Who will go for us?

Reading: Isaiah 6.1-8
Have you ever been lost? Properly lost, not knowing where you are or where you are going? Perhaps you thought you knew. Perhaps you were full of confidence - didn't even consult the map, didn't even bring the map! And now you think, "There's something wrong here! I don't recognise all this! I think I'm lost!" That awful sinking feeling! That embarrassment! That despair!

Have you ever been lost from God? Perhaps you were - thought you were! - just so smart, didn't need God - so you thought! - would put it all together yourself, be your own boss... Then perhaps the awful feeling came over you - quite a while later maybe - that you'd lost your way in life, that life was really rather senseless, that all you were doing was hollow...

H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw were brilliant men who rejected God and the Bible. They trusted their own systems of belief, based on human reason. Yet they couldn't find lasting peace, and slowly lost confidence in what they believed. Wells' final literary work has been aptly called "a scream of despair." Shortly before Saw died in 1950 he wrote, "The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, have led directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once, In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith."

The Christian faith isn't based on a way of life devised by human reason, but on the God who has revealed himself. The human race needed rescue. We had closed the doors. We had misused reason for our own selfish ends of living autonomously. God has revealed himself as the Trinity, one God in three Persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father has planned and loved from eternity. The Son, one with the Father in creation, came into human history for our redemption. The Holy Spirit was poured out on believing people at Pentecost to apply the work of Christ for our transformation, enlivening and empowering us from within.

Doomed!

About eight hundred years before the coming of Jesus, a fellow named Isaiah had an amazing vision. We've heard of him, of course! The great famous Isaiah who wrote one of the books of the Bible, a very notable prophet of the Lord - what a vigorous person he must have been! But he was just plain Isaiah the son of Amoz.

He had a vision of "the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple" (Is. 6.1). And he saw strange angelic beings too - six wings each - standing around the Lord and covering their eyes, their bodies and at the same time flying! And they were calling out to each other, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory" (v. 3).

But surely Isaiah knew that! And we know it too, don't we? To even think about God we know he must be perfect, he must be right all the time, he must be the standard by whom all other actions are judged. When we think about all the evil and injustice in the world, we know in our hearts that it can't all go on forever!

Sometimes our life can be a kind of game - to see how long we can get away with it.

Of course, Isaiah knew it! But it struck him as it has never struck him before! God is holy and perfect - and he's not remote, comfortably far away from us. He's here! The whole earth is full of his glory!

Can you imagine what it felt like being as close to God as that? "Woe to me! 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" (v. 5). He felt lost from God and terrified in the presence of God. I mean, who wants to have a policeman right next to you as the needle climbs past 120? Who wants the judge to see firsthand all that is happening as it happens, before the case is brought to court?

No hope! Doomed!

Forgiven!

Just then one of the creatures flew down carrying a burning coal that he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched Isaiah's lips with it and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for" (v. 7).

Do you want to know that you are a sinner - condemned for the wrongs you have done in thought, word and deed, unfit to stand in the presence of a holy God? Who really wants to know that? Better to make up another god to follow! Better to adopt another religion! Better to keep away from such a God!

Recent times have seen the rise of the nonsense joke. How do you know there has been an elephant in your refrigerator? There are footprints in the butter! It's just a bit of nonsense. It's fun, but everyone knows it really isn't true.

But Isaiah was facing a situation where he couldn't engage in a game of "let's pretend." We too need to face the reality of God's holiness and our sinfulness - and that the true God, the holy God, wants to welcome us into his presence, wants to forgive us for all our sins. Do you want to be forgiven, to know the love of the holy God? Then stop playing a game of "let's pretend!" and come before him - sins and all - so that you can receive his forgiveness!

Sin is serious and forgiveness isn't cheap! Isaiah saw a coal taken off the altar. We see Jesus who died for our sins on the cross!

Sent!

But that isn't the end of the vision. Isaiah hears the Lord speaking. "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" (We have here one of those brief Old Testament glimpses of the oneness of God, yet the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. "Holy! Holy! Holy!") The Lord has a message to be taken to his people. It will not be an easy message, for they have been disobedient. Their sin is serious - they will face exile and their beloved land will become desolate.

Is there no forgiveness for the people, just as Isaiah has experienced it? Yes, the Lord's desire is forgiveness, but it cannot come while people persist in their sin. Even in the light of the coming of Jesus we have to repent and believe the gospel. If there had been repentance in Isaiah's time, Jewish history would have been different!

The Lord has a message to be taken to his people. Who is going to take it? In Isaiah's vision there is no other person present. The real question is whether he is going to be available to serve his Lord. "I will go! Send me!"

Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus. But now after cross and resurrection, Jesus is saying to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter has the painful reminder of his unfaithfulness, the knowledge of Jesus' love and forgiveness and a call to serve - "Take care of my lambs! Take care of my sheep!"

Doomed! Forgiven! Sent!

The Lord is here today! He is our heavenly Father, but we realise that he is perfect and holy - and we are sinners! Sometimes we become too comfortable, even flippant, in our worship. Have we realised the awesome, holy presence of the Lord! "The wages of sin is death…!" Doomed!

The Lord is here today! We haven't come to be doomed, but to acknowledge our need to be forgiven! Our Father loves us - so much in fact that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3.16). All sinners can turn to Jesus in repentance and hear the word, "Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for!"

The Lord is here today! He still has work to be done and a word to be spoken in our world! "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" If we have accepted his forgiveness, he is speaking to us. Are we available? He will not leave us alone. Through the Holy Spirit, his promised presence and power are available. But are we?

"Here am I. Send me!"


© Peter J. Blackburn, Home Hill and Ayr Uniting Churches, Trinity Sunday 18 June 2000
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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