Isaiah: Prince of Prophets: “Called, Cleansed, and Commissioned”
Verse 1 mentions the death of King Uzziah. He was the tenth king of Judah and he was a very godly man. He was highly influenced by a prophet named Zechariah (though this is a different Zechariah) and, unlike many of the other kings, he never totally departed from the worship of the true God. Under his influence, the southern kingdom attained power, wealth and success unlike any it had enjoyed since the days of Solomon. Made heady by his success as king and by his blessings from the Lord, Uzziah made the mistake of offering incense in the Temple, 2 Chron. 26. He was stricken with leprosy by the Lord for his disobedience to the Lord. He died in that leprous condition! Disobedience to the Lord is a serious thing!
Well, evidently, Isaiah is disturbed by the death of the great king. After all, he had reigned for 52 years. His death signaled the end of a time of great prosperity and consistency. For Isaiah and the entire nation, it ushered in a time of uncertainty, change and doubt. Yet, for Isaiah, this is to be a time of rediscovery. Apparently Isaiah had his attention focused on Uzziah, but now that Uzziah is dead, his attention is redirected back to the Lord.
I. THE CALL OF ISAIAH (Isa. 6:1-4)
- Old Testament scholars have wondered why Isaiah places the story of his calling were he does
- Jeremiah, and Ezekiel both explain in the first paragraphs of their prophecies, how God called them to faith and prophetic ministry
- Ezekiel tells us that on the 5th day of the month in the 5th year of Judah’s exile he is on the bank of the Kebar River when God appears to Him from out of the whirlwind, and out of the whirlwind he hears a voice saying, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you ... I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their fathers have been in revolt against me to this very day.” (Ezek. 2:1-3)
- Jeremiah, begins his prophecy with the story of hearing the voice of God saying to him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:4-5)
- but Isaiah is different, he preaches three fiery messages of judgement to the inhabitants of Judah before revealing the story of his calling and prophetic commissioning
- I think that the reason why Isaiah’s vision is given in the sixth chapter and not in the first chapter is because the first five chapters are so tragically sad
- a fearful judgment is coming upon the inhabitants of Judah
- Isaiah’s commission was to bear a message of judgment and sorrow to a people of unclean lips
- by placing the story of his calling here, Isaiah vindicates God and vindicates the prophecies in chapters 1-5
- chapter six also provides a good transition into the prophecies that appear in chapters 7-12
- a sinful and rebellious nation can become the Lord’s servant by looking to Jehovah, and allowing Him to deal with Israel’s sin, just as he had done with Isaiah
A. GOD’S CALL IS ALWAYS IRRESISTIBLE
- “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:44, NIV)
- God is in the drawing business
- the Bible teaches that people are so ensnared in the quicksand of sin and unbelief that unless God draws them they are hopeless
- what a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard, sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit
- this drawing of God is not limited to a few
- “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32, NIV)
- this does not mean that all will be saved but that Gentiles as well as Jews will be saved
- the Father in Heaven will draw all kinds of men to His Son
- “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9, NIV)
- “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37, NIV)
- God used a worship service to call Isaiah tho his prophetic vocation
- "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke." (Isaiah 6:1-4, ESV)
- while there, he has a vision of God on His throne
- an what a vision it was!
- while he is mourning one king, he has a vision of Israel’s true King—it is Jehovah and He is more than adequate to provide for His people
II. THE CLEANSING OF ISAIAH (Isa. 6:5-6)
- Isaiah realizes that he has not business in such a holy setting
- it is such a frightful event that he pronounces a woe upon himself!
- “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5, NIV)
- in chapter five, Isaiah has pronounced a series of six woes upon Israel
- it is language predicting the death of a nation
- I am ruined means to be silenced, to be still, or unable to reply
- what does a mere mortal say when he or she finds him or her self stand in the midst of a heavenly worship service?
- he confesses that his lips are unclean and the he is a citizen of a nation of people full of unclean lips
- Isaiah and the people of Israel are unfit to praise or speak for God
- in speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus tells us that unclean lips is evidence of an unclean heart
- “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34, NIV)
A. THE ALTAR’S SACRIFICE WILL CLEANSE ISAIAH FROM HIS SIN
- “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, NIV)
- in Jewish thought, anything associated with the altar of burnt offering was seen as holy
- the coal that the seraph touches to Isaiah’s tongue is so closely connected to the holy altar that it shared the altar’s holy character
- this is a reference, I believe, to the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice
- “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8, NIV)
III. ISAIAH’S COMMISSIONING (Isa. 6:7-13)
- Isaiah now hears a voice calling out “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
- is this the voice of one of the seraphs or is it the voice of God
- it’s not readily apparent
- I think it’s the voice of God posing the question to His heavenly counsel
- Isaiah boldly volunteers—Here am I. Send me! (how different from Jonah!)
- it is here that the prophet is commissioned to be Judah’s prophet
- but the message is a hard one (vv. 9-13)
- yet there is hope—a tenth of the nation will survive
A. WE NEED TO SEE WHAT ISAIAH SAW
- v. 1 He Saw God’s Position - Isaiah saw God in His sovereignty. An earthly king may have died, but the Lord still reigned. He saw the Lord in all His glory. And, it had a profound impact on the life of Isaiah.
- vv. 2-3 He Saw God’s Personality - The angelic beings in the temple proclaimed the thrice holy nature of the God of Heaven. We need to remember that God’s prime characteristic is His holiness! Our duty before the Lord is to honor His holy nature by living holy lives before Him.
- v. 4 He Saw God’s Presence - We are told that the “house was filled with smoke”. This was a symbol of the presence of God. God was the central figure in the Temple! Isaiah was reminded, rather forcefully, that Uzziah might be gone, but the Lord was still there!
B. WE NEED TO SENSE WHAT ISAIAH SENSED
- v. 5 He Sensed His Own Condition - When Isaiah saw the Lord, he instantly realized that there were problems within his own heart. That is what happens when you get close to Him! Moving closer to God and seeing Him as He is, reveals the wickedness and sin in our own lives.
- vv. 6-7 He Sensed His Own Cleansing - Thank God, the Lord does not just point out our sins, He also provides a means for our cleansing! With Isaiah, it was an angel with a live coal from the altar. With us, it is the precious blood of Jesus, 1 John 1:7-9!
C. WE NEED TO SAY WHAT ISAIAH SAID
- He Said “I Am Available” - As soon as Isaiah gets His heart clean, he hears the call of the Lord to service.
- He Said “I Am Agreeable” - Isaiah not only told the Lord of His availability, but he also mentioned his agreeability! We was saying, “Lord, I am here to do what you want and I am willing to do what you want! Send me and let me go do what you want me to do!”