LOOKING UPWARD…LOOKING INWARD…LOOKING OUTWARD
This morning’s theme is: Looking Upward…Looking Inward…Looking Outward. What I want us to do, is to look at God’s call of Isaiah to be His prophet. But to understand God’s call of Isaiah we must understand something of the times he lived in. It was an unsettling time in the life of God’s people.
Isaiah’s ministry began at the end of the reign of King Uzziah. He had reigned for 52 years, and his reign was the most prosperous for Judah since the days of the United Kingdom of David and Solomon. What was it about his reign that separated him from the other kings who had much less success? Listen to what the Bible says in 2 Chronicles 26 about King Uzziah:
5Uzziah sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. And as long as the king sought the LORD, God gave him success.
He was remembered as a King who did what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight, and that the LORD gave him success. But that success only came as long as Uzziah sought the LORD. When he took his eyes off of God he failed. Uzziah’s military successes are described in 2 Chronicles 26 and in verse 15 the reason for that success is clearly stated:
15His fame spread far and wide, for the LORD helped him wonderfully until he became very powerful.
As is often the case…Uzziah’s success and recognition led to pride and verses 16 and following describe the downfall of the King:
16But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. He sinned against the LORD his God…
What Uzziah did was to enter the Temple and light the incense…a task that was supposed to be accomplished by the priests. When he was warned to stopped be became angry and as a result the Lord gave him leprosy, a condition he would live with the rest of his life, and a condition that would drive him into seclusion and bring his reign to a sad end.
Isaiah’s ministry began during this dark period in the life of Uzziah and the Nation. Following Uzziah’s death and Jotham’s ascension to the throne the days did not improve significantly. While Jotham was committed to follow the LORD, the people were not. Here is a picture of the state of the Nation that Isaiah was called to minister to, speaking of King Jotham the scriptures say:
2He did what was pleasing in the LORD’S sight, just as his father, Uzziah, had done. But unlike him, Jotham did not enter the Temple of the LORD. Nevertheless, the people continued in their corrupt ways. (2 Chronicles 27:2)
With that as our backdrop let’s turn to Isaiah 6 and see his call to ministry.
Text: Isaiah :1-13
I. LOOKING UPWARD (1-4)
The first thing we need to realize is that Isaiah saw the LORD. The first direction we should always look spiritually is UPWARD. Until we see God for who HE IS we will never see ourselves for who we are. That is exactly what took place in Isaiah’s call to ministry.
Isaiah was given a glimpse of heaven. In that vision he saw God on his throne. The image that Isaiah saw is very similar to what John saw in the Revelation of Jesus Christ as the spiritual being worshipped the Lord on His throne:
8Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty—
the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.” Revelation 4:8
The importance of the vision was that Isaiah see the holiness of God in contrast to the sinfulness of mankind. The Apostle Peter personalized the holiness of God when he wrote:
14Obey God because you are his children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of doing evil; you didn’t know any better then. 15But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God—who chose you to be his children—is holy. 16For he himself has said, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16
The words for “holy” in both the Old and New Testament have as root meanings: “to be separate.” God is perfectly perfect and is separated from man because of man’s sin. God is the standard by which moral and spiritual character is measured. By seeing the separateness of God Isaiah was confronted with his own sinfulness and the sinfulness of humanity.
Our first emphasis of “looking upward” is to show the primary importance of worship. There is nothing more important than establishing a vital worship relationship with the Lord. I know that I have been focusing a lot of witnessing as of late, and we are going to talk about that in a few minutes, but unless we get our worship relationship right, our witness will never be right.
I want us as a church to reach out in our horizontal relationships with one another, and with those who do not know the Lord, but if we are going to be effective in our outreach we must be real in our “UP-REACH” to the Lord.
As we learn to acknowledge “WHO” the Lord is—that He is holy and that He is worthy of our worship—it is going to cause us to look “inward,” which is our second emphasis this morning.
II. LOOKING INWARD (5-7)
Once Isaiah looked upward he was forced to look INWARD. What he saw inside of himself was not pleasant. Listen to how different translations tell what Isaiah said:
Jerusalem Bible: “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost…
KJV: “Woe is me, I am undone…”
NASB: “…I am ruined…”
NLT: “My destruction is sealed…”
Isaiah saw the great difference between the holiness of God and his own failures because of sin. But God offered him forgiveness. What Isaiah experienced is exactly what John promised in 1 John 1:9:
“If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
The “burning coal” was symbolic of the forgiveness of sin. As Isaiah looked inward he saw himself as sinful but because of God’s mercy he was able to see himself as forgiven. There is no greater message of hope than the message that God forgives sin. It sin, and sin alone that separates us from God, and it is God, and God alone who can forgive us of our sins.
Jesus didn’t come to earth to start a new religion, but to remind mankind that God desires to have a relationship with all people, and to give His life on the cross to make that possible.
As one who had been forgiven Isaiah was then challenged to look OUTWARD to the ministry the LORD would give him, which is our third emphasis this morning.
III. LOOKING OUTWARD (8-13)
Isaiah heard God call; “Whom should I send…Who will go?” And Isaiah responded immediately, “I’ll go…send me!” That is an OUTWARD vision. That is a missionary vision. It was a vision that began by Looking Upward and seeing that God is worthy of our worship. It was made possible by Looking Inward and seeing that God forgives. And now Isaiah was Looking Outward to the mission field where he was being sent.
God told him in the verses that follow that he was going to preach and people weren’t going to understand. He was going to try and open their eyes to the greatness of God’s salvation but they were going to refuse to see. He was going to try and open their ears to God’s offer of forgiveness but they were going to refuse to hear.
The emphasis that is made in these verses is that the harder Isaiah would try to turn the people back to the LORD the harder their hearts would become toward the LORD. Isaiah asked the LORD quite honestly: “How long will I have to do this?” God’s answer was that it would be a lifetime commitment for Isaiah. When all was said and done, there would only be a remnant of people left.
John in his gospel showed how God’s call to Isaiah extended even beyond the lifetime of the prophet. God’s word to Isaiah was fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. John writes:
37But despite all the miraculous signs he had done, most of the people did not believe in him. 38This is exactly what Isaiah the prophet had predicted…. John 12:37
There are still people today who stumble over God’s offer of salvation and who refuse to see or hear what he desires for them to experience. But like Isaiah we are called to continue to go and share the message of God’s love through his Son Jesus Christ. If we are going to be effective in spreading that message we must like Isaiah: