A nation was mourning the heartbreaking loss of its ruler. The good king Uzziah eleven years earlier presumptuously took upon himself the procedures of offering incense upon the altar in the Holies. Assuming a duty reserved only for God’s appointed priest, Uzziah suffered the consequences of leprosy as result of his arrogance.
However tragic this incident appears, the nation Israel still loved and respected this exceptional king in spite of his failure and so they lament his death. Isaiah, son of Amos, prophet of God, was one of the many that joined in morning the passing away of such an inspirational leader. As a priest in God’s court, Isaiah understood the full significance of King Uzziah’s failure. Isaiah witnessed the isolation of the king who ended his days dwelling in a separate home as a leper, never again to sit as monarch upon a throne that by right was his to occupy.
It was with heavy heart and mourning soul that Isaiah joined with his countrymen in bereaving the death of this otherwise good king. It was at this low point of national sorrow and personal grief that Isaiah son of Amos would experience the call of God to become Isaiah the prophet.
Isaiah 6:1 NIV
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Isaiah saw in a vision a throne of authority, one that Uzziah had been forced to abdicate as a result of failure, the Lord seated with all His royal glory filling the temple. Angelic beings of great wonder hovered singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.” And this young man named Isaiah discovered the complete undoing of his countryman and self.
Isaiah 6:5 NIV
5 “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.”
The next two experiences would forever be etched in the mind of the prophet. First, a seraph took with tongs a hot coal from the same altar Uzziah had defiled and touched the unclean lips of Isaiah purifying him instantly from the fact and sense of failure. At that moment Isaiah was a cleansed man fit for master’s use. Secondly, he heard the voice of God looking for a cleansed vessel fit for the master’s use which He could send for service.
Isaiah 6:8 NIV
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
Realizing the immediacy of his opportunity Isaiah cried with longing voice, “Here I am. Send me!” Every individual who experiences the cleansing power, knows the joy of deliverance and hears the call of God in fast succession reacts in the same manner as Isaiah. Service for God cannot come soon enough. The treasure of God’s gift must be dispensed immediately without wasted time or hesitation; that is until we discover what the duty is exactly.
Isaiah 6:9-10 NIV
9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘“Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
What kind of a message is that? Where’s the Good News for Modern man? This message sounds more like a word of sorrow, judgment and condemnation. Surely God cannot be serious in using my newly found talent and gift in such a negative manner. I was hoping to build a ministry of positive influence that would ignite the world in hope and reformation. Instead I am to become a barer of bad tidings? It’s without any reservation we can understand why Isaiah, the newly called prophet, would ask the question,
Isaiah 9:11 NIV
11 Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?”…
Is this to go on for all my life? Is this what I signed up for when I answered, “Here I am. Send me?” Will there ever be an end to the negative message and an open door for my real talent and gift? And the Lord answers Isaiah:
Isaiah 6:11 NIV
11 “…Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, 12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken.”
That was to be Isaiah’s ministry. He would become a proverbial harbinger of death. He would be the man who had God’s word and would challenge others to repent. The whole of his family and life would be a sign of repentance and hope for Israel from a pessimistic viewpoint. Yet, out of such a negative ministry God promises to spring hope and life.
Isaiah 9:13 NIV
13 “And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
Though flattened and stamped down, the point being, there is a holy seed of hope that remains. It maybe a stump in the land, but it’s still God’s stump of hope. The ministry of Isaiah radiates the possibility of hope after calamity. When the night is at its darkest hour, the light of God shines the brightest. Hope reigns eternal and possibilities are endless in such dark circumstances.
What is the key? Have the heart of Isaiah that is willing to say, “Here I am. Send me” into what You have called me to do with whatever message you give me to speak. To demand something outside of His call is to presume as Uzziah. Even this good king lost his bearing and demanded to do something he thought would be more worthwhile with his life. As if being king wasn’t enough he presumed to be priest, and that brought him to his sad conclusion. It’s when we obey God and stop asking “How long must I do this” that we see the Lord High and lifted up!
J. Robert Hanson