Every time I get up to speak at church or at a retreat I think of the irony. Who would have ever imagined the guy I used to be standing up here and teaching the Bible for crying out loud! And the thought has often come to me, “what am I doing here?!” You think it’s odd for me? Think about Isaiah!
“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 filled with 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
I’ve read this passage a bunch of times but today I wanted to stop and think about Isaiah’s point of view. Can you imagine being this guy? This is a horrifying scene! There are these six winged angelic beings calling out to one another in some language and somehow, Isaiah was able to interpret it. What did that sound like? In my mind it sounds loud and foreign and mysterious and glorious and the result is that the whole foundation of the thresholds were shaking (violently) and the whole place was filled with smoke.
Isaiah responded in a way that made total sense. “What am I doing here? I’m a dead man! Woe is me! This is it. I don’t belong here because I’m a sinner and all my friends are sinners. What AM I DOING HERE?!”
Isaiah thought he was a dead man. He knows the scriptures, “nobody can see the face of God and live.” And now he understands it in vivid HD quality.
It’s in this moment that one of those strange and frightening six winged creatures flies at him. Can you imagine this? I get wigged out when a moth or a bee flies in my face. Can you imagine seeing a full grown 6 winged angel coming at you in the midst of this scene? It doesn’t say he was armed, but it’s got to be intimidating and especially since he sees it as totally appropriate to die in this moment as an unclean one in the presence of the Lord of hosts!
But the angel does something surprising. He takes a coal and in an act of divine mercy and grace, cleanses him. I’m not sure what the coal did for Isaiah exactly, but it did the trick. Isaiah was made clean and immediately he became aware of a conversation going on. It was the trinity talking things over. “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
I think that question might have been rhetorical in the sense that of course God is not asking a question as though he is undecided. It was already pre-determined or he wouldn’t have bothered cleansing Isaiah. The question was more, “Isaiah, are you ready to go?” But he asked it generally because it applies to more than just Isaiah.
How great is it that God invites sinners into his presence, cleanses us and sends us out in his glorious mission to proclaim his excellencies to the world.
I know that’s what he has done with me. As Jen and I enter into a phase of raising financial support for our ministry, this serves a great reminder to us that we are a part of this mission by God’s mercy (2 Corinthians 4:1) and that it is a glorious work. God has taken broken people like us and brought us into his great epic story! What am I doing here?!
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