I distinctly remember her response because it was that response that drove the next eighteen years of my life. She smiled, and said, “Oh honey—” And you know the “Oh honey” that she said. It was the “Oh honey” that was saying, “There is no chance that you will ever live up to that dream—you are not capable of it.” But she continued. “Nicole, you can’t be a pastor. You’re a girl, and only men are allowed to be pastors. A girl pastor is just not done. The Bible even says so. It says that women must be silent in the church.”
I never wanted to go against the Word of God, so I suppressed the call that I felt. For eighteen years, I kept reminding myself that God could not use me. God called men and I was not a man. Therefore, I must be mistaken in my call. There was no way that I was what God wanted.
But haven’t we all felt that way at some point? We look at ourselves and think that there is no way that God would want us serving him? We look at our lives—our financial situation, family situation, education (or lack thereof) and we tell ourselves that there is no way that God can use me. How many of us here this evening have looked at ourselves and our situations and have kept ourselves from following God’s lead? But, I wonder, what kind of person do we think that God will call if he will not call us? We have all these excuses as to why we cannot possibly be who God would want to send, but what kind of person is the kind of person God would want to send?
So, today, as we read in Isaiah chapter 6, the question we are going to attempt to answer is: Who should God send?
I am reading from the New English Translation. Isaiah 6, beginning in verse one:
1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord seated on a high, elevated throne. The hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs stood over him; each one had six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and they used the remaining two to fly. 3 They called out to one another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! His majestic splendor fills the entire earth!’ 4 The sound of their voices shook the door frames, and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 I said, ‘Woe to me! I am destroyed, for my lips are contaminated by sin, and I live among people whose lips are contaminated by sin. My eyes have seen the king, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.’ 6 But then one of the seraphs flew toward me. In his hand was a hot coal he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Look, this coal has touched your lips. Your evil is removed; your sin is forgiven.’ 8 I heard the voice of the Lord say, ‘Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?’ I answered, ‘Here I am, send me!’ (NET)
Before we can dig into who God should send, we first need to establish God’s character. So, what does this passage reveal to us about God?
(v 1) First, God is on the throne. In the middle of a major political transition, Isaiah witnessed God sitting on the throne. And he was not merely sitting on the throne, but the hem of his robe filled the whole temple.
I am sure we all feel this acutely. We are also in the middle of a transition. A lot of us are worried about the future—who is going to have control and whether or not they will allow us to have the freedom that we feel like we need to properly serve God. But, God is on the throne. The hem of his robe fills the whole temple. There is not a single place in this world that his power does not touch. He is ruling, he is powerful, and he is who we need to be focusing on.
(vv 2-4) Second, God is Holy. Verses 2 and 3 outline this fact, not only by the angels proclaiming God’s holiness, but by the fact that merely being in the presence of God makes them praise him. These amazing creatures are so overwhelmed with the holiness and majesty of God, that they cannot help but praise his name and declare that he is holy and majestic—that his splendor fills the entire earth. God is so holy, and their praise so loud in response to God’s holiness, that the whole place shook.
The thing we must understand about the Holiness of God is that it is so overwhelming that encountering it will break us. If even the angels are overwhelmed with God’s holiness after experiencing it day after day, we cannot expect to experience the holiness of God and leave unaffected. We are not able to leave as we are.
Which brings us to verses 5-7. (vv 5-7). Isaiah is literally afraid for his life. You see, in his day, only the high priests were even allowed into the holiest place of the temple, and even then, they had to go through an intensive ritual cleansing to ensure they would not die. Just to be on the safe side, the priests would go into to the holiest place with a rope tied around their waist so that if they died, the other priests would be able to pull their bodies out without having to go in after them. The holiness of God was feared by the people of Israel because their sin could not abide in the presence of God, and it would destroy them in his presence. So, Isaiah pretty much pronounced himself dead right then and there because he knew he was sinful—and not only that, he knew that the people he lived among were sinful. “I am a sinner who lives among sinners, and my eyes have seen the definition of holiness and my sin is going to destroy me. I am so dead!”
But, the third Characteristic of God is that He wants to forgive and cleanse us. Isaiah knows he is a sinner, and he has basically accepted the fact that he is going to die—but he doesn’t. Why? Because a Seraph, a servant of God, touches him with a piece of coal.
Now, the coal touching Isaiah’s lips has dual significance. First, the coal could be see as a symbol of God’s word. According to Adam Clark, “The word of prophecy was put into the mouth of the prophet from off the altar. That is, from the altar of burnt offerings, before the door of the Temple, on which the fire that came down at first from heaven was perpetually burning. It was never to be extinguished” (Clark). But second, the coal symbolized purification. “Look, this coal has touched your lips. Your evil is removed; your sin is forgiven” (v 7).
Now, I am a bit of a nerd and I love doing word studies and digging into the Greek and Hebrew. When I looked at this verse, I noticed the Hebrew word for removed had a special significance (at least for me). The word for “removed” is “סוּר” or cuwr. The word has a visual similarity to the English word “cure” and means “to cause to turn aside, cause to depart, remove, take away, put away, depose, to put aside, leave undone, retract, reject, abolish” (blueletterbible.org). The significance of this should not be understated because, not only is the evil removed, it is removed forever—abolished and cured. God not only wants to forgive us, he wants to cure us. He does not just want to remove our past sins, he wants to remove the disease of sin altogether.
(v 8). God is calling. Isaiah hears the voice of God ask who he should send—who would even be willing to go? Did you notice that? “Who will go on our behalf?” God wasn’t asking who was capable, he was asking who was willing. It makes one wonder why God would even have to ask that.
Why did God feel the need to ask who would be willing to go? Why was it that there was a lack of people willing? Was it because of the political unrest in Israel at the time? Was it because people were so sinful that they would be completely blinded by their sin? Was it because people would be convinced they were unequipped and, therefore, unusable?
But do we not realize that we are not the only ones who hold those fears?
You see, we live in a world where people are afraid, angry, confused, and depressed. Outside the doors of the Church is an entire world of people who are lost. They don’t know that God is on the throne. They don’t know that God is holy. They don’t know that they are contaminated by sin. Really, they don’t even know what sin is, because the one who is the measurement for holiness is unknown to them.
Most of these people don’t even know they are lost. To paraphrase Romans 10:14, how will they know if they have not heard? But who is going to tell them? Who is willing to tell them?
We don’t need to dig far into our current situation to find parallels between us and Isaiah. From verse one on, we can easily relate. King Uzziah died. There was a lot of fear among the people of Israel because, although there was someone to step in as king, no one really knew what kind of king they would be. Would he honor God or allow pagan idols to have their high places in Israel? Would he be a kind and just king or would he rule with bitterness and cruelty? Would his reign bring peace or war in the land? No one knew, and the people were fearful.
But Isaiah very clearly saw God. And not only did he see God, but God was seated on the throne. Isaiah was reminded that God was still in charge. Even if the next king was a horrible failure, God was still going to work out his will throughout the situation.
It is easy to get caught up in political issues like that. We begin to lose our focus because of elections, or leaders being appointed. We stop focusing on loving our neighbors because we are too concerned with who is seated on the throne of our nation. But, you guys, God is already there. We might not see it in the moment, but God is still on the throne and he will stay there.
So, let’s not lose focus on what is really important here. God is on the throne, and no election is going to pull him off.
Isaiah found himself in the same situation. He saw God seated on the throne and that showed him that the focus on leadership was the wrong one. Then, Isaiah worried that his sin might be the issue. But God took that fear away by getting rid of his sin.
So, again, Isaiah was left to wonder at what his focus should be on. Then, God asked a question. “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
But what does that have to do with you? You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, God didn’t call me to be a preacher or go overseas as a missionary, so God doesn’t want me.” And if you are thinking that then you would be wrong.
“Every believer is saved to serve; he is ipso facto from the time of conversion a witness for God. But note that Isaiah was invited by the query, Who will go for us? [v 8]. God can only use willing, loving service” (Archer).
If you notice, God never actually called Isaiah. God was asking those in the throne room who he should send. Isaiah was merely eavesdropping on a heavenly conversation. But what do you think he did when God asked that question?
Did he excuse himself by saying, “Well, God isn’t asking me so he must not want me”? Did he ignore God’s question? Did he leave? No. Instead, Isaiah stepped forward, boldly approaching God’s throne, and volunteered for the job.
But do you realize that God is still asking that same question? “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” As you hear that question today, what will your response be?
Today, I am asking you what your response to God is. God is asking. So, how are you going to answer? Is your answer to ignore the question entirely? Are you going to make the excuse that your life is just too messed up for God to use—you are a person of contaminated lips and beyond God’s redemption? Are you going to tell God that since he didn’t ask you directly that he must not really want you? Or are you going to answer like Isaiah?
If your answer is “Here I am! Send me!” I invite you to boldly declare it. Post a comment, shoot me a message, contact your pastor and tell them! Please, do not hold yourself back from answering God's call any longer.
As we have been digging into this passage, we have been asking the question: Who should God send? Who will God send?
Each of us holds the answer the that question right here and right now. Because the answer to the question “Who should God send?” is simply, “whoever is willing to go.” I am willing! Are you?As we go about our daily lives, let us be reminded that exiting this blog post means entering a world full of people dying to know our savior. We are entering a world desperate for the hope that we have in Christ. Do not close your ears to the prompting of God to minister to those who are hurting. Do not close your hearts to the pull from God to love those around you. As we go, let us be God’s reflection in our community. Now “Go and make disciples.”