The Prophet Isaiah Goes for Mission
By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
January 04, 2015 (Epiphany Sunday)
Today is Epiphany Sunday. Epiphany is an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being. Our passage for today is a fitting example of God’s manifestation to his servant Isaiah.
The vision of the Prophet Isaiah believes in the year that King Uzziah died (v.1), probably in 759 B.C. However, we cannot determine from the phrase used whether the vision was seen before or after Uzziah’s death (Pulpit Commentary).
I. Isaiah Sees the Lord.
The Prophet Isaiah saw the Lord of the Heavenly Armies, he said, “I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, high and exalted. The train of his robe filled the Temple. The seraphim stood above him. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he was flying. They kept on calling to each other: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of the Heavenly Armies! The whole earth is full of his glory!’” (6:1-3).
In this figurative vision, the temple is thrown open to view, even to the most holy place. The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the Ark of the Covenant, between the cherubim and seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. See God upon his throne.
This vision is explained, John 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ’s glory, and spoke of Him, which is a full proof that our Savior is God. In Christ Jesus, God is seated on a throne of grace; and through him the way into the holiest is laid open. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary).
God manifests himself to us in different ways, sometimes through visions, sometimes through our dreams, sometimes through experiences, sometimes through reading of the Bible, sometimes through nature, and sometimes through our challenges in life.
No matter how he shows himself to us, he shows himself for a reason. The King of the Heavenly Armies showed himself to Isaiah though vision because he wanted the prophet to be partaker of his mission.
II. Isaiah Receives Healing.
When Isaiah saw the vision, he was convicted and he felt that he was a sinner, he said, “How terrible it will be for me!” I cried, “because I am ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips! And my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of the Heavenly Armies!” (v.5).
However, the Lord did not leave him a sinner and mourning, according to Isaiah’s vision “one of the seraphim flew to me, carrying a burning coal in his hand that he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth and said, “Look! Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sins atoned for” (vv.6-7).
These verses tell about purification and pardon. One of the burning beings flies to the prophet’s side, bearing a burning coal or herded stone (ritzpah) forming part of the altar, and detached without difficulty from it.
With this the angel touches the lips of the trembling prophet, saying “Look! Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sins atoned for.”
More meaning can be condensed into a symbolic action than into any mere words. Fire is the enemy of all impurity; and the idea of a fire-baptism as the means of cleansing is deeply rooted in the lore of olden time (Pulpit Commentary).
Sometimes, even though we know that God manifests himself to us with a purpose, we don’t want to cooperate with him. We want to pursue our own ambition and plan rather than the plan of God.
We have many alibis, although it’s a reality, Isaiah’s alibi was he had “unclean lips.” Some people today argue that they cannot be used by God since they are not perfect, they are not officers of the church, they are still young, they are busy, they feel lazy, people in the church don’t like my services, they are afraid or shy of sharing the gospel, they have many reasons under the sun!
Let us be reminded that when the Lord touches our soul, our hearts and our being, like the Prophet Isaiah, forgiveness and healing will be with us! Isaiah got the grace of God without asking it. The same with us, the grace of God showers to us even without our effort. However, when the grace of God is with us, there will be changes in us, and that grace will overflow to us.
In the vision, after the Lord cleaned the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord asked whom will he send? Let’s read verses 8-10, “Then I heard the voice of the LORD as he was asking, ‘Whom will I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am!’ I replied. ‘Send me.’ ‘Go!’ he responded. ‘Tell this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Dull the mind of this people, deafen their ears, and blind their eyes. By doing so, they won’t see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed.”
We do not know what special call the Prophet Isaiah had had previously. Perhaps he had been brought up in the “schools of the prophets.” Perhaps, when the “word of God” came to him, he had accepted the fact as sufficient call.
Now, however, he had, in vision, a clear and distinct call and mission (verses 8, 9). He was told to “go,” and instructed as to what he was to say (verses 9, 10). As before (Isaiah 1-5.), while in the main he was to denounce woe, he was still to proclaim the survival of a remnant (verses 10-12) (Pulpit Commentary).
As I already mentioned, the grace of God showers to us even without our effort. When the grace of God is with us, there will be changes in us, and that grace will overflow to us. It’s like when we overfill a bottle with water, it will overflow and we cannot stop it. When we are overjoyed, we cannot stop it until we fart! The grace of God in us cannot stop to overflow even though we want to stop it!
George Scott was full of grace and one-legged school teacher from Scotland came to J. Hudson Taylor to offer himself for missionary service in China.
Taylor asked, “With only one leg, why do you think of going as a missionary?”
Scott replied with honesty, “I do not see those with two legs going.”
He was accepted as missionary (Pillar of Fire, January 1, 1983).
Scott could not be stopped in going to mission field since he was filled with God’s grace. If we are full of grace, nobody or nothing can stop us in serving our Lord.
Henry Martyn (1781-1812), following a brilliant student career at Cambridge, rejected several opportunities in order to go to the mission field. He prayed, “Here am I, Lord; send me to the ends of the earth, send me to the rough, the savage pagans of the wilderness; send me from all that is called comfort in earth; send me even to death itself if it be but in Thy service and in Thy kingdom” (Donald Campbell, Nehemiah: Man in Charge, Victor Books, 1979, p. 13).
I wish we can all pray like the prayer of Henry Martyn so that we could pursue the mission of God in our community, in our schools, in our places of work, anywhere we go.