Isaiah was without doubt one of the purest prophets in the Old Testament.
Isaiah, the son of Amoz, was a member of the royal family. He made his first public appearance as God’s prophet in the year of Uzziah’s affliction with leprosy and he ministered for about 90 years during the reigns of King Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah.
Isaiah had seen the growth of the new Empire, Assyria and the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. Judah alone remained and was the last bulwark of the true faith in one God.
All around people, even God’s people, were caught up with idolatry, which was taking hold of the land of Judah. Isaiah’s message was to call God’s people back to true faith in God.
This passage before us gives us Isaiah’s call to ministry. I believe it forms a pattern for us because the same things that were plaguing God’s people in Isaiah’s day are plaguing God’s people today.
The path to ministry for Isaiah is what I would like to consider because there are many things about this that that can apply to us today.
I want to talk about the path to ministry, but I need to make it clear that I am not talking about ministry as a vocation. Certainly, I believe in pastors, missionaries and teachers as people who devote their entire life to that. However, I am not thinking about that today.
What I am thinking about is the fact that every Christian needs to be on some path to ministry. Now, the question is, what is your ministry?
How do you define and/or describe your personal ministry for the Lord?
It would be terrible to live your whole life and never know what God wants you to do.
All acceptable ministry to God is deeply rooted in worship that is worthy of God.
In examining Isaiah’s call to ministry as outlined for us in this chapter, we will see things we can apply to our own life. We must remember, God never changes. God’s objectives in one generation do not change in another generation. We have bought into the idea that “New days call for new ways.”
The Bible clearly declares to us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. The issues in Isaiah’s day are issues in our day. Since that is the case, what God did for Isaiah and how God used him is exactly how God wants to use us.
Two things are important in Isaiah’s path to ministry.
I. Worship (1-4)
Isaiah was personally connected to the King who was suffering from leprosy and eventually died. I am sure this affected Isaiah deeply.
When a king died in those days, it was not always an easy transition to the next King. The death of a King represented an opportunity for somebody to gain control. During that time there would be lots of confusion and uncertainty.
A. Worship is an encounter with God.
The interesting thing here is simply this, in the year the King Uzziah died; Isaiah had an encounter with God that changed his life.
This is often how God works. In the middle of some catastrophe, God has a way of revealing Himself to the seeking heart.
One of the problems Isaiah dealt with at his time was the degradation of worship. God’s people had accommodated the pagan worship around them in their worship of Jehovah.
The northern kingdom of Israel had fallen into this rather soundly at this time. Idolatry was the rule of the day. Israel was suffering from the plague of idolatry.
What is idolatry?
Idolatry is simply giving to something else, whatever it may be, the worship that belongs solely to God. Israel at the time was not ruling God out, but was ruling paganism in to their worship. They were combining the elements of the world around them with their worship of God.
Music, entertainment, celebrity and politics are not elements of worship. We have lost in the church today a sense of sacredness. Nothing is sacred anymore. We are cultivating a spirit of casualness.
This is happening today, even among what used to be good solid Christian churches. Christianity in America is succumbing to the plague of idolatry. By that I mean, they are trying to pull into the church elements of the culture and sprinkling holy water on them and calling it worship.
The early apostles, especially the apostle Paul, would not recognize that which passes for worship today in many churches. We have degraded our worship of God and mixed it with idolatry so much that there is very little difference between the worldly celebration on a Saturday night and the so-called Christian celebration Sunday morning.
Worship is not an event. This is not being taught very much today.
Looking at this passage in Isaiah, worship is an encounter with God. It is experiencing the conscious presence of God in our midst.
Worship cannot be worked up; rather it must flow out of a heart that is encountering God. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
The misnomer among Christians today is that music and worship are synonymous. Music does not create worship, rather worship creates music. Worship should not reflect our culture rather it should reflect God. When we gather to worship it is not to please ourselves, but rather it is to please God.
David writes in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God…”
The word “still” means to cease doing everything. To get quiet and separate yourself from all activity.
This was Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19:12.
“And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
Hear the word “still” means a quiet calmness. It was in that “stillness” that Elijah heard the voice of God.
Could it be that all of the rumbling and the noise and the excitement that some have labeled as worship is really drowning out the “still small voice” of God? It may actually come perilously close to idolatry.
B. Worship that is worthy of God.
At the root of my ministry is worship that is worthy of God. The key to this is getting to know God. I must spend significant time in God’s presence getting to know Him. The more I get to know Him the more I will understand worship acceptable to Him.
If my worship is flawed in any way, my ministry to the Lord is compromised. We must settle this aspect of the Christian life. If we do not go along with the crowd, but quieted our hearts to such an extent that we hear the still small most mighty voice of God speaking to us we will know how to respond in a way that pleases Him.
II. Ministry (5-8)
All true ministry flows out of worship. Our worship determines our ministry in so many aspects.
Ministry is not something we do on our own or in our own strength. That’s not ministry, that is simply works. The unsaved do this quite well. You do not have to be a Christian to feed someone who is hungry.
Notice how it worked with Isaiah.
Isaiah’s worship led him to his moment of ministry. There are two aspects to it that I want to point out. Here we see the effect of worship in our life.
1. Worship brings to me a spirit of conviction.
“Woe is me.”
We do not hear much talk about conviction anymore. But there are two degrees associated with conviction.
The first degree is that conviction brings us to our conversion to Jesus Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is essential if we are to become Christians.
Conviction, however, is not limited to this. Following my conversion to Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit will be working in my life resulting in conviction.
Conviction in this regard is when the holiness of God touches the unholiness in my life.
“ 5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
This was Isaiah’s experience.
Let me also suggest that this is a progressive work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
Allow me to liken conviction to a door. Every work of conviction opens up a new room for the Holy Spirit to enter. In order for Him to enter all unholiness has to be dealt with. Step-by-step the Holy Spirit will penetrate our life in this regard.
Every door opened in this fashion leads to some facet of ministry.
2. Worship brings to me a spirit of compulsion.
This is what is needed in my life on a regular basis.
I sometimes grow accustomed to where I am spiritually; I begin to flag spiritually and lose the edge off my spiritual walk and ministry. I find myself doing things because I have done them. The freshness of ministry seems to evaporate quite quickly. Just going through the motions.
Worship that is fresh will take me through a stage of conviction and that conviction will bring me to a point of compulsion.
“8 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.”
The end result is simply this, I will come to a point of “here am I; send me.”
My ministry is not what I do for God but what He does through me touching the world around me. I am to be used of God as He sees fit. My level of worship will determine how God can use me in ministry.
Not all that is noisy, flashy and exciting is ministry. Only that that flows how of a heart that has gone through conviction to the point of compulsion.
The path to ministry is worship. The key to worship is “be still” and get to know God. Then as I engage in worship worthy of God, the Holy Spirit will begin to open up the path to ministry.
Remember, ministry in this sense is what God is calling you to do. True ministry must have, “Here am I; send me.” This can only come about through the work of the Holy Spirit convicting me and opening up in me doors of ministry.
It is also true that acceptable ministry begins with worship. Nothing is more important in my life than worship, both personally and corporately. These must flow into each other.