Summary: Isaiah’s call - are we willing to respond in the way that he did?
Before we look at these verses, let me fill you in on some of the background to the book of Isaiah. The year that King Uzziah died (verse 1) is about 750 years before the birth of Christ. You may know that the nation of the Jews is split into two Kingdoms. The northern kingdom of Israel is in a terrible situation - they’ve abandoned God, and gone after worthless idols.
But Uzziah and Isaiah are in the southern kingdom, in Judah. They can see what is happening in the north, and although Judah is much better, it is still not good. Uzziah had been a good King, but for the last ten years of his reign, he was a king cut off from his people. Because of his pride, God had struck him down with leprosy, and he ended his life cut off from the house of the Lord (2 Chronicles 26). He had started well, but finished very badly. It happens to so many of God’s people, doesn’t it? We must not think that that we are immune. We must guard ourselves against finishing badly.
But just a few hundred miles north if Judah was the huge country of Assyria. It was a situation very much like Western Europe in the late 1930’s. Assyria was feared as a cruel, oppressive military machine, and it was poised to strike. Only Judah stood between Assyria and Egypt, a little mouse trapped between two fighting cats.
It was into this difficult situation that Isaiah found himself brought into God’s service. The signs for the future were not positive, but God had a plan, and God had a purpose for Isaiah. Life was going to be tough, but God was going to be at work.
One of the its main themes of the book is a call to the nation of Judah to trust in God. Too often they had put their trust in men, and too often they had been let down. That’s just what had happened here. Uzziah had been a bit of a stabilising influence in a very difficult time. The people had come to rely on him to protect them from the stronger countries around them. Now however, he is dead. Who is going to help them now?
When a godly leader dies at a difficult time, as it is easy to become hopeless and fear for the future. But our future is not in the hands of our leaders, but in the hand of Him who set the rulers in place! Maybe at this time Isaiah, and the rest of the country, had forgotten the sovereignty of God.
Well, in the short time that we have together this morning, I want to look at four very simple points that I believe will be helpful to us all here.
Firstly, we will look at Isaiah’s big vision of God. Secondly, we will consider his deep awareness of sin, thirdly we will see his profound experience of grace, and finally we will reflect on his overwhelming willingness to serve.
Isaiah’s Big Vision of God
The first thing that strikes you about the opening verses of Isaiah chapter six is that Isaiah’s experience was not a normal one! It’s not one we see repeated throughout the Bible. In fact, no-one else had the same experience in the whole of the Bible! This tells us that his vision is not one that all believers have, and not one that we should expect, or even desire. But, that is not to say that we cannot learn anything from it.
The first thing that we read is that Isaiah saw the Lord (verse 1)! Now, as you might know, the Bible is clear that no-one has seen God (John chapter 1). So, is this a contradiction? Of course not.
About a year ago some vandals broke into ten cars parked at the college. In fact there was only one car that wasn’t broken into, and that was mine! Having a battered old Landrover is a help sometimes! Anyway, imagine you were there when the thieves came and you heard the commotion. Probably you would have leapt out of bed, turned on the light, struggled with the curtains, and peered out of the window. By then the vandals realising they had been seen, run for it, but you just catch the glimpse of the back end of a trainer as its owner disappears round the corner of the building. You are a witness to the robbery - it was you who saw what was going on. Yet when the police arrive and ask for a description of the robbers, you will have to answer "I didn’t really see them". You may remember the shoe, you may remember the broken windows, you may remember the car-park, but you won’t be able to describe the robbers, even though they were the central figures in the incident.