*Welcome back to our Journey Through the Bible. I'm glad to be back after spending a few relaxing days away with Melody and Zander. I hope you had a great Labor Day weekend. Today, we are returning to the Book of Isaiah. We will spend some time in this rather long book regarding the prophet Isaiah. Last week, we began with a short overview of the book, and its background. While I will spend time looking at the first few chapters, I have to begin today with Chapter six. *You probably know me well enough by now to know that I don't go chapter by chapter. Chapter six actually introduces us to the prophet himself.
'In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on the throne and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me! I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'" (Isaiah 6:1-5)
In chapter six we find the commission of Isaiah. This is otherwise known as a "call narrative" where the prophet describes his experience of being drawn into divine service. The whole passage (chapter six) may be summarized by three simple words: woe, lo, and go. Isaiah's vision takes place in the temple. In his vision Yahweh is pictured as the great King. In Judean theology the ark of the covenant was regarded as a replica of the heavenly throne. In the above passage the divine king has a divine council of seraphs (or seraphim), meaning "fiery ones." The seraphim have six wings. With two wings they fly, with two wings they cover their faces, and with the other two they covered their feet. Feet, if I may remind you, may very well be an euphemism for genitals. Before you say, "Oh, now preacher!" it only would make sense that they would "cover their nakedness." By covering their faces they do not look into the face of God. But, Isaiah does, and he is frightened. In the past some who looked at God died, while others did not.
Isaiah is aware of God's splendor and holiness, while at the same time aware of his worthlessness. He claims that he is unclean. But then, "one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, 'See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." (Isaiah 6:6-7) By being cleansed by the seraph Isaiah may now speak for God.
The call narrative of Isaiah, though unique in many ways, shares various similarities with other call narratives in the Old Testament. Isaiah and Ezekiel have similarities to Moses' call experience at the burning bush. In each situation the individual is commissioned to go and deliver a message for God. After the "cleansing" Isaiah hears God's call: "Whom shall I send/ And who will go for us?" (Isaiah 6:8a) Once again, we are left to ponder the question: "Who is 'us'? Isaiah answers the call by proclaiming: "Here am I. Send me!" (Is. 6:8b)
Have you ever volunteered to do something before knowing what it was you were to do? I have on many occasions. My wife will ask: "Will you do something for me?" I'll lovingly respond: "Oh, honey, I'll do anything for you. Anything! Just name it." Yep, I should have learned by now to ask what it is that I am to do first. Well, Isaiah does not ask questions. He agrees to God's call before knowing what God wanted him to do. Now, if someone is called to preach today he or she would think that that would mean proclaiming the gospel and inviting folks to come to Christ. That was not what was involved in Isaiah's call.
"Go and tell this people: Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. make the heart of this people calloused..." (Is. 6:9-10a)
Hmm...How would you like a mission like that one. I have discovered that it is hard delivering a sermon that is not necessarily cheerful in nature. Sometimes I have to preach some hard stuff. But, Isaiah! He has the task of preaching to the people a sermon tilted: " No Matter How I Say It, You're Gonna Die!" Yep, his message is one of death. Judah is doomed! *Keep in mind, the first part of Isaiah is dealing with the time period before the exile. The Bible does not worry about chronological order. Most of the prophets will deal with the time before exile, during it, or after the return.
O.K., tomorrow we will start getting into the nitty gritty of the message of Isaiah. Join me tomorrow. -Pastor Rick