The reading from Isaiah 6:1-13 asks a curious question: “Who will go for us?” Why was this phrase used? It is because it is a foreshadowing of the Trinity. This passage is the most famous call of a prophet in the Bible. It is regularly offered as one of the readings for Trinity Sunday, apparently due to the thrice-repeated cry of “Holy.” The three cries were made to the three members of the Trinity.
The Trinity is a necessary part of salvation. In John’s Gospel, Jesus talks about having descended from heaven, being the only-begotten Son of the Father (who loves the world and has sent him to save it), and of the Spirit who blows like the wind, bringing new life and new truth. The Trinity tells us who God is, what God does and what God is like. The relationship between the members of the Trinity is part of a crucial way of understanding not only God but His involvement in the world.
God eludes our grasp, so we make God into something we can manipulate. We try to fit God into the confines of reason or locate God in our established institutions, moral codes and household idols. We pay lip-service to God with hearts that are far from God. The Trinity was created in an attempt to describe God. God may be unseen, but He is revealed in Isaiah’s vision. Isaiah said that he saw the Lord. The doctrine of the Trinity is expressed here. We, like Isaiah, confess that God has been seen in Jesus.
The story of salvation in Jesus Christ teaches that we can’t talk about God in only singular terms. There is relationship with God. Three persons in a dynamic relationship that is held together by love. The relationship between God and the world flows out of a relationship of love that exists between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A changed world reveals the gracious God who walks among us in Jesus and is present in and with us through the Holy Spirit. This is the God who wants to draw us into the divine life. We can’t help but continually set out the clear invitation to come and find life. Come and love and worship the Living God-Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom be glory in the world and in the church forever.
Isaiah’s vision was one of the most powerful witnesses to an encounter with God’s breaking into human life in a life-changing way. God is always present, moving gently and sometimes dramatically in people’s lives. For Isaiah, being unclean relates to sin, or what people do to hurt others. Isaiah said he was unclean, lost and in desperate need of forgiveness-just like all of us. God heard Isaiah, and Isaiah was forgiven. Isaiah proclaimed God’s promise that those who have seen the Lord and confessed their sins are forgiven and made free. God’s presence doesn’t destroy. It cleanses, liberates and commissions. Jesus was God incarnate. The Holy Spirit is God among us today.
Isaiah’s vision revealed his own sinfulness. He saw himself as a man of unclean lips whose sinfulness disqualified him from joining the seraphim in praise. This experience of God’s majesty in verses 1-4 led to Isaiah’s repentance in verse 5 as well as forgiveness and commissioning for God’s work. Anyone who would tell God’s people to repent must first experience God’s forgiveness.
Isaiah sensed God’s holiness. Sovereignty is the powerful nature of God. Holiness is the moral nature of God. He is pure, complete and whole. Isaiah also saw that God’s holiness is a matter of “doing”. God’s will can’t be known. His purity can’t tolerate sin.
It is for these reasons that our worship must focus on God’s character. We must wait in God’s Holy presence until the Holy Spirit comes. We should expect a glimpse of His glory. Our holiness begins in His glorious presence. It gives us the promise that we are imprinted with His character. God’s loving forgiveness leads to a response of service. That is our pattern as Christians: we love and serve and give in thankful response to what God has given us in Jesus Christ.
So how should we react when we see the Holy character of God? We should feel anguish for our sin. When we see God, our sin is exposed. We can only cry “woe” not for others but for ourselves. Our spiritual sensitivity to sin is dulled because we have lost sight of a holy God. We need to see His holiness, feel the shaking pillars and smell the rising smoke that causes us to cry, “Woe is me, for I am undone.”
If our lips are unclean, so are our hearts. When we see God’s holiness, we are reminded that we are unworthy and deserve judgment. For Isaiah, the term “unclean lips” had another meaning. Whether he had already been pronouncing “woes” upon the people of Israel, or would soon do so, he was called to speak for God. But, upon seeing the holiness of God and catching a glimpse of God’s glory, Isaiah asked, “How can I speak for God without a heart like God?” Every preacher, teacher and witness for the Word of God must ask the same question. If there is sin in our hearts, our lips will betray us.
We are spiritually bankrupt. We may have all the good works in the world in our bank account, but apart from Christ, they’re worthless. It’s like going to the grocery store and trying to pay with Monopoly money. The only solution we have is to trust in the currency we’re given in Christ, who credited our account with an unlimited supply of grace. In Him, we’re no longer bankrupt. We get to experience His riches for eternity.
The live coal from the altar of God reminds us that behind the love that takes our guilt and the forgiveness that atones for our sins is a Cross that extracted a cost-no less than the life of the Son of God. Once we are touched by God’s purifying fire, we can hear God speak with a passionate fire-a passion that is missing from many Christians today. Satan flees before people who are ignited by the fire of God.
All of Israel needed to be shaken by Isaiah’s vision of the Lord. The vision reinforced His sovereignty over all the universe. God promised to preserve a remnant through whom He would come to set up an ultimate reign of peace and justice. Scripture reveals the unfolding story of God’s plan to redeem the world. From the very start, the plan took shape in the lives of people like Abraham, Moses, David and countless others. God looks to people today to live out His plan. Will you let Him use you? You don’t have to be afraid. Our fear decreases as our understanding of God increases. God can do what we can’t do.
Our hearts need to be cleansed so we can represent Him with the words of our lips. This is a continual process. It’s easy to be swayed away and think we are being used by God because of our works of righteousness. It isn’t about us. It is about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit. We need to ask them to send us. We need to respond to their call and set our eyes on their majesty, awesomeness and purity. We are not worthy to be used but they have made a way to wash us through the blood of Christ so that we can speak for them from a cleansed heart. All we have to say is, “Here I am! Send me.”
As Isaiah carried his message to his people, giving them a vision of hope in a time of judgment, so God today calls the church into action, to be a people with eyes to see, ears to hear, and consciences no longer dulled, moving into the world, like Jesus to touch others, bringing healing to the lost, sight to the blind, life to the dying, that all the world might bow down before the Holy One and then be lifted up to praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
So how can we be certain that we have a true call from God? We can’t rest until we step out from the safety of our lives and launch into what we believe God is calling us to do. A good test is to ask if we are gifted for what we believe we are being called to do. God will give us the skills and resources we need. We possess one of three things-time, resources and unique abilities. We can be the people God uses to reach the unreached.
Another test of God’s call is to try doing in a small way what we feel we are being called to do. For example, if someone feels called to be a teacher, he or she can learn a subject well and offer to teach a small class in his or her church. If God has called or led us to do it, He will help us. But we need to do our part too. No matter what skills we may have, we can’t help someone unless we are available.
Over 200 years ago, a humble shoe cobbler named William Carey stood before a group of ministers in London, England. He said to those men, “God has put it on my heart to reach the masses with the Gospel message and take seriously the command of Christ to take the Gospel to the world.” One minister stood up and said, “Young man, sit down. When God chooses to save the pagan, He’ll do it in His own time and in His own way.” That didn’t stop William Carey. He went to India, led countless people to Christ, and sparked the modern missions movement.
All it took was one little shoemaker in England to change the world for Christ. And he did it even though many people, even Christians, were against Him going. That was a bold testimony of faith!
What would our lives look like if we served God with that kind of enthusiasm? Where would we go? What would we do? We need to take a bold step of faith today and tell God, “Wherever…whatever…I’m yours!” Isaiah was told to go into the world. Our own involvement in the world, its people and its transformation can never be separated from our faith in the missionary God we discover in Jesus and through the Spirit.
There is so much that God wants to do in our lives through His word. He wants to change us by renewing our minds. He wants to empower us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. There’s an aspect of the transformation He wants for us that doesn’t come from renewed minds, or by greater dependence on the Holy Spirit, but only through a personal spiritual encounter with God himself. God might not give us the same kind of vivid experience that Isaiah had, and He will probably meet us through His word and through prayer, or maybe in a meeting, maybe even in a totally unexpected place, but He will reveal Himself to us personally.
For people today to answer the call of God, there must be an awareness and acceptance of the pain and suffering that comes with the call. It is a tough place to live, especially in a world that is engrossed in comforts and pleasures. Why answer God’s call if we don’t have to? We can be saved, live a nice life and wake up in heaven. Why answer God’s call? There is only one reason, one answer, to that question: to have the experience of standing before the throne of God and hearing His voice. We must be willing to step out and be sent. Are you ready? Do you want more? if so, then start praying. Read the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah to learn more about their lives and how God called them. You will never know all God has for you until you let go and ask Him to send you out. That is our great Commission.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 887)
- McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 17: Isaiah 1-39 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1993; pp. 106-116)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- “Use Me.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Max Lucado, “God is Able.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Here am I! Send Me.” Retrieved from dailydisciples.org
- Jack Graham, “What It Really Means to Surrender Your Life.” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org
- Harold Sala, “Missions.” Retrieved from www.guidelines.org
- Richard Innes, “The Baffling Call of God.” Retrieved from actsweb.org
- Jack Graham, “The Only Cure for Spiritual Bankruptcy.” Retrieved from www.jackgraham.org
- “To See Him Face to Face.” Retrieved from dailydisciples.org
- Epiphany Esources, Trinity Sunday (B). Retrieved from email@example.com
- Micah Pearsons, “Isaiah 6:1-8.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “Choose Somebody Else! Reflections on Isaiah 6:1-8.” Retrieved from http://www.patheos.com/progressive-christian/choose-somebody-else
- “Disclosing New Worlds, Trinity Year B.” Retrieved from http://disclosingnewworlds.net/trinity-year-b
- Ron Starenko, “Holy Trinity Sunday.” Retrieved from http://crossings.org/text-study/holy-trinity-sunday-2/
- Pastor Ed Markquart, “An Awesome Holiness: Isaiah.” Retrieved from http://www.sermonsfromseattle.com/series_c_awesomeholiness.htm