Volunteering to step up and become involved seems to be getting less popular in Western society. Often it seems that people do not realise they have any responsibility to do anything – after all, we pay taxes so let the government take care of it! And this can often been seen in Christians – let the preacher or elders do it. Yet this is not the way God has worked throughout history. We see this clearly in the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah was a man who volunteered to step up when God needed him to give his message to the Judah and Jerusalem. We might be quick to state that Isaiah didn’t really volunteer but that God selected him. While this might be true, it wasn’t that God forced Isaiah to be a prophet but that he presented an opportunity for Isaiah to volunteer to serve.
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: with two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1-7 NIV)
Can you imagine seeing what Isaiah saw? The scene is not dissimilar to what John saw when he was taken into the throne room of God in Revelation 4. Around God were heavenly beings, flying and shouting the praise of God, to the extent that the entire temple was shaking as if in an earthquake and it was filled with smoke. Isaiah was distraught at having seen the Lord, knowing the sin in his life and nation.
“‘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.’ Then one of the seraphim 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 6:1-7)
It was then that he heard the voice of the Lord himself asking who would be willing to volunteer to do his work.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)
God then gave Isaiah a message to tell his people. When God gives someone a work to do, he also warns them what they can expect. He told Isaiah that this would not be a popular message. In fact it would be a message that the people really wouldn’t even understand. After all, in their minds, this message couldn’t apply to them – they were God’s people.
Isaiah also inquired as to how long he would need to give this message. God told him: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken” (Isaiah 6:11-12). He was to continue declaring God’s message until there was no one left because everyone would be in captivity.
Is this not what God wants of us? God has good news that needs to be delivered to the people around us. It is not a popular message. Often, people do not understand it. But it is still a message we need to be proclaiming until we can no longer do it – or there is no one left to tell about Jesus.
May we have the same eagerness to volunteer to go wherever we are needed with the good news of Jesus. “Here am I. Send me!”
Readings for next week: 2 Kings 17; Isaiah 1-8