Surrendered, Changed, and Commissioned
by Cynthia Bowen
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Isaiah 6:1-8 (Amplified)
In the year that King Uzziah died, [in a vision] I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirts of His train filled the [most holy part of the] temple.
Above Him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two [each] covered his [own] face, and with two [each] covered his feet, and with two [each] flew.
And one cried 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 cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone and ruined, because 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!
Then flew one of the seraphim [heavenly beings] to me, having a live coal in his hand which he had taken with tongs from off the altar;
And with it he touched my mouth and said, Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity and guilt are taken away, and your sin is completely atoned for and forgiven.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
In the sixth chapter of Isaiah, the prophet has an amazing vision of the Almighty God. However, he prefaces his description by this statement that defines the times in which he lives: "in the year that King Uzziah died".
In 2 Chronicles 26, we learn about Uzziah. He was enthroned at age 16 and ruled for 52 years, a long reign when compared to many of his contemporaries. Because he sought God, the Lord helped him when fighting surrounding enemies. He built towers in Jerusalem and had them equipped with war machines for defense. He had a well-trained army with plenty of supplies. The Bible records, "His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful."
Uzziah's reign was considered a prosperous, golden time for Israel. We also learn of his downfall in the same chapter, however. In pride, he entered the temple to burn incense to God, a job to which he was not called or anointed to perform. When he was confronted by the priests, he did not respond with appropriate repentance and humility. Instead he became angry and raged at the priests in front of the table of incense, and leprosy broke out on his forehead. He fled from the temple because God had judged his pride and arrogance. His son Jotham was set as king in his stead, and Uzziah lived in a separate house until his death.
It was at this point in history that Isaiah sees God. King Uzziah was dead, and this was a defining event in Isaiah's mind. Jotham's coregency with his father had now become his own reign. The age of prosperity Israel had enjoyed under Uzziah's leadership would surely be threatened and might not continue. The known and familiar was gone. Change loomed on the nation's horizon, challenging the status quo. This was the setting Isaiah was facing. His world was changing and it was uncomfortable.
This was also just the place God wanted Isaiah. All the uncertainty that Isaiah was facing was preparing his heart for his divine appointment with the sovereign God. He lifts his eyes and his vision is filled with more beauty and hope than Isaiah could have imagined. Instead of a dead king with no remaining influence, Isaiah was confronted with a vision of God Himself.
Isaiah sees God, and He doesn't look worried over the changing political climate in Israel. He is sitting, not pacing back and forth wringing His hands. God is sitting on His throne where He has been all along. He is high and lifted up with angelic beings crying out His praises. The One Who was truly in control during Uzziah's days is still on His throne. Isaiah's, as well as Israel's, future is not uncertain and hasn't truly changed at all.
Does Isaiah's situation sound familiar? Change is the catch phrase of politicians and businessmen today. Shifting economies, governmental ideas, and relationships somehow catch us unaware. We are comfortable with the old ways, even if they aren't perfect or ideal. Comfort will cause us to cling to outdated ideas. It will cause us to grasp the passing season desperately, unwilling to walk into the new thing coming to our lives. Instead of cherishing the good memories from the days past, we mourn what we feel has been lost. We fail to discern the One Who is changing the seasons.
For some of us, the old season is a job, a position, a possession, or a relationship. Often we derive our sense of self-worth from these things, and that is a mind-set our loving Father will not allow us to keep. If our worth comes from what we hold, when our grasp weakens we can lose our value. If it comes from what others think of us, then our value changes with fickle opinions. God wants us to get our worth from our relationship with Him alone. Because that relationship is stable and based on Christ's performance instead of our own, our value will never diminish no matter what our circumstance becomes or if we are popular with those around us.
When change comes and the world around us panics, we need to realize that God is still on His throne. He is not shaken by popular trends or threatened by economic crises. He is high and lifted up, not subject to man's opinions or decisions. From His vantage viewpoint, God has seen the end of the story from the beginning and has promised to make all things work together for our good. He will not leave us at the mercy of whatever tides break on our shores. We can trust our sovereign God.
Isaiah also notes that the train of God's robe was filling the temple. The temple was the building where the people went to find God, but the Omnipotent Creator of the universe by no means fit inside such a small, man-made enclosure. God had started eons before with a clean slate and imagined all the wonders of creation. He had measured the oceans in His hands and brought majestic mountains towering into the sky. He had planned stars, planets, and galaxies and then spun them into motion. Every creature began as a thought in His mind, and His mighty hand had tenderly fashioned the first man's frame. How could any mere building house such a tremendous God? It only took the train of His garment to fill the temple.
God doesn't fit in the box the world would allot to Him today either. The world around us is comfortable if God is in the church house, but when it becomes apparent that He governs over all they become fearful and defensive. The people who don't know God and have not come into relationship with Him through Jesus have a corrupted view of Him. They do not recognize Him as a loving, compassionate Father, but assume that He is an angry judge. They fail to understand that though He is indeed a judge, Jesus also bore the penalty of that judgment on the cross. As a Christian, we can have boldness, confidence, and joy in the face of circumstances that cripple the bravest men. Our God not only sits on His throne, but is large enough to handle whatever comes to pass.
The prophet sees God attended by seraphim , appearing human in form except for their six wings. Seraphim comes from the Hebrew word "saraph" meaning fiery. These creatures spend their time and energy pouring out praise and worship on God with fiery zeal. They cry to one another proclaiming God's holiness and glory. They exclaim, "Holy, holy, holy!" Perhaps the word holy, though the only one that carries the appropriate meaning, was simply not enough but must be re-emphasized. Perhaps they cried out holy as they gazed on each Member of the God-head....Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit. Whatever the reason, the fiery ones cannot restrain their praise. The rest of their message only confirms what Isaiah's eyes have told him. God cannot be confined to a mere place, or even a nation. The whole earth is filled with His glory. Every beautiful thing in the created world is a pale reflection of the beauty of God. Though the description the prophet gives of God in this passage is limited, the response of the seraphim to His presence is that of awestruck wonder.
The praises of the seraphim have a profound effect on their surroundings. Their praises moved the doors of the temple. The Amplified Bible says it shook the foundations of the threshhold. As the praises filled the atmosphere with heavenly sounds, God's presence filled it with smoke. It was the smoke that signified that God had descended on Mt. Sinai in the book of Exodus. It was the smoke from the incense that protected the high priest as he entered God's presence to minister in the Holy of Holies in Leviticus 16. Now the smoke protected Isaiah from the consuming power of God's glory.
When we have a revelation of God's presence, we too must give Him all our attention and offer our highest praise. It is not that He blesses us with some material possession and we praise Him because of that. When we truly have a glimpse of God, we offer praise just because of the wonder of His Person. He is the omnipotent God, and He deserves our praise. As we spend time gazing at God and considering His great worth and glory, we also become fiery ones, burning with zeal for His majesty. Praise becomes more than something we do for fifteen minutes on Sunday morning. It becomes a flood pouring from hearts saturated with God's presence. Beholding Him, we begin to understand that God is not confined to our church services. He is interested in all our activities and all our lives are filled with His presence and His favor. Our workplaces become ministries, and our commutes become altars of prayer. His glory invades all our existence.
This praise will shake the foundations of our lives, changing our attitudes and outlook on all we see and touch. Strongholds that we have come to accept as a normal part of life, such as lack, depression, rebellion, and powerlessness, will be shaken loose as we cry out in worship to our mighty God. Our praise does not change us simply because of our own voices. As we cry out in worship from a fiery heart of passion, we attract the attention of God Himself. We pull on His heartstrings, and God comes to fellowship with us as we adore Him. When God came to Mount Sinai, the mountain smoked and trembled. Psalms 97:5 records that the hills melt like wax at the presence of the Lord. If creation is so moved at God's presence, how can we, His redeemed ones, not be shaken and changed at His coming?
When faced with the vision of God, Isaiah realizes that his circumstances are not what needs to change. Whether Uzziah or Jotham is sitting on the throne of Judah doesn't really matter, because God has not moved from His throne. In the presence of God, with foundations shaking and smoke filling the temple, Isaiah suddenly understands that he is the one that must change. Though he has been a faithful messenger of God's words to his nation, the prophet is filled with repentant sorrow. He cries," I am undone....cut off...destroyed." He is acutely aware that he is dirty and inadequate when standing in front of the Holy God. Though he is a prophet and dwells in the one nation on earth that God chose as His own, Isaiah understands that his own righteousness and the ritual worship of his people have not prepared him to stand in heaven's courts. God is not caught by surprised by Isaiah's shortcomings and sin. The seraphim bring a live coal from the altar of incense to touch Isaiah's lips to take away his iniquity and purge his sins.
When we approach God, we realize that we are just not enough on our own. We cannot be holy enough or do enough good works to deserve God's presence. We become acutely aware of our inadequacies in comparison with His glory. Confronted with His perfect holiness, we have to acknowledge that we do not behave correctly at all times. Sometimes we react to what we face instead of praying and making deliberate actions in response. Sometimes we do things with selfish motives, and often we do too little of what we should do. We have to admit freely that we are cracked, imperfect vessels. However, in God's great mercy, cracked and imperfect vessels are the ones who have been given grace. In repentant worship, we perceive that we stand in God's presence ,not in our own strength, but because Jesus died for us and put us into right standing with the Father. Now, we do not come on our own merit, but clothed in Christ. The blood of Jesus has made us clean and bought our access to God's presence.
With his own repentance and cleansing out of the way, Isaiah was now ready to hear God's voice and respond appropriately. He had stood close enough to God to listen to Him, and what he heard was God's heart. The Lord called, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" God was looking for a man, someone who would be obedient to His call and live in close enough proximity to Him to be able to represent His interests in the earth. He was looking for someone so dedicated to Him that they would carry unpopular messages to people who were uninterested in repentance.
It is in this place in Christ , clean in God's sight, our mouths filled with praise flowing from a heart of awe filled passion, that we are finally close enough to hear Him speak. God's desire hasn't changed since He commissioned Isaiah as His spokesman. He is still seeking worshipers, men and women who will dare to live in close contact with Him. God is not a stern and silent Deity who sits dispassionately on a throne. He is a loving, dynamic Father Who longs for the attention and adoration of His children. God is still calling today, "Who shall I send? Who will be willing to be my representative to the world?"
How did Isaiah answer such a request? "Here am I; send me." Not only was the prophet volunteering for duty, he was totally selling out to God. He was a surrendered man, one who would no longer chase his own desires or seek his own good. Now he would come close to God and listen as the Father warned and rebuked and beckoned His people. Isaiah's whole ministry changed after this encounter. The hard message of the first five chapters in the book becomes mixed with hope and joy. In this new intimacy, Isaiah becomes privy to God's mercy and plan of redemption. Throughout the following chapters, warnings of judgment are sprinkled with glimpses of Christ. The prophet had become God's man.
It is time for us to step up to God's call. He beckons us to a place of radical discipleship. It is a commitment to God that is deep enough to turn us aside from following our own paths. It will drive us to His presence in prayer, make us hungry enough to search out the Scriptures, leave us lovesick enough to worship Him. God is not looking for perfection, He is looking for us. As we linger before His throne, God will whisper His secrets to our spirits and reassure us of His love and protection. Let us surrender ourselves to His presence. Let us become God's man, totally surrendered.
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