“HERE AM I. SEND ME!”
Key Verse 6:8
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”
Thank God for blessing the MSU International Bible Conference with his words from the Bible. We were all moved by the unfailing and unceasing love of God the Father as shown through the parable of the prodigal son and through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on the cross. We also heard many gracious and moving testimonies and mission reports from servants of God from six continents. The Conference renewed us to live for the glory of God and to pray unceasingly that God’s kingdom may come in our hearts and in the hearts of people all over the world, especially to China, North Korea and the Muslim nations.
In today’s passage, God calls Isaiah to proclaim his message to his people who had fallen away from him into idolatry, unfaithfulness and superficial worship. God’s calling to Isaiah was in one of the darkest times of Israel’s history. Today we also are living in dark times. Though America is a blessed nation because God has used many people of faith in its early history to lay a spiritual foundation, we also see many people falling away from the faith of their fathers. Our country seems to be on a moral and spiritual decline. In this time, what shall we do? The Bible tells us what to do and shows us. It shows us that God still calls people today, to go for him with the message of the gospel of salvation. This precious calling from God is our honor and privilege.
This calling from God is God’s love for us to use us and it is a sign of his love for the fallen world. It is like receiving the best job offer in the world. How can we refuse it? I pray that through this message, God may help you to hear his voice and accept his personal calling as the best blessing that pleases him because by it you are bringing salvation to the world.
Part 1. The Lord seated on a throne. (1-7)
Look at verse 1a, “In the year that King Uzziah died…” This verse gives us the background under which God called Isaiah. Isaiah is one of the most well known prophets in the Bible. He wrote 66 chapters. This is more than any other book in the Bible except the book of Psalms which has 150. Isaiah prophesied many amazing prophecies about the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ and his sufferings and his resurrection from the dead. Isaiah chapter 53 is probably the most famous chapter about the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
A Jewish tradition says that Isaiah was the cousin of King Uzziah. He must have been close to the king and worked for him. Isaiah was deeply affected by the death of the king. But it wasn’t only because Isaiah had been personally close to him. There were dark clouds hanging over his people and he was concerned about the future of the nation. King Uzziah had reigned over Judea for 52 years, longer than any other king. He was only sixteen years old when he became king. He was an able and powerful king and under his rule his people enjoyed peace and prosperity. Upon his success, however, he became proud. Against the advice of the 81 priests, he entered the temple to burn incense, the duty reserved for only priests. He thought that since he was doing everything so well that he could become a high priest himself! (2 Chron.26:16) But God struck him with leprosy and he had leprosy until the day he died.
With the death of King Uzziah, the geopolitical conditions surrounding the nation appeared to be ominous. The neighboring Edomites and the Philistines would frequently attack and plunder the people. Only 18 years earlier the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the invading Assyrians. Judah also seemed to be at the brink of destruction.
The most serious threat came not from without but from within. The people were morally and spiritually corrupt (2 Chron.27:2). The first five chapters of Isaiah reveals the immorality, spiritually adultery and superficial worship of the people. The rich oppressed the poor. Young people stayed up late and drank all night (5:11). Bars and nightclubs in Jerusalem were doing good business. Young women walked around with flirting eyes, tripping along with mincing steps and with ornaments jingling on their ankles (3:16). Isaiah 1:5 says that the whole head of the nation of Israel was injured and its whole heart afflicted.
In this situation, Isaiah despaired. It seemed hopeless. In his eyes, the end of Judah, the end of God’s chosen people were inevitable. In his despair he would say many negative things and complain to his family and friends, “I don’t see how we can get out of this awful situation. This is terrible! So what is the use of struggling to live by faith. God does not seem to care about us.” In his despair, Isaiah went to the temple to pray and complain more to God. It was in the temple that Isaiah experienced something that would change his life. In the temple he saw an incredible vision, met the Almighty God and heard the word of the Lord. The word of the Lord revealed who the Lord is and what Isaiah should do.
Let’s look at verse 1 one more time. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted and the train of his robe filled the temple.” Wow, what an incredible vision! God revealed himself to Isaiah and showed himself to Isaiah that he was the living God seated on his mighty throne. The words “seated on a throne” means that God is ruling high and exalted over all the nations as the King of kings and Lord of lords. This vision given to Isaiah shows that God is in sovereign control of the universe. Isaiah thought that he and his people had no hope because of their human situations. He thought the world was ruled by superpower nations such as the Assyrian Empire. Other people seemed to think so as well and utterly despaired.
But Isaiah discovered through this vision that God is reigning over all the earth, high and exalted as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Look at verse 2, “Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” What are seraphs? They are special angels that only stay in God’s presence to worship him and to praise him. In this scene they cover their faces not thinking they could look at the Almighty God. They flew all around him as if they were presenting him to world. And they called to one another declaring God’s glory.
Look at verse 3, “And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” Their calling to one another might have sounded wonderful like the Halelujah chorus that we sang at the MSU conference that made it sound like we were in heaven before the throne of God. “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord Almighty…”! Each time they said “holy” it was for God the Father, Jesus the Son and for the Holy Spirit. It was a beautiful sound and a beautiful and awesome picture of the holiness of God who is pure, perfect and forever loving, righteous and just.
Though from Isaiah’s viewpoint and to others, the world looked dark, it wasn’t dark to the seraphs and to God himself. “The whole world is full of his glory” means that God is not controlled by man’s situation. It means that God is still God no matter what goes on in earth. After 9/11 many people asked why did God let this happen? People became more fatalistic, angry and afraid. More people began to see psychiatrists and seek ways to calm their jittery nerves. They became more pessimistic about their futures. But according to the word of God, the earth is not a dark place where terrorism rules and where uncertainty rules. The whole earth is full of God’s glory because the unchanging God of the Bible rules. It is the sin of men and their actions that makes the earth appear very dark. God still rules from his throne. God’s rule is a glorious rule and a peaceful rule when we ask Jesus into hearts and allow him to rule our hearts with the prayer, “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.”
God’s glory grows brighter in our hearts when we come to know him personally and learn to praise him. God is worthy of our praise and worship. Like Isaiah, we need to meet God personally to experience who he really is. Many times we limit God because of our human situation. Our problems may seem endless. We say, “If only my situation was better. If only I didn’t have to deal with him.” We take our eyes off of God Almighty and fall into defeated thinking and habitual complaining and moaning. We need our spiritual eyes to be opened to see God’s glory and accept that he is the sovereign ruler of the world and that he cares for us personally. This vision that Isaiah saw helped him to go on because it led him to begin to know who God is and it also helped him to see who he was.
Let’s read verses 4-5, “At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Not only was this vision to see God breathtaking for Isaiah and awesome, the fact that he saw who he was before God was life shaking and awesome itself. The first thing Isaiah did when he saw God was that he found himself to be a sinner and he cried tears of repentance. When a person comes into God’s presence, whether through prayer, Bible study, a message or someone’s witness, he can only cry tears of repentance. “Woe to me I am ruined!” This is the beginning point of our life of faith when we realize who the God of the Bible is and when we cry tears of repentance over our sins. It is at this point when we can begin to learn humbly from God and grow to be his servant.
Isaiah used to think that he was better than other people because he was a prophet of the Lord. He was also an educated person who knew the world well. Even from a moral standpoint, he was a lot better than others he thought. When I was a young shepherd I thought that I was better than most people because I was a shepherd at UBF. I was proud to be a UBF shepherd, but it was not a pride that God choose me it was a self-righteous pride. Then when I began to have common life together with my sheep I began to realize my sins. When one of my sheep living with me rebuked me by saying, “You know you expect everyone and me especially to be like you, but I can’t!” it struck a blow to my self-righteous pride and I began to see my sins before God. Later, I realized I was more of a sinner than any of my sheep and that I should pray more for myself to repent instead of telling my sheep to repent.
When Isaiah saw the exalted Lord God in the temple he saw himself more clearly than he ever had. He saw himself as a ruined sinner. He was like Peter when he listened to Jesus and caught the large amount of fish after working hard to fish all night and had caught nothing. After they caught the fish, the fishing boats were so full of fish that they began to sink. Peter then fell at Jesus’ knees and said in Luke 5:8, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Isaiah concluded that he was a man of unclean lips. He also realized that he was living among a people of unclean lips. What comes out of our lips is what is in our heart. Words of profanity, complaining, slander and boasting and even unbelief come from a dirty and sinful heart.
Isaiah realized that he had not used his mouth to praise God. He had only used his mouth to complain and to speak words of despair, complaints and unbelief. So he said, “Woe to me! I am ruined!” He repented that he had been a bad influence on others by speaking words of unbelief. As God’s people we should use our mouths to speak words of faith and hope instead of unbelief in order to build others up.
What did God do for Isaiah? Look at verses 6-7, “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Something amazing happened to Isaiah. One of the angels touched Isaiah’s mouth with a live coal. God took away his guilt. God atoned for his sin. His life of unclean lips was not a small matter. He needed God’s forgiveness of his guilt and sin.
1 John 1:9 says, “That if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” The blood of Jesus takes away our sins when we repent of our sins and we are made new in Christ. Our hearts are changed and we can begin to proclaim the words of God with believing hearts and clean lips.
Part 2. “Here am I. Send me!” (8-13)
In part one we saw that Isaiah met God personally with his encounter with him at the temple. We saw he also knew his sin problem before this Holy God and he cried tears of repentance and was forgiven. Now he was ready for God’s calling. This is just what is needed for us to personally accept God’s calling: Meet God personally, know my sinfulness before God, repent and receive his mercy of forgiveness personally.
Now let us take a look at God’s personal calling to Isaiah. This is the next step. Let’s read verse 8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” This calling has two parts. The first one is God asking, “Whom shall I send?” We see here that God wants to send people out into the world to save them. This is God’s action and he will do it because he desires that his will to be done on earth as it in heaven. The second part is, “…And who will go for us?” This is God asking for volunteers. God wants us to make a personal decision.
We see here that God did not tell Isaiah he had to go. He did not force him and make him go. God gives us freedom to accept the blessing, honor and privilege to serve him. When we know who God is and God’s wonderful grace for our life and the miserable life of sin that he saved us from, then there is absolutely no hesitation whatsoever.
Those who truly come to know the love of Jesus cannot go on ignoring God’s mission and keep living as they were, that is self-centered and pleasure seeking lives. They want to listen to God’s call and follow Jesus and tell what great things the Lord has done for them. The Samaritan woman in John chapter 4 left behind her water jar which represented her thirsty life without Jesus, to give a life-testimony to the townspeople who had known her to be a sinful woman. The Gerasene demoniac in Mark chapter 5 is another very good example. When Jesus cast out the 6,000 demons from him, he experienced Jesus’ cleansing and wanted to follow Jesus. He even begged Jesus to let him come as one of his disciples. Jesus told him, “Go home to your family and tell how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mk.5:19) The man then went not only to his own home, but all over to tell what the Lord had done for him.
Let’s look now at Isaiah’s answer to God’s call in verse 8. This is very important that we pay extremely careful attention to how he responded and what he said. What did he say in verse 8? Isaiah said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isaiah made a personal decision to go as and follow the call of God. He did not recommend someone else to God. “God, I know a really faithful man who might just be the guy you are looking for…”
No. Isaiah himself made the personal decision. He said, “Here am I. Send me!” It was like he was saying, “I’m available and ready to go right now!” Isaiah jumped at the opportunity to volunteer willingly. No one pushed him. No one forced him. How could he make such an immediate decision? It was because he realized the heart of God for his sinful people who were on their way to the judgment of hell. He grieved for them when he saw God’s broken heart for them and his love for them. So he immediately accepted God’s calling with a sense of obligation. He felt personally responsible for his people.
These days we see people volunteering to serve the Democratic party or the Republican party. Some appear to give their whole hearts so that their candidate might win. Each candidate promises a better life and a better future for us and our children. But as we know nothing is for sure when a sinful human being makes a promise especially a politician in an election year. Volunteering for a worldly cause is good, but volunteering for God and accepting God’s call is much better because it reaps eternal rewards and it saves people who were on their way to eternal destruction. There are many men and women of faith in the Bible who accepted God’s calling and became participants in God’s salvation history. Abraham accepted God’s calling even though he was an old man. He became a source of blessing to all who believe. Moses accepted God’s calling even though he could not speak well. Mary accepted God’s calling and became the mother of Jesus. Peter accepted God’s calling and became a fisher of men for the glory of God and Levi heard the voice of Jesus calling him and left his tax collector’s booth for the kingdom of God.
Have you accepted God’s precious calling yet? If you haven’t then think about the time when you first became saved. What if the person whom you heard the gospel from or the Bible some person gave you decided not to reach out to you. Where would you be now? Without someone accepting God’s calling and going out to tell others, how can people of all nations be saved? Romans 10:14-15 says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’”
Today we will hear two life testimonies, one from Peter Park and then other from Joseph Song. They accepted God’s precious calling to go to foreign nations that are hostile to the gospel and full of violence and corruption. They are risking their lives in order to do this. What drives them and motivates them? It is the heart of God in them and their sense of responsibility. It is because they accept that Jesus loves them and it is their expression of their love for Jesus that they will do anything for Jesus. At the MSU conference we heard testimonies of Americans who left comfy America to go to poor third world countries because they accepted God’s precious life giving calling. Joe Magno and his family from Triton left for Nigeria and John Peace and his family left for the Ukraine. It was not because they were forced to go or pushed to go. It was their personal decision because they accepted God’s precious calling and it was because they love like Jesus who gave his life for the salvation of the world.
God’s calling is not easy. It is a difficult mission. God told Isaiah of the difficulty he would encounter. Look at verses 9-10. “He said, ‘Go and tell this people; ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the hearts of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn and be healed.” God warned Isaiah about his stubborn people. The people would reject his words, even though he spoke the truth in love. Jesus also quoted from these words in the parable of the sower. It is true that many people might like to hear what the gospel says, but when the time comes to repent and make a decision, they reject Jesus and follow their own sinful nature and suffer.
What was Isaiah’s response to this gloomy forecast? Look at verse 11a, “Then I said, ‘For how long, O Lord?…” Isaiah might have groaned when he said this, “For how long, O Lord?…” Many of us might ask the same question like Isaiah. For how long should we keep on inviting students to study the Bible and they reject us every time? How long should we keep on studying with students who make no commitment to follow Jesus and who stop Bible study after we spent our time and energy with them? Some of us are almost 30 to 40 years older then the average college student. How can we expect college students who usually don’t listen to their parents to listen to us and be discipled?
What was God’s answer to Isaiah? Let’s read verses 11-12, “Then I said, ‘For how long, O Lord? And he answered: ‘Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken.” God’s answer was that there is no time limit in proclaiming the message of God. The messenger must declare God’s word until the end. It is a life long mission. There is no retirement. Isaiah delivered God’s word to his people throughout his life. As God had warned him, his people did not pay attention to him. In the end, according to history, he was martyred, sawed in two for his faith in God. (Heb.11:37)
Why did God send his servant to such people who would never pay attention to his message? It is because God is a God of love and mercy. God does not delight in the death of anyone but wants all to come to the knowledge of salvation and be saved. God never gives up on anyone. God loves the whole world. We saw this at the MSU Conference through the message of the prodigal son and the crucifixion of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus saved a lifetime criminal who repented at the last hour of his life. God does not want us to give up but to be faithful to the end regardless of how others react and how they live.
Look at verse 13, “And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” Here God encourages us by telling us that there will be a remnant that will return. This is the meaning of the stumps. Even though a tree is cut to the stump, there is life in the tree because the roots are still there. Even when the world looks desolate like a forest of cut down trees with only their stumps remaining, God will find those whom he calls to be his remnant people.
In all generations and through Bible history, God works through the remnant in order to bring his salvation to the whole world. Isaiah himself was a remnant. He named his first son, “Shear-Jashub” which means “a remnant shall return.” Out of God’s people who were faithful, the remnant, God would bring Jesus. In Isaiah chapter 11 we see the coming of Jesus out of a shoot, the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit (11:1) and Jesus would bless the whole world. This is whom Isaiah and all of us can look so eagerly forward to. In UBF we talk a lot about a remnant or remains. It is a privilege and blessing to be a remnant for God. In our chapter’s history we have seen so many people come and so many people go.
Only those who accepted the preciousness and importance of campus mission remained. God is using us all over the world. They are the holy seed in the land. We should not be discouraged when we see little fruit as a result of our hard labor and service for the Lord. We should instead thank God that he has chosen us as his remnant, the holy seed in the land, to bring his salvation to the whole world. We must also believe that when we accept God’s calling and volunteer to go out into the world with the gospel, that God will use us to bring his kingdom into the hearts of men and women of all nations.
May God help you hear his voice and help you to respond to his personal calling. May God help you to live as a remnant people who tell of the gospel of Jesus to all nations.