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Can we serve King Jesus? - Isaiah 6

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 12th October 2014.

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Can we serve King Jesus?

 

Isaiah 6:1-13

 

We are always in danger of creating a Mr Potato Head God. First sold in 1952 – bits used in real potato. Then a plastic potato body in 1964.

 

But what is God really like? It’s vital to engage with God’s revelation rather than our speculation. And so to that end I want to show you three truths about the real God that we discover from Isaiah 6.

 

  • The true God rules us (Vs 1-4)
  • The true God can rescue us (Vs 5-7)
  • The true God wants to recruit us (Vs 8-13)

 

The true God rules us (Vs 1-4)

 

According to the first part of vs 1, at some point in the final year of King Uzziah’s life, Isaiah was given a vision of the true God of heaven. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.”

 

The year is 740BC. Uzziah was still alive but he was in a frail condition. Uzziah was sick with leprosy. There are external threats to the nation. Inevitably, people would be getting worried.

 

What would it be for you? What person or thing would cause you great distress and anxiety if it was taken from you or if it was likely to be taken from you?

Life is too uncertain to rely on people or things. When we do, we will face many crisis moments. Instead what we need if we are to navigate through all the different seasons of life is the vision of God Isaiah was given in this chapter of the Bible.

 

So, let’s try and work out exactly what he saw?

 

Look at vs 1. Read vs 1-4.

 

Now at a very basic level we could say that in some way Isaiah was presented with a vision of God. But what is more important is to see how God was presented to him. What aspects of God’s identity were shown to this ancient prophet?

 

And the big answer is that God is presented as the most majestic and grandest ruler in the universe, without comparison, completely in a league of his own. We see this in many different ways. For example, in these verses…

 

  • God is called the Lord. Literally, the Sovereign, the one who is rightfully in charge of everything.
  • God was presented as seated on a throne. Not because he was tired or lazy. But because he is calmly in control.
  • The train of his robe filled the temple. It’s just the train of his robe. A way of communicating grandeur.
  • His attendants are supernatural. The burning ones. Flying above him – ready to do his bidding.  Covering – God is so bright and dazzling.
  • The seraphs were speaking. Vs 3. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

 

Holy – set apart. Distinct or different. Speaks of his perfect moral beauty and his beautiful generosity. Why say holy three times?

 

In English if we thought something was nice then we might use the adjective great. If we wanted to say that something was greater than something else then we would use the word greater, which in English grammar is technically called a comparative form of the adjective great. If we wanted to say something was the greatest thing ever then we would use the word greatest – which in English grammar is technically called a superlative form of the adjective great.

 

In Hebrew there is no such thing as a comparative or a superlative form. What you do in that language is just use the same adjective multiple time.

 

Greater – would be great, great.

Greatest – would be great, great, great.

 

Or if you wanted to say that God is the holiest one of all you would say holy, holy, holy!

Put all the pieces together and what have we discovered about God? God is presented as the most majestic and grandest ruler in the universe, without comparison, completely in a league of his own.

 

This was a truth Isaiah needed to know and to believe. It’s also a truth that we need to believe and know.

 

It may make you uncomfortable. But it is very comforting to know that there is a someone on the throne of heaven who is completely in control of all things.

 

The true God can rescue us (Vs 5-7)

 

Why might we need rescue? To find out let’s look at Isaiah’s response to what he saw? Look at vs 5.

 

This is so unlike so many of the reactions from those alive today who claim to have seen visions of God. Usually, their response is one of peace and tranquillity. All is calm, all is well.

 

But for Isaiah it was a disaster. It was game over as far as he was concerned. He couldn’t see any other conclusion apart from his imminent and total destruction.

 

Why? First, he knew that he was a man of unclean lips. This was just the tip of the iceberg,

How did he know this? He lived among a people of unclean lips. So if he had compared his own conversation with those around him then it may have appeared normal.

 

But what has he just heard? The seraphs using their lips in the right way. So it seems this had been the catalyst for his personal re-evaluation his own moral performance.

 

Why did this lead to his cry of ruination? It doesn’t automatically follow. It all depends on what God is like. If he is the doting grandfather in the sky whose bark is worse than his bite then there is nothing to fear. But what had Isaiah just been presented with?   So what if he was like this? A God who was utterly majestic and completely holy. Part of his holiness is his absolute commitment to deal with all wrong doing.

 

So do you see why Isaiah thought he was stuffed? Because two crucial realities had merged together in his mind. He was sinful. God was holy. And that surely meant disaster for Isaiah.

 

You will only get to this point if we see those two things.

 

But when you do don’t stop at the end of vs 5. We must read on to the wonderful good news that is described in verses 6 and 7. Read vs 6-7.

 

We don’t have time to dwell on all the details. Bug message – here is a God who can rescue sinners from their sin.

 

Notice the place where the live coal comes from. The altar of sacrifice. In highly symbolic terms we are being told that when the appropriate sacrifice is made then the sins of our lives can be atoned for. Somehow the Holy God has found a way for his justice to be preserved and for our sins to be forgiven – and the focal point of this possibility is a sacrifice.

 

The rest of the Bible story makes it clear that it is Jesus himself who will die as the sacrifice for our sins. When someone become a Christian you will not experience the same vision as Isaiah. But the reality is true. If you are a Christian, your sin has been atoned for and your guilt is taken away – because Jesus Christ has died on the cross for you.

 

The true God wants to recruit us (Vs 8-13)

 

God doesn’t simply want to save us. He wants to send us into the world as his messengers.

 

We see Isaiah volunteering for this in vs 8. He overhears a conversation between the Trinity. He is keen to serve them in any way he can. That’s the attitude we need. How do we get it? Gratefulness. It’s what we need. It’s certainly what Isaiah had.

 

But he was in for a big surprise when he was told more about what his mission entailed. What he had to say and what he had to do.

 

  • Something to say – look at vs 9.

 

What does this mean? You will be a generation that will never truly take to heart what you hear.

 

Why? God isn’t going to give you that ability. Instead of intervening in grace, he will judge you by leaving you.

 

This wasn’t the only thing Isaiah said. In fact, he did call people to change their ways and trust God. And some did.

 

But the big message that Isaiah spoke to his generation was essentially that because they had abandoned God, God was going to leave them in their sin instead of intervening to give them spiritual sight and hearing.

 

They would be ever hearing, but never understanding, ever seeing but never perceiving.

 

  • Something to do – look at vs 10

 

This seems even stranger. It almost seems as if God doesn’t want these people to be forgiven. He didn’t.

In the day of Isaiah, he decided, as is his right, to withdraw the offer of his grace from the majority of his people.

 

And so this meant that the outcome of Isaiah’s preaching was not going to be mass revival but mass rejection.

 

Or in the shocking words of verse 10, Isaiah would make the hearts of his people even more calloused.  How? Through his preaching.

 

You can tell from his question in vs 11 that Isaiah wasn’t too keen on this outcome. For how long, O Lord? A long time. Much judgement. Still hope.

 

But it was God’s purpose that the majority of people who heard Isaiah preach would not repent but would continue to rebel. 

 

This point is vital for us to grasp if we are to continue to be faithful messengers of God. We need to know that the word of God can either be used to soften someone’s heart or harden it.

 

Of course we long for God’s word to soften hearts and so bring tem to salvation in Jesus Christ. That’s what we pray for. We pray for God to graciously intervene by his Spirit and soften the heart so that the person respond in repentance and faith.

 

But that may not be God’s purpose for his word in someone’s life. It may be that God’s sovereign plan is for a person to hear his word and reject,

 

Interesting, that these verses from Isaiah 6 are quoted again in the New Testament at significant points.

 

  • Jesus quotes them in Mark 4. Parable of the Sower. He does it to explain the reaction to his own preaching. Some repent many reject. Why? They are responsible but it is also God’s plan. So Jesus hasn’t failed. He is a success – why? Because he has been faithful.
  • Paul at the end of Acts. Applies these verses to the Jewish nation. Implication, that the majority of the Jews will not believe. The gospel will go to the Gentiles instead.

 

How can we apply them to our situation in Hull and in the UK? Let me say three things.

 

First, it seems obvious that God is withholding his mercy from many. Which is his right to do. But people are still being converted – which we should praise God for!

 

Second, we don’t’ know the final outcome of the word of God in someone’s life. What initially seems like hardening but end with softening. Only God knows. We need to trust.

 

Third, we must judge success based on faithfulness. We are plagued by numbers and so often our discussion and our emotions are controlled by them. But resolve to know that faithfulness is what is required. And the reason for this is because the word of God always achieves its purpose – but we must realise that the words we speak can either be used in God’s sovereign plan to soften or harden someone’s heart.

 

But here’s the encouragement. If we believe this is true then we will continue to speak about Jesus because ultimately we will trust God for the results.

 

Let’s pray.

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