The Privilege of Service: Isaiah 6
Introduction: God's Servants Must Have Convictions
There is a wonderful illustration of the value of servant hood that we can see by looking at the life of a superb musician.
The great violinist, Nicolo Paganini, willed his marvelous violin to Genoa -- the city of his birth -- but only on condition that the instrument never be played upon. It was an unfortunate condition, for it is a peculiarity of wood that as long as it is used and handled, it shows little wear. As soon as it is discarded, it begins to decay. The exquisite, mellow-toned violin has become worm-eaten in its beautiful case, valueless except as a relic. The moldering instrument is a reminder that a life withdrawn from all service to others loses its meaning.
The Bible says that we are ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. This makes us the highest representatives and servants of the supreme power of the universe (II Corinthians 5:19,20). This is an awesome responsibility and one which should humble us. To think that the God of creation would want to use us to be the only creatures on this earth capable of demonstrating His love and grace, is extremely overwhelming.
In the book of Isaiah chapter 6 we have the commissioning of another one of God's servants. The Lord wanted to use Isaiah to preach to His people Israel and warn them.
Lets look at the historical background of Isaiah's book first and see what God wanted His servant to tell them. And maybe it can help us, who are God's representatives today to preach to our generation about our Lord's message of judgement and love.
It was under the long 40 year reign of king Uzziah that Judah had reached the height of its power. Uzziah's fame is second only to that of Solomon. And during this time, he built up economic resources and military strength.
Isaiah began his ministry during a most critical point for both Israel and Judah. Uzziah of Judah had died, just shortly after the death of Jeroboam II of Israel, and at the beginning of the reign of Tiglath Pilezer of Assyria. In just a short period of time, Israel would fall to Assyria because God judged them for their sins. Now the future of Judah was uncertain. The message of Isaiah is mostly to urge Judah not to go the way of her sister Israel in the North.
In this commissioning, the Lord had come to Isaiah and caused him to become convicted of several facts, before sending him out to be a prophet. And these convictions are what every servant of the Lord needs to have in order to be effective. With that in mind, let us look at Isaiah's convictions.
I. God is Holy
In verses 1 through 6, Isaiah sees a vision of God sitting on His throne. In this vision, the Lord's royal robes are filling the temple. And Isaiah sees the Seraphim flying around the throne crying: "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory!"
The repeating of this attribute of God is to emphasize that God is completely and totally holy. God's holiness is one of the essential attributes of His nature. It includes absolute moral perfection. This doesn't mean that He's subject to some law or standard. Rather it means that all moral law and perfection have their eternal unchangeable basis in His own nature.
Our God is totally separate from all that is sinful, and cannot look upon sin. If a person has an understanding of the holiness of God, the thing that sticks out is his own sinfulness. Like a smudge of dirt on a totally white piece of paper, our sinfulness shows up when we are near a holy God. This brings us to the next conviction of God's servant.
II. Sin is Filthy
A servant of the Lord needs to understand the filthiness of their sin. Isaiah saw himself through God's eyes. In verse 5 his reaction was this:
"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am ruined; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
God absolutely cannot stand sin. It runs directly counter to His holy nature. Sin can be defined as a lack of conformity to the the moral law of God. It is a failure to live up to what God expects of us in act, thought, and being.
Ultimately sin is simply a failure to let God be God. It is placing something else, in the supreme place that He alone fills. Before we can be all that God wants us to be, we need to fully realize how utterly filthy and evil sin is. Indeed, without the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary in our place, it would totally separate us from God's presence forever. We deserve Hell. God, by His grace, has given to believers what we don't deserve; heaven and His presence forever. In Romans 7:18 Paul says:
"I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwells no good thing...."
Just like Isaiah and Paul, we need to see ourselves as totally ruined apart from God's grace. But the servant can't stay there. God loved us too much to leave us in that horrible condition. That is the next conviction.
III. God's Servant is Forgiven
In Isaiah 6:6,7 we see one of the seraphim bringing a live coal in his hand from the altar, which he had taken with tongs, and laid it upon the lips of Isaiah. Then the seraph said:
"This has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is purged."
God was able to purge Isaiah's sin, because God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, would one day, by one offering, take care of sin forever (Hebrews 10:14). All who accept His gift of salvation can, like Isaiah, have their sins purged. And we can say, with the apostle Paul:
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
And, if we are truly believers, we will be thankful for what the Lord has done for us. And we'll see other men, women and children that are in the place that we once were, and have compassion for them. Which leads us to the next conviction. The fact that others need forgiveness. .
IV. Others Need Forgiveness
In verses 8 and 9 Isaiah is confronted with the need of his people. These verses tell us:
"Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then said I, "Here am I, send me!"
Isaiah knew his people would continue down the wrong path and end up destroyed, if he didn't let God send him to them to warn them to turn away from their evil. Today, there are people also going down the wrong path. They are headed for a Christless eternity in Hell.
The interesting thing is that, if we were to see a drowning man in a river, we'd probably do all that we could to help him. Well, there are people dying every day and going to Hell. We have to start seeing them, and loving these people, and telling them about God's grace through Christ. This leads us to the final conviction of a true servant of God.
V. Service Costs Commitment
In verses 10 through 13 Isaiah was told that the nation wouldn't listen, and they would end up going into captivity. But he was supposed to remain faithful anyway. Today, we have no guarantee that the people will listen to us either. But we are just responsible for planting the seed. However, it may fall upon the wrong, soil and nothing will come of it. We plant. Someone else waters, but God gives the increase.
There is also the possibility that commitment may cost us our life. Traditionally, Isaiah himself was placed inside a hollow log and sawn in two. Then there are people like Jim Elliot, and other missionaries, who were killed by the Auca Indians of Ecuador. These were the people that these missionaries were sent to evangelize. The good news for the Aucas is that they eventually came to know the Lord because of the efforts of these brave missionaries.
So there they are. The convictions of a true servant of God. What about you? Do you esteem your salvation too lightly? Or do you take seriously the privilege of your calling as God's highest representative. We are saved to serve, and not to sit around idly, waiting for the Lord to return. But in order to do this, we have to believe that there is a holy God who hates sin. He has sent His Son into the world to die for sin, in order to forgive us and make us holy, as He is holy. We also must believe that there is a lost and dying world in need of what we have to offer them.
Do you really believe this? Then I urge you, as I urge myself. Let's do something about it. May we all follow the example of godly Isaiah and say: "Here am I, send me!" It may be the hardest thing that you have ever done, But I guarantee, that it will be worth it, in the end.
© 2012 Jeff Shirley