By Sally Lombardo
“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. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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!’… And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: … 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.'” (Isaiah 6:1-5, 9-10)
Chapter 6 is the much-quoted and beautiful description of Isaiah’s vision and how it changed his direction in life. However, the words are filled with contradiction and Isaiah’s dismay. Many people think this is the beginning of the book, but in truth, it comes after God has stated his sorrow and disappointment. God prepared Isaiah for what he will call Isaiah to do, just as he prepares us if we listen.
Isaiah 6 doesn’t contain the same comforting images about a fruitful vineyard; instead, this section reads like a narrative of doom. Yet Isaiah clearly hears God’s call into discipleship, and he responds in reverence and fear: “Here I am. Send me!” (v. 8). The tenuous dialogue is not unlike the calling of Samuel in the temple at Shiloh or the calling of Abraham or Moses. Each unlikely character hears the unmistakable voice of God, trembles, and responds, “You called me? Here I am!”
When he hears the assignment, Isaiah perhaps wanted to rethink his answer: Tell all Israel the Lord is blinding them, confounding them, causing them to become deaf. Isaiah has been listening to God’s disappointment, but he probably didn’t think he would have to announce ruin at the peril of being rejected, beaten, or exiled. We want happy assignments from God that announce love and peace for all people, but sometimes we are called to speak the truth. As humans, we will fall under God’s judgment and his discipline. If we listen and respond, however, it can cause us to return to a place where our eyes are open, and we can see the work of the Lord.
Why does it take so much for our loving God to get our attention? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
In our six-week small group Bible study on the book of 1 John, you are invited to live and celebrate true life in Christ. Throughout his first letter, John wrestles with the assurance of salvation. How do we know that we are genuine Christians, and how can we recognize authentic faith in others? The Apostle John taught that you can enjoy full assurance through believing in the incarnate Son of God, walking in the light of obedience, and loving God and his children. Embark on this study with us today!
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