away
the ego in our service. Then, we may be servants who are acceptable in God’s
With two of his wings, each of the
seraphim also covered his feet. This action reminds us to forget our
accomplishments in our service.
In our journey of serving God, our
feet will inevitably leave footprints along the way. But we must not look back
on these footprints. We have to leave behind any contributions we might have
brought to God’s ministry. Otherwise, it will become a hindrance to our
We cannot savor the memories of
what we have done for God. Past accomplishments are not nearly as important as
what lies ahead.
Not that I have already attained, or am already
perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus
has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended;
but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching
forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:12-14)
Paul does not look behind him
because he knows that he has yet to attain his goal in Christ. He illustrates
this point by painting a vivid picture of an athlete running a marathon.
Let’s say a race stretches 26.5
miles. If the runner looks back at the 26 miles he has run but stumbles in the
last 0.5 mile, he loses the entire race. Although the last few hundred feet are
the most difficult, only the runners who strive toward the goal ahead will get
to the finish line.
We also need to develop such
perseverance in our ministry, and we must strive forward and not look back.
WINGS TO FLY
Each of the seraphim used two of
his wings to fly.
The flying seraphim teach us the
importance of reaching new spiritual heights as we serve God. As servants of
God, not only do we have to deny ourselves and forget what is behind, we also
need to let the Holy Spirit lift us high and far above earthly things.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those
things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set
your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col 3:1-2)
Why should we set our mind on
things above? Because that is where Christ sits at the right hand of God. If we
want to serve the Lord who sits on the throne, high and lifted up, we have to elevate
our minds. If we are not lifted up high, we cannot see things from God’s
perspective nor understand His will. We would only see and yield to the things
of the world. Worst, we would serve Him using our own ways and thinking.
Setting our minds on things above
also means we have to consider spiritual matters more important than worldly
matters. It is often easy to become confused about whom we are really serving.
In this world, there are many different gods: the gods of money, career, fame,
etc. And everyday, we may be unconsciously serving these earthly gods.
Moreover, the value of these
things is slight and temporary. If we focus on earthly matters, they become
like unnecessary baggage that inhibits our flight, delaying us from drawing
closer and nearer to God.
True blessings can only be found
in serving God. We have to continually and unceasingly grow in the grace and
knowledge of all things that are spiritual and that are of God (2 Pet 3:18). We
have to place His matters as our first priority.
When we recognize that it is the
eternal and glorious God that we serve, we will appreciate the honor and value
of our service. Only then can we serve Him steadfastly and joyfully.
Before we can serve the true and
living God, we must first realize that we are nothing but sinners. We are worth
nothing apart from God. It is only by God’s mercy that we can live and serve
So [Isaiah] said: “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. 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. Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken
away, And your sin purged.” (Isa 6:5-7)
When Isaiah heard the glorious
voice of the seraphim crying out God’s holiness and immense glory, and when he witnessed
the smoke that filled the temple he was completely shaken. He suddenly realized
how unworthy he was, being nothing but a sinner before God.
Despite Isaiah’s sinfulness, the
seraphim flew to Isaiah and touched his lips with live coal to purge his
iniquity. The Spirit of God is so powerful that it can completely cleanse our
hearts and refine us.
Why the lips? As the prophet of
God, Isaiah used his lips to declare God’s words. If his lips were unclean, he
would become useless to God. Likewise, if we are zealous and are able to humble
ourselves but our lips are not clean, we still cannot serve God.
Whether it is preaching the gospel
or encouraging each other, we need to use our lips. Filthy lips cannot lead
people to Christ.
Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they
may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they
are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small
rudder wherever the pilot desires. (Jas 3:3-4)
A horse, which is more than ten
times stronger than a man, can be tamed by a small bit. A ship, which is
impossible to be moved by hand, can be turned with a small rudder. In the same
way, if we are able to master control over our tongue, we would be able to
control our entire body.
James 3:5-6 also describes the
tongue as a little fire that can spread and burn down an entire forest. This
explains how the small tongue can defile our entire being.
The tongue is able to create
far-reaching consequences, both good and bad. That is why we must take care to
use it to benefit others. Otherwise, our tongue may ruin the very good works we
have done for the Lord.
Suppose you are very good pianist
or a great cook, and the president of the United States, who is one of the
most powerful figures on earth today, invited you to a solo performance at the
White House or to prepare a banquet for him. How honored you would feel! You
would definitely prepare for this grand event day and night for weeks and
As Christians, we need to realize
that the God we worship and serve is the true and living God, and we must have
the same zeal to serve Him as we would serve the president of our country. In
fact, we should serve Him with more reverence than we would serve anyone else.
The prophet Isaiah’s dedication
and courage were not impulsive or short-lived resolutions. Before he offered
himself for the Lord’s use, God prepared him through the example of the
Isaiah saw the majesty and glory
of the King he served. He learned the seraphim’s humility, persistence, and
closeness with God. He trembled before the Lord, realizing his sin and
unworthiness, and he received the cleansing that came from the fire of God’s
altar. Only then could He bravely cry out, “Here am I! Send me.”
It wasn’t until Isaiah truly
understood the meaning of servitude was he able to confidently accept God’s
commission. It was God who would work through him to accomplish His plan.
Let us each heed and learn the
lessons that God has taught Isaiah, so that we may also answer the Lord’s
calling with the same boldness and conviction. May our life-long service to the
King be ever pleasing to Him.