Surely Isaiah, Israel’s political and religious leader for sixty years, stands among the Lord’s giants who responded to his call to “Go!” But God never limited this call to Bible times. And one doesn’t have to be one of his “giants” to
hear his call!
Of course, no time is uncomplicated, undemanding, and trouble-free when God calls! Isaiah had been called to his prophetic office before his signal vision in chapter six while a youth doing his royal duties as a member of the court. Life was always troubling living under the northern storm clouds of Assyria, the mightiest kingdom on earth that time. But King Uzziah, the Churchill of his day, the Jewish leader who had led like a rock against Tiglath-pileser for fifty-two years, suddenly died. Gone! No comparable leader in reserve! What next for God’s people?
Young Isaiah knew well that the northern kingdom had been forfeiting God’s divine protection and Assyria seemed invincible. What about Judah, the southern kingdom? No small wonder why God’s call was so laser-sharp, so galvanizing! Big moments require big vision and courageand Isaiah responded in sheer awe and self-inadequacy, yet embolded to say prayerfully, “Send me.”
Wow! Many, many through the years have heard that call, but few have responded. Not because they were evil or necessarily selfish, but because they did not buy into the vision that God was laying out. Buying into this vision that comes to each of us who have claimed to have seen the Lord requires no bargaining with the Lord. That is, “if this or that can be arranged.” Or, “if I know when my term will be up.” I think that those this quarter whom we are honoring and endeavoring to reproduce or reflect (if we want to end up where they will end up) never thought more than thirty seconds about these “normal” considerations.
Isaiah was not given a rosy picture of great success. The Lord told him from the get-go that his message would largely go unheeded (Isa. 6:9, 19). Not a great send-off! But he had his message and assignment. No seeker-friendly, marketing program. Foreseeable failure is a tough assignment for a young, talented, highly credentialed young man.
Isaiah saw clearly that the Lord was not programming the future. He was not blinding the eyes or shutting the ears of Isaiah’s audiences. Israel was bringing all this upon themselves by rejecting the waves of warning and invitation that the Lord had been giving them for years. God was doing all he could to awaken interest in the truth about himself and their future but the people, generally, were building their habits of indifference until they could no longer perceive spiritual things. Just the law of cause and consequences that operates so pandemically today!
But his Lord was not finished. Do your duty, Isaiah, be faithful to the truth, and you will always find a “remnant” who will “get it” (chs 6:13; 10:2022; Rom. 11:5; Rev. 12:17). The first half of Isaiah’s messages was devoted to rallying the loyalists in the northern kingdom. The last half appealed to Judah, the southern kingdom. Same message, same result. But always the remnant exists, then and now.
Our response to this quarter’s lesson, in our day of response-ability to God’s call, is simply, “Here am I, Lord, Send me, whatever, wherever.”
Herbert E. Douglass is a theologian, retired college administrator, and author of twenty-two books who currently lives in Lincoln, California.