Personal Calling as Missional Enabling (Isa. 6:1-13)
Isaiah, prince of the prophets, proclaimed the coming of the Messiah more any other prophet. His message was the result of a compelling vision of God’s mission and the specific call for His people to be a “light to the Gentiles” – those without the knowledge of God’s salvation. God’s call to proclaim His Word was no easy task, as it included being rejected and persecuted. Yet God’s servants must rest in knowing the truth that His calling accompanies His empowering to be His witnesses. Ultimately, what enables God’s servants to remain faithful in the midst of crisis is that deep sense of being “called of God.” Isaiah’s vision (6:1-13) reveals aspects of this call from which even today’s ministers of the Gospel can draw strength and gain hope.
1. Vision before Conviction
740BC, the year King Uzziah died, is a significant marker in Israel’s history. For the majority of his 52-year reign he was a good king, until he entered the temple and performed his own sacrifice, something only priests should do. So God struck Uzziah with leprosy and he died! During the subsequent power vacuum, the people of Israel indulged in blatant, immoral crimes and gross injustices that enraged God. Isaiah, sent to pronounce their judgment, looks around and is overwhelmed by the evil.
This grave situation begs a missional question: how are these perverse people going to be God’s witness to all the nations? God, who revealed Himself as their caring Father and Farmer (1:2; 5:1), is now their firm Judge and a consuming fire!
Looking around at Israel’s wickedness and unworthiness (Ch. 1-5), Isaiah recollects his own call and begins narrating his vision. The scene is an awesome reality of Yahweh, a holy God, high and enthroned above all powers. In His presence are the Seraphim—fiery, angelic beings crying out, “holy, holy, holy!” Beyond this allusion to the Trinity, this scene only intensifies the recognition of Almighty God’s glory, as with six wings the angels cover their faces and feet and fly to do His bidding. Perceiving God’s absolute holiness reveals to Isaiah his utter sinfulness as he cries out, “Woe is me! I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5) After having a vision of who God really is, Isaiah realizes he belongs to a people who are also profane and doomed. All of us have eyes, but few receive a vision. A personal vision of God leads to a burden for His mission.
Where there is no vision, people perish. Yes, people need the Lord’s salvation, but a need does not necessarily constitute a call. What God’s people need first and foremost is divine revelation in order to recognize that we who are not holy belong to an absolutely holy God! Our sins separate us from Him. When we entertain sin in our hearts, He will not hear or talk to us! Like Moses and David we must yearn for His glorious presence more than anything else. Only then we will sense His heart of compassion for the lost.
This must be our prayer: “Open my eyes Lord, I want to see you, my glorious Lord and Savior!” It is easy to condemn others, but judgment begins at the house of God. We must cry, “Woe is me!” before “Send me!” Only once we have looked upward in awe and taken a hard look inward can we look outward and perceive people’s real needs. In outlining the believer’s biography, Paul shows how we all move from the grave, through grace to glory! (Eph. 2:1-7)
2. Cleansing before Commissioning
Isaiah understands that sinful people cannot survive in God’s sacred presence. Something has to make them worthy enough to be there. But how is this possible? In spite of the evil around or within, our Yahweh reigns from above. He is the righteous judge of all the earth. God Himself takes the initiative to help out of His mercy. So in the vision, an angel takes a live coal off the brazen altar of sacrifice and symbolically touches it to Isaiah’s lips, representing the cleansing of his life. Only then does Isaiah hear those assuring words: “Behold… your sin is atoned for.” This foreshadows the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Lamb, who one day would take away all the sins of the whole world (Jn. 1:29).
On the Day of Atonement, when the nation of Israel would repent from their sins and turn to Yahweh, the coal from the altar of sacrifice was brought to the Holy Place to ignite the incense (Lev. 16:12). Our sin separates us from God. It blocks our communication with him and the flow of his blessings into our lives. We cannot come to God in faith without first turning from sinful ways in repentance. A change in heart is prerequisite for God’s grace to enable change in our lives. Comfort and special blessings are promised for all who mourn over their own sins and that of others! Once Isaiah’s symbolic cleansing takes place, he can truly sense God’s concern for sinful people.
God’s refining fire is His redeeming grace and the power of His love. Isaiah’s purification allows him to hear God’s call and heed it with God’s heart of compassion. This cleansing empowers him for worship, service, and global mission. Our postmodern world has left us thirsting for God. But God will not pour His living water for a thirsty world into dirty vessels. As vessels in God’s house, we are called to be clean and purge ourselves of anything that could bring Him dishonor. Only then can we be made fit to be used for the Master’s service (2 Tim. 2:21).
God, whose glorious name is ultimately at stake, is eager to get His saving Gospel to the ends of the earth. Whenever we respond to His, “Whom shall we send,” we are signing a co-mission with Him. Isaiah should have died, but God spared and cleansed him, and now wants Isaiah to partner with Him. Isaiah’s natural responds is, “Here am I, missio me!” Going for God is a by-product of experiencing His forgiving grace. With eyes on God, a pure life, and a heart burdened for the lost, you will also hear God’s call in response to His sovereign grace. It’s a no-brainer!