Friday, December 3, 2010

Isaiah 5-8: The Messenger

I'm starting to think I'll finish writing about Isaiah sometime in February.  I read, I think about it, and I just can't come up with anything hopeful and Christmas-y to say.  It's a hard book, about rebellion and punishment, about hope and deliverance.  We have insight into the fulfillment of some of these passages (Jesus), but the book itself is a little heavy on the massive destruction about to hit Israel.

And so here it is.  I've read Isaiah 6 lots of times.  This is the passage where Isaiah, mourning the death of the king, goes into the temple and has a radical encounter with the living God.  He literally, not figuratively, sees the Lord, seated on a throne. Above the Lord are six-winged angels, covering their faces with two of the wings, covering their feet with two more wings, and then flying with the other two wings.  And they sing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole world is filled with his glory."  (Isaiah 6:3).  The earth shakes.  The temple fills with smoke.  And Isaiah falls to the ground, convicted of his sin in the face of the glory of God.

The first time I read this I wondered how I would respond to Isaiah's experience.  I grew up with rational Christianity.  The kind you can explain with four spiritual laws.  The kind you can prove with science.  This is a very safe Christianity, with a predictable, rational God.

The thing I've learned is this--God is not rational.  He is not safe (Thank you, C.S. Lewis.), but we can trust him.  His ways are beyond tracing out, and we owe everything to him.

But back to Isaiah.  An angel flies down, touches a live coal to Isaiah's lips, and comforts him, saying, "You're guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

The Lord asks, "Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?" And Isaiah, moved by the holiness of God, as we all would be, quickly volunteers, saying, "Here am I.  Send me."

So far, so good.  We've all heard songs like this and probably sung them.  I watched a video of Delirious  in concert, singing these words, and the concert goers are all jumping up and down, singing with them.  Matt Papa is a little more subdued, sitting in front of the crowd, playing his guitar.

Great songs.  Great message.

Isaiah's mission is a little tougher.  Think about the message Isaiah's asked to deliver:
Be ever hearing and never understanding. 
Be ever seeing, but never perceiving. 
Think about the prophecies of destruction.  The prophecies of hope that will only come after these people are long dead and gone.

That's not a message I want to deliver.  Those people are likely to kill me.

Of course, God's not asking me to deliver that message.  But my point is this: Am I so overwhelmed by the holiness of God that I'm willing to do whatever he asks me to do?  Even if it means changing the entire course of my life?  Even if it means walking into dangerous places?

I want to say, "Yes!  Here am I, Lord!  Send me!" but not unless I know it's true.  Not unless I can say "yes" without any qualifications.  And I'm not sure I can do that right now.  I hope that when that day comes, I will embrace whatever God asks me to do, but I just don't know.

And that brings me right back to where I started.  (I certainly hope I'm moving forward, even if it doesn't seem like it.)  How committed am I to the things of God?  How much do I love him?  Am I willing to follow him no matter where he leads?  Am I willing to keep seeking him so that he can prepare me for whatever he has planned for me?

John the Baptist lost his head.  Jesus was crucified.
Christians throughout history have been imprisoned for their obedience and have lost their lives.

One more thought before I move on.
How do I respond to the messenger?

I mean, how do I respond to messengers who deliver God's messages?
How do I respond when someone says something that convicts me of sin or challenges my actions?

The people of Israel closed their eyes and their hearts.  What will I do?

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