Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 6:1-13
Sermon Title: Here Am I. Send Me. (Part One)
Memory Verse: But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
MAIN IDEA: Hear and respond to the Lord’s cry for messengers.
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.
Who Will Go?
Around 740 years before our Lord and Savior is born, the prophet Isaiah has a vision from the Lord. The vision is magnificent. He sees the Lord on His throne, lifted-high and exalted. The train of His robe fills the temple. Adding to the magnificence of seeing the Lord on His throne is the presence of fiery Seraphim attending the Lord in the temple. Each Seraphim has six wings: two wings cover their face, two wings cover their feet, and with two wings they fly. They are creatures which strike fear in the hearts of men.
One Seraphim calls out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” The temple fills with smoke and the foundation and thresholds tremble and shake at the voice of the Seraphim.
Are we able to imagine standing in the presence of a holy God? The holiness of God is too much for any person with the slightest stain of sin to bear. Isaiah is undone. Isaiah realizes how he, and all the people of Judah are unclean.
As he stands before the all-powerful, all-knowing, holy God, Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me.” His guilt before the Judge is overwhelming. He sees true perfection and holiness and comes face-to-face with the depth of his depravity. His life becomes as he faces certain condemnation.
As Isaiah contemplates his condemnation, one of the seraphim flies to Isaiah with a burning coal taken from the altar. The seraph touches the coal to Isaiah’s mouth and says, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)
Isaiah’s forgiveness is undeserving. He does nothing to merit God’s forgiveness. Isaiah is purified by grace. His sin is no longer a dark blemish or a heavy weight pulling him into the pit of hell. The sin disappears. No more chains. No more darkness. The unclean is made clean.
In one moment, Isaiah stands on the brink of disaster, facing the certain fate of eternal darkness and condemnation. He is helpless to change his situation. In the blink of an eye, God purifies him and restores Isaiah as a new creation.
Before being made pure, Isaiah is out of place in the holy temple. He did not belong. After being made pure, he belongs in the presence of the Lord. He changes from being unworthy to being blameless and above reproach. The throne room becomes a place of comfort. He is transformed and made in the image of the Holy One of Israel. He belongs to the Lord God.
After being cleansed, Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)
The Father speaks on behalf of the Spirit and the Son. He asks who is willing to go on behalf of the Holy Trinity? There is a task needing to be accomplished. Who will go? Who is willing? Who will answer their cry?
The Holy Trinity knows who will go. The purifying work of forgiveness will yield fruit. The work of grace is effectual. Grace makes sinful rebellious people willing servants.
Those healed of blindness are the best people to speak to the blind to let them know there is a way to have sight. The best representative to speak about God’s love and mercy is the recipient of God’s grace. Isaiah feels grace in his inner-most being.
Having seen the certainty of being judged by a holy God and after receiving unmerited cleansing and forgiveness, Isaiah hurls himself into service. He has no hesitation. He answers, “Here am I. Send me.” He didn’t ask about the details. He did not say, “Go where?” He did not check his calendar to see if going will conflict with previous plans. He does not say, “Go and do what?” Isaiah needs no person to reason with him or try to make him feel guilty if he does not go. He doesn’t even say, “Let me pray first, and I will get back to You.”
Isaiah’s response is simple, immediate, and without reservation. He answers on his own responsibility. He wants to go. God prepares Isaiah to answer the need by helping Isaiah to first see his condition of hopeless despair. God continues to prepare Isaiah to answer the need by allowing Isaiah to experience unmerited grace. God prepares Isaiah by making him a new creature in Christ.
Perhaps the Apostle Paul has Isaiah’s response in mind when he writes, “Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God.” Scripture concludes the work of mercy and forgiveness will yield a heart willing to yield everything for Christ.
Evangelism is Never Easy
After answering God’s call, Isaiah is given his assignment.
9 He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
We need to understand what the Lord is telling Isaiah. Do not read this passage and think God is predestining people to damnation! This is not a passage about Calvinism. This passage is about God sending the prophet Isaiah to a people who already made up their minds. God knows there is nothing Isaiah will say which will change their mind.
The more Isaiah preaches, the more insensitive their heart will become. God is letting Isaiah know before he begins his ministry that the problem is not Isaiah. The problem is not Isaiah’s message. The problem is the hearts of the people are cold.
God makes it clear to all who will read this book that the people of Judah perish because they refuse to listen to God. As history unfolds, and as the Assyrians and the Babylonians take over the land, all who read Isaiah’s message will know with certainty that the Jewish people are defeated, and it is not because the Assyrians and Babylonians are powerful. The people of Judah suffer loss because they are given an opportunity to repent and they refuse. In the defeat of the people of Judah, God is shown to be glorious in judgment. God sends a prophet who proclaims salvation, but the message falls on blind eyes and deaf ears of a prideful people.
God is just. God is blameless. Future generations read Isaiah and know God keeps His covenant. The words of Isaiah exist so we know God is not to blame for the downfall of Israel.
The Creator of eyes and ears gives people the ability to see and hear. God gives people a mind and a heart, so they may process what their eyes see and what their ears hear, and in turn, perceive and understand. In other words, God did not make the people of Judah blind and deaf. They choose not to see or hear. Therefore, God tells Isaiah, when you preach, tell them, “Go on, refuse to listen. Keep on making your heart insensitive to the goodness of God.” It’s like a parent saying to a child, “I know you can hear me.”
As Isaiah preaches, the people want Isaiah to adapt his message, so they will like it. They rather their ears be tickled. Isaiah does not compromise the truth. If refuses to make a mockery of the message or of God’s holiness. The doom of Isaiah’s generation is a message for future generations. There is no compromise of the truth. God does not condone idolatry.
The disease of pride and rebellion is so deep in the people of Judah that they will do not perceive the truth. To the people of Judah, the message is foolishness and Isaiah is the fool. But, that will not stop Isaiah.
Isaiah’s call to evangelism is perhaps the most difficult in history. He is never promised a convert. He is only told His preaching will render hearts to become even more hard. Isaiah’s calling is so unlike the prophet Jonah who knows God will save the Assyrians. Jonah’s ministry brings salvation. Isaiah’s ministry brings judgment and condemnation.
Notice Isaiah does not opt out of his commitment to go. He doesn’t say, “I will only preach to a people who will see and listen. I will only go if I have a promise of success.” Isaiah is willing to serve God even though he is given the unenviable task of preaching salvation to a people who refuse to listen.
Evangelism in the first century
Isaiah is not alone in his calling to go to a people who will not listen. The Bible consistently teaches that preaching the message of God to people is a challenge. To some, the gospel is a welcome fragrance. To others, it is the stink of death.
Jesus promises His disciples that preaching the gospel will not be easy.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Mat. 5:11-16)
Jesus disciples are to know from reading the Scriptures that they will face persecution. If people speak evil of Jesus, they will also speak evil of His disciples. But, persecution should not keep them from preaching. They are the light of the world. They bring light into darkness.
"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows. Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Mat. 10:16-33)
Jesus knows His disciples live in a culture that is violently opposed to salvation by grace through Christ. People hate Jesus. They will be tempted to deny Jesus. But, He wants them to know, God is intimately aware of their situation every moment of the day.
Jesus gives them three truths which they may use as illustrations to guide them as they share the gospel. His disciples may say:
- “These people hate me for preaching Christ. They may kill me. But, I must preach Christ. I don’t fear these men, I fear God. Therefore, I will not deny Jesus to these people.”
- “God knows the number of hairs on my head; therefore, God is looking out over me. God cares about my well-being. These people may hate me, but God loves me. Therefore, I need not fear when sharing the gospel of Christ.”
- “God knows if a sparrow falls, so God knows if I am struck down by those who hate Jesus. My Father is watching.”
The disciples do not compromise their message. They go to their grave proclaiming Jesus. Stephen faces a crowd who hates Jesus, but he continues to preach salvation in Christ as they throw rock after rock at him until he dies. When the Apostle Paul is faced with sure persecution in Jerusalem and people beg him not to go, he responds by saying:
But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. (Acts 20:24)
The pattern in the book of Acts is that when the gospel is preached, persecution takes place. It is rare to find the gospel being preached with no persecution taking place.
What is the point of this message? Is there any good news? Is there a silver lining on the cloud? The point is this: God is asking our generation, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”
Do we experience grace as Isaiah experiences grace? When we hear the Lord say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." Do we say, “Here am I. I will go.”?
Nothing but grace can save us from our deadness to God. If we are here today and we need someone to provide a convincing argument as to why we are to answer God’s call for us to be His servants, then we need more grace. If we need to be made to feel guilty if we don’t answer the call to be a servant of God, we need more grace. Being a recipient of grace is to be our only motivation for serving in God’s kingdom.
If you are here today and you know you are not ready to answer God’s call to go, ask God to restore to you the joy of your salvation. Read Isaiah’s vision and contemplate your salvation by grace.
I can speak from personal experience. I often need to reset my Christianity and ask God to restore unto me the realities of salvation. I ask God to show me the depth of my sin and the work of Christ on the cross.
Are we willing to speak the truth of God to a culture who does not want to see or hear? Will we stay on message even though they tell us to change the message to their liking?
Are we willing to preach the truth even though we may have no converts? Do we only want to answer the call to, “go therefore,” provided the message will be well received?
Here is the silver lining: God knows it is not easy. He tells Isaiah before he goes that his message will not be well received. Jesus tells His disciples before they go that they will be scourged and jailed. God wants us to know sharing the gospel is not easy, but we still must go.
There is great reward for those touched by God’s grace and are willing to say, “Here am I. Send Me.”
Remember what Jesus says, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Peter began to say to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You." Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mar 10:28-30)
Be a hero in God’s eyes.
MAIN IDEA: Hear and respond to the Lord’s cry for messengers.