Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand that he had taken from the altar with tongs.

And he touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and now your iniquity is removed and your sin atoned for.”

Isaiah 6:6-7


Isaiah was having a vision of the thrice-holy LORD of hosts, seated upon his throne, high and lifted up. Seeing the great King, realizing that His judgment was about to fall upon the land, and knowing that he himself, like his fellow Israelites, was a man of unclean lips, he cried out, “Woe to me; I am undone!”

Today’s text pictures God’s response to the anguish of a man awakening to his sins and his sinfulness. But, knowing that all OT texts testify of Christ, we know that this one pictures something more—something solemn, yet profoundly encouraging.

Isaiah pictures God’s elect children, spiritually removed from their Creator and King, but seeing Him at last, and also for the first time, and so under deep conviction of sin.

The seraph, created to be a messenger of God, pictures Christ’s Church, and each individual member thereof, sent into all the earth with the message of the Gospel.

The burning coal symbolizes the mighty gospel itself, the power of God for forgiveness, salvation, and restoration to all who believe (Luke 24:46-47, Rom. 1).

And the comforting words of absolution, spoken by the angel sent to Isaiah, sweetly foreshadow the words that Christ Himself puts into the mouth of all his evangelists when they see the signs of genuine repentance and faith in those to whom they are sent; for He told us all, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (John 20:23).

But with all this in mind, note something fascinating about our text: It tells us that the seraph took the burning coal from the altar with tongs. Why exactly did he do that? Why did the angel not take up the coal with his hand? The answer, it would appear, is that it was too hot to handle!

I am not sufficient to explain all the meaning hidden here. Perhaps the Spirit is telling us that angels were never meant to carry the gospel to sinners, but that Christ’s people are. Perhaps He is telling us that in OT times no living creature—whether man or angel—was ready to carry the coal of the Gospel to sinful men.

But of these two things I AM sure.

First, it is the glory of the Church that She should carry, with joy and power and confidence, the coal of the Gospel to all nations; that She is not meant to take it up with tongs of timidity, or intellectualism, or moralism, but to lay hands on it boldly and to experience deep within Herself the fire of God’s truth pouring into her body, equipping her for her mission.

But secondly, even in our day—and perhaps especially in the deep darkness of these last days—the Gospel is still indeed a coal too hot to handle. That is, we must not, and we cannot, handle it in the flesh. If it is to perform its work; if it is to produce true conviction of sin; if we are to have the joy of speaking tender words of divine absolution to trembling sinners, then we had best have hand and heart fully clothed with the Holy Spirit before taking up the Word of the Gospel and taking it out to the world.

Here is the great thing about seraphim: They get to live in the presence of the glory of God, hear His voice, and know, with full assurance, the people to whom they are sent and the message they are charged to bring to them. This is our birthright as well, yes and moreso; for unlike the seraphim in our text, we are not a people who cover ourselves in the presence of God, but a people who are called to live with Him face to face (2 Cor. 3:18).

So then, as we read this text, let us remember our birthright: First, to dwell in His presence face to face; second, to take up the coal of the Gospel only at His bidding; and third, to take it faithfully in the power of the Spirit to those to whom we are sent.

Then—and then only—the Gospel will not be too hot to handle. Indeed, then it will be too beautiful and powerful to resist or lay down, filling not only our hands but our whole bodies with light and life and warmth for a world that increasingly trembles before the Holy One of Israel and the High King of Heaven and Earth.

For behold, Adonai, Yahweh of Hosts, is about to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both staff and support,

the whole staff of bread and the whole staff of water . . . and the people will be oppressed.

Isaiah 3:1, 5

It belongs to the essence of sinful man that he is blind to the staff of God. As we learn from Isaiah 3, it is God who supports both men and nations with bread, water, wise spiritual leaders, capable statesmen, skillful artisans, brave soldiers, and more. All of these are His gracious gifts: in love He places them beneath our hands like a sturdy staff, so that we might walk securely with Him.

But sinful man is blind to the staffs. And when sinful man walks deeper and deeper in his native willfulness, foolishness, and ingratitude, God wisely removes the staffs one by one, so that he is oppressed, so that he may recover his sight, so that once again he may learn to lean on Him.

It is written that the aged, dying Jacob blessed his sons while worshiping God and leaning on the top of his staff. In his youth, Jacob had walked foolishly; but in his old age he had learned to lean on his God.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is the one staff of God, given to us that we may lean on Him and so have bread, water, guidance, skill, courage, victory, and everything else we need to walk securely through this wicked world. It is no shame to admit our weakness; it is no shame to lean on Him. To the contrary, it is our glory and our joy.

How I wish we did not have to experience so much weakness and so many stumblings! But if they give us eyes, and if they teach us to lean on the one all-sufficient Staff of God, then I praise the Lord for them all. And I hope you will join me in doing the same.

“If you will consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land.”

— Isaiah 1:18-20

This is not a law word. God is not saying, “If you consent to the Law and obey it in all its particulars, then you will eat the best of the land.”

No, when you read the verse in context you see that it is a Gospel word. If you will consent to the simple truths of the Gospel; if you will simply obey its simple way of salvation and sanctification; if you will simply come to Christ and abide in Him and His grace, then your sins will become like wool, and then you will indeed eat the Best of the Land–the bread, oil, wine and honey hidden in the Land Above, lodged deep within the heart of Him who is seated there as King.

This very day, may you consent, obey, and eat until you’re filled!

And now 3 John is also completed. Here is the link to it, and below is the entire text. Enjoy! d



The elder, to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.

Beloved, I hope1 you are in good health, and that you are prospering in every way, even as your soul is prospering. For it gave me great joy when various brothers came and testified to the truth that is in you,2 since you are indeed walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Gracious Gaius 

Beloved, you are displaying3 faithfulness in whatever you do for the brothers (especially those who are unknown to you4), who have testified about your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God, for they have gone forth on behalf of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore, we ought to support such men, so that we may become co-laborers for5 the truth.

Diotrephes and Demetrius

I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, will not acknowledge our authority.6 10 For this reason, if I come, I will remind the people of the deeds he keeps on doing,7 slandering8 us with wicked words. Moreover, not being content with such things, he himself refuses to welcome the brothers, and he forbids it to those who would like to, throwing them out of the church!

11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does what is good is from God; he who does what is evil has not seen God.

12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone—indeed, from the truth itself! And we as well so testify, and you know that our testimony is true.


13 I have many things to write to you, but I do not want to write you with pen and ink; 14 instead, I hope to see you shortly, and then we shall speak face to face.

Peace be with you. The friends greet you. Greet all the friends by name.



1. Lit. wish, pray

2. Lit. testified to the truth of you

3. Lit. doing faithfully

4. Lit. strangers, aliens

5. Or, in, with

6. Lit. receive (or pay attention to) us

7. Lit. of his works that he does

8. Or unjustly accusing


Here is 2 John in the NEV. Since it’s short, this time you get the whole thing, notes and all! d




The elder, to a chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth—and not only I, but also all who have come to know the truth—for the sake of the truth that abides in1 us, and that will be with us forever; that will be with us—in grace, mercy, and peace—from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

Walking in Love

It has given me great joy to find certain of your children walking in truth, just as the Father commanded us to do.2 And now I ask of you, beloved lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the very one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. (And this is love for the Father: that we walk according to His commandments.) This is his3 commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning; and he means that4 you should walk in it.

Beware of Deceivers

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who do not confess Jesus Christ as having come in the flesh; this is the deceiver and the antichrist. So watch over yourselves, that you might not lose the things we have labored for, but rather that you might receive a full reward.

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the teaching of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not greet him as a brother; 11 for he who greets him as a brother is participating in his evil deeds.


12 Though I had many other things to write to you, I did not want to communicate using paper and ink; instead, I hope to come to you and speak with you face to face, that our2 joy may be full.

13 The children of your chosen sister greet you.



1. Or among

2. Lit. just as we received a commandment from the Father

3. Lit. the

4. Lit. in order that, so that

5. Some mss your