In this short chapter, Isaiah is called by the Lord.
Isaiah sees the Lord sitting on his throne. Next he sees seraphs and realizes he is indeed in the presence of the Lord. He recognizes his unworthiness, but one of the seraphs takes a hot coal and places it on Isaiah's lips. Isaiah's iniquities and sins are forgiven and purged.
The Oven Analogy
While I was reading about the part of the coal purging Isaiah's sin, I thought of something that happened recently in our home. While cooking Thanksgiving dinner, my wife noticed that the juice from the stuffing was spilling over and burning on the burners and making the oven smoke. By the time the dinner was all cooked, she had decided it was time to clean the oven. She read the cleaning instructions and then followed the process. First we had to scrape all the excess off and do what we could to clean the oven. Even after all that scrubbing, the oven still wasn't not spotless. The next step involved the automated process whereby the oven cleans itself. The oven locks itself and then the burners burn at an intense heat. The burn cycle takes four hours and burns everything leftover in the oven. When we awoke the next day, we opened the oven and it looked brand new.
I don't know if this is a good analogy or not, but to me it's applicable. We must do our part to repent of our sins, but we will never really be cleansed until the Lord does His part. We did the best we could to prepare the oven to be cleansed, but it would never be clean until it went through that burn cycle.
Hear, but not Understand
Ludlow has a lot to say on this subject in his book. One of the things he points out is the Book of Mormon clarification. Isaiah 6:9 says, "And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not." 2 Nephi 16 makes it clearer by adding a key word - "they". In 2 Nephi 16 it reads, "Hear ye indeed, but they understood not; and see ye indeed, but they perceived not." The Book of Mormon makes it clearer … we now know that the Lord did not want the people to misunderstand, rather he teaches us that when Isaiah would preach to them, they would not understand because they chose not to listen.
We gain further insight into passage by reading the cross references to Isaiah 6:9, namely Matthew 13:14-15 and Acts 28:26-27. In these passages, we learn the reason why the Lord taught in parables and why the Lord commanded Isaiah to teach the way he taught. They taught in this manner so that those who were ready to hear the word, heard what they were supposed to hear while those who were not ready either misunderstood or never completely understood and thus avoided condemnation (Ludlow 133).
While Jesus taught in parables, Isaiah taught in symbolism, poetry and complex terminology. As Ludlow states, "instead of speaking at a simple level and letting his listeners build upon that foundation, Isaiah spoke at a high intellectual and spiritual level, thus challenging or even forcing his listener to attain that level before they could begin to understand his word. Isaiah was not only difficult, he was deliberately difficult. We must study his words, wrestle with them, and ponder them at great length before his powerful, sublime teachings begin to emerge and inspire us" (135).