Isaiah 6:1-8 (II)
"Here Am I, Lord"
Let’s take a deep breath and open our hearts, mind, soul and spirit to receive the message that God has for us this morning. Let’s focus our thoughts on the mystic presence of the Holy One. Let us pray: Lord God, Lord Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, please let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Strength, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Rabbi Noa Kushner once wrote that: “I hear the expression that in polite company one should avoid religion…, because the job of religion is to bring up the stuff that no one wants to talk about: death and wrecked relationships and violence, heartbreak and the kinds of injustice that everyone tolerates but knows is intolerable…religion is supposed to make everyone uncomfortable, that’s why we need religion.” So, in using that quotation as a starting point, what is God's purpose for the rest of your life? What is the desire of God's own heart of hearts for you (?), and what is the difference between who we say we are, and who we actually are as well as who we want to be? These questions are meant to speak to your heart, mind, soul, body, and spirit, and open your imagination so you can go deeply within yourself to perceive God’s plan for you. And since it’s January first, it’s also a good time to deal with these questions in regard to any resolutions that you may have made for the New Year.
Looking at Isaiah 6, we see God working in the life of the prophet Isaiah, and us, to work out the plan that God has for us. In Isaiah 6, we are privileged to be completely in the realm of Spirit, as we see God through the vision that Isaiah describes. Isaiah even qualifies the time of the vision, by saying that it was in the year that King Uzziah died: 739 B.C. Why is it important for Isaiah to tell us the exact year that this vision appeared to him? Because by doing so, Isaiah gives us a historical grounding in physical reality and a glimpse of what was happening in Judah while Isaiah experienced what was completely in the realm of spirit.
Being an official in King Uzziah’s court, Isaiah lived happily, dwelling in the protected security and safety of the king's palaces. But, after the death of Uzziah, Isaiah became insecure and fearful, so God gave Isaiah a vision, where he enters the temple, then into the Holy of Holies, and comes into the actual presence of God. In this dream-vision, Isaiah is assured by God, of God’s continuing presence in Isaiah’s life, which is a reminder to us that God will never leave US nor ever forsake US. If we accept this premise that God will never leave us, then it calls us to love, worship, praise, honor and seek after God, both when we are prosperous and successful, as well as when we are in need. We need to bless and praise God, just as God blesses us. So, O God, we love you, bless you, praise you, honor and worship you!
In Isaiah’s vision, when he sees God, he realizes that he is a sinful man, just as we, too, would realize that we are unworthy of standing in God's presence, whenever we might find ourselves in the presence of our great YHWH God. Isaiah sees Seraphim attending God, singing, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory." This is the only place in the Bible where Seraphim are mentioned, so we know that this is a great spiritual moment where we must pay attention to what’s happening. In Isaiah's vision, just the sound of the Seraphim shakes the foundation of the temple, and the temple fills with smoke. For just a moment, try to imagine the amazing intensity that accompanies God's awesome presence in a shaking temple that is filling with smoke, and I would imagine that with the smoke, there would be the smell of burning brimstone. Like Moses and the burning bush, or God’s appearance to the Israelites in a pillar of fire, or the falling of fire and brimstone over the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, this vision got Isaiah’s attention. And remember, we are also there in the realm of Spirit itself in our imaginations, sharing the vision of seeing the temple filling with the smoke and smell of burning brimstone, within the glory of God's awesome presence. Right now, for instance! Like Isaiah, we too cry out, and say, "Woe is me!" "I am ruined! For I am a person of unclean lips, (I’m a sinner, I know who I am, I’m way less than perfect) and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
What can Isaiah do? What can we do, when suddenly, we become aware that we are in God’s holy, living presence? How do we respond when we know that our Creator-God has stepped through the fabric of space-time to see us with all of our imperfections? And remember, this is a spirit-moment where we are present in Spirit, with Spirit, and can’t control the situation, as we’ve been taught since childhood to try to do. Control the situation, and you control the outcome. But here, we’re in a different realm, aren't we? Here, like Isaiah, we're walking between the worlds, in the realm of Spirit, where we don’t have any control, because there’s no way that we can control the radical Spirit of our wild, untamable YHWH God! Like us when we perceive God's presence, Isaiah confesses his sins. Right here and now, in our heart of hearts, we can confess our sins to God and lay them at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. Isaiah knows that he can’t proceed unless he is cleansed of sin. He, and we also, need to be cleansed of all sin. And, as Jesus said, if you’re guilty of just one little sin, you’re guilty of all sin!
Just for a moment, let’s take a look at the first part of Psalm 139, which speaks to us about God’s intimate, intense and awesome presence with us. It reads: “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; and you are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in, both behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is too high for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths of Sheol, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, and your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” In this spirit moment, we, like Isaiah, know that God is always with us in no matter what situation we may find ourselves, which is at the same time both awesome and fearsome.
For Isaiah, his vision includes the symbolic atonement for sin. One of the Seraphim flies to him with a live coal, which the Seraphim had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touches Isaiah's mouth and says, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for." This is God providing for the spiritual atonement, the forgiveness, of Isaiah's sin, just as God has provided for us the atonement of our sins and our salvation by the sending of Jesus Christ to bear the sins of not just you and I, but also for the sins of everyone who has ever lived, or will ever live!! This is where our spirit can FINALLY be in God's presence without our being in fear of destruction and annihilation. God demonstrates true love to us, by providing for us The Way, The Truth, and The Life, in the person of Jesus Christ. It is fitting that we are given a glimpse of God's glory in the Book of Isaiah, because Isaiah, more than any other prophet, prophesies the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Isaiah looks forward to the birth of God's Son, and he does so after he answers the call that is given to him by God Almighty!
The vision draws to its close when Isaiah hears God asking, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Folks, remember that right now, we are walking between the worlds in Spirit-imagination, in the Holy of Holies of God’s temple, with Isaiah in God-Presence, surrounded by the smoke and the smell of burning brimstone that emanates from God’s presence, and hearing God say to Isaiah AND to you and I, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Who, indeed? We have walked today in a walk that has taken us into the actual presence of God Almighty. We have witnessed, along with Isaiah, God's presence in the temple, a presence that is so intense that the temple foundations shake, and the temple fills with smoke, and we have to turn away from God’s intense presence. This happened to Isaiah in a vision, but it's happened to us, today, in the temple of our heart of hearts, right here and now! We, like Isaiah, have the opportunity to step out and answer the call that God gave Isaiah, and that God gives to you and I, right now. "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" If we are to live in eternity, we must answer God's call, just as Isaiah answered God's invitation to him. Jesus said, "Come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy-ladened, and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
When we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we are sanctified and set apart for the purpose that God has for us. So, the way that we serve God is to first answer the call that God gives each of us, just as God did for Isaiah, when asked, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" We know that God is always present with us and loves us in ways that we can't even begin to imagine or understand. In the Psalms, it says that God gives to us even in our sleep! And remember, someday you’ll be just a memory: so, make it a good one! Right now, today, if you hear the still small voice of God saying to you, “whom shall I send, and who will go for us (?)", and you feel called to answer that call, I invite you to come forward and answer the call that each of us has had to answer when we hear God calling. Come forward and answer by saying to God, and the whole world, today, right now: Here am I, Lord. Send me. Let us pray:
Jan Ekstedt MDiv.