What does it do to us when we experience the presence of God? We get a snapshot in Isaiah’s commission to ministry in Isaiah 6. In the year of King Uzziah’s death, Isaiah described seeing God and receiving a commission:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” (Isaiah 6:1)
God is above all, with heavenly beings crying, “Holy, holy, holy!” As at Mount Sinai, his presence is overwhelming, accompanied by storms raging and the ground quaking. Isaiah was overcome by it.
“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.” (Isaiah 6:5)
Let’s not miss the reason Isaiah felt undone here. It wasn’t merely because of God’s majesty—because God is the Creator and he is the creature. Nor was it simply because God is eternal and Isaiah is finite—or because God dwells in the spiritual realm and he in the physical. He was ruined because of sin. He was unclean. He was surrounded by sin. Sin separates us from God so that we are ruined.
“Sin separates us from God so that we are ruined.”
In the first chapters of the book of Isaiah, we read how God would wreck the nation in order to restore it. Now he does the same for Isaiah. With his sin glaringly exposed in the presence of the Lord, Isaiah was wrecked. Here God acted to atone for his sin:
“Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:7b)
Isaiah foretold of God’s plan to restore Judah (and ultimately, the entire creation). But here, it became personal. Isaiah’s experience gave us a picture of what God would someday do to restore us individually. He would act to remove our guilt and atone for our sin.
In this removal of guilt we see a picture of the coming salvation that Jesus would accomplish. But it’s also crucial that we recognize Isaiah’s response to this restoration.
“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!” (Isaiah 6:8)
Because of what God had done for him—saving him from ruin—he was ready and willing to do whatever the Lord asked. So he received a commission. It began like Jesus’ commission for us today: Go.
“Because of what God had done for him—saving him from ruin—he was ready and willing to do whatever the Lord asked.”
Humbled or Hardened?
Yet not everyone who hears God’s words takes them seriously. God said to Isaiah,
“Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. ‘Make the heart 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.’” (Isaiah 6:9-10)
These words of Isaiah are quoted by Jesus and referenced by New Testament authors in Matthew 13:14-15, Mark 4:12, Luke 8:10, John 12:40, and Acts 28:26-27.
Here is the point being made when these verses are quoted in the Gospels: The word of God either convicts our hearts or hardens our hearts. All who ignored the words of the prophets had hardened hearts, and they hardened their hearts against the Savior also.
“The word of God either convicts our hearts or hardens our hearts.”
Here is the point being made by Paul when he quotes these words, recorded in Acts, as he preached to the Jewish leaders in Rome: “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:28). The Jewish leaders’ response to Paul was that “some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe” (Acts 28:24). As for us, may we choose to listen!
Hearing God’s word, we will either be hardened or changed and commissioned. God’s word of truth and offer of grace ought to cause us to be willing to do whatever he asks. And our commission today is the same as Isaiah’s: Go. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Excerpted from Tina Wilson’s 365-day chronological Bible study Step into Scripture: A Daily Journey to Understanding Your Bible.