Whom Shall I Send, and Who Will Go for Us?
Dear Christian friends,
A little girl was among a group of people who were on a tour through a cathedral. There was beautiful craftsmanship in so many features of the church, but what captivated the interest of one little girl were the stained-glass windows. She couldn’t stop staring at them. She remained silent for a while but looking up at the windows as the soft colors bathed the room, she asked the question, “Who are those people in those windows?”
“Those are the saints,” was the reply by the tour guide.
That night as the little girl was preparing to go to bed, she told the mother proudly, “I know what a saint is!”
“Oh!” said her mom, “Just what is a saint?”
The little girl replied, “They are people who let the light shine through them!” A little by accident, but that is not a bad definition. Not at all!
We are saints through whom the light of Jesus shines. We reflect the light of him who is the Light of the world. We answer the questions that God asked Isaiah in the affirmative. “Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us?” 1) I will go because you are holy; 2) I will go because you are a God of grace; 3) I will go because I want to serve.
These words of Scripture recall Isaiah’s call into the ministry. He was called to be a prophet in a very big way. Isaiah saw a vision. The year was 740 BC. The country of Judahwas in serious trouble with the Lord. Judah’s love for the Lord had waned, so God sent his prophet Isaiah to preach to them and call them to repent and to believe. Before God could send Isaiah, he had to call him. “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.”
Have you ever been somewhere that was so beautiful and impressive it took your breath way? Everyone has his or her own favorite place to be on this earth. Some like the ocean and the beach. I like the mountains. None of them, however, can compare with what Isaiah saw. What he saw was truly breathtaking. He saw heaven itself. He saw God. “Above him were two seraphs (angels), each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.” Humbly the angels were praising God. “And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the door posts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.”
When my daughter was pregnant she said her mind was always working overtime. Just about every night she had two or three dreams. She usually remembered them. If dreams somehow reflect on what a person thinks during the day, I wondered what in the world was she thinking. They are strange. The dream Isaiah had, the vision sent by God Himself, was not strange but totally spectacular. Imagine having a dream where you saw the true and living triune God! Imagine being brought before His very throne! That’ll get your blood flowing and your heart beating.
The greatness of God couldn’t even be contained in his temple. The train of His robe filled it. Imagine hearing the praise of the angels. “Holy! Holy! Holy!” they sang. God is holy; God is sinless; God is perfect. Let everyone give him the reverence and respect he deserves.
The ancient Greeks had gods, but they thought of their gods in very human terms. Their gods committed the same sins as every day people. In fact, the ancient Greeks thought that the human race came about from the adulterous relationships the gods had with the goddesses. The God of the Scriptures, the Lord of the nations, the true and only triune God is holy.
That word “holy” is not easy to define or fathom. It seems to me to fathom holiness requires holiness. Who is holy? Someone wrote about God’s holiness, “God is not subject to any standard or idea over and above himself.” He sets the standards for what we are to say and do and think. He tells us what is right and wrong. His holiness will not allow himself to be satisfied with anything less.
That is hard for us to understand, because we are satisfied so easily with things that are far from perfect including our own lives. But think about this: A surgeon is about to do surgery. He sees a scalpel that has a slight nick in it or a fingerprint on it. What will he do? Will he use it? Of course not!! Having a little nick or having a fingerprint defiles it. A surgical instrument must be precise and not have a single flaw or germ. If the surgeon is any kind of surgeon at all, he will choose another scalpel. It is not a matter of degree of dirt or dullness it must be precise. He is interested in absolutes.
That is our God. He is holy and says, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord, your God, am holy.” He is not interested in being close to right, he is not concerned about a degree of being right, he is concerned about absolutes.
That, however, is not the kind of God people like to hear about. People want a God who is a less dogmatic. People want a God who will cut some slack. The world wants a God who will bend the rules. Examples? People want a God that wants us to have some fleshly fun and a God who will say it is okay to be selfish and not so concerned about the other person. After all, what’s wrong with being concerned about oneself? But what someone wants doesn’t change reality. The reality is that God is holy and God demands that you and I be holy.
He is not a God of error but a God of truth. He is a God of right and wrong, of do’s and don’ts. He is the God who wants and deserves our full respect and honor and worship. Don’t ever think it is okay to set aside what he says or believe that our ways are better than his. He is not to be approached with arrogance or cockiness. When we have done wrong, don’t bother trying to hide or cover it up. God is holy and demands us to be holy! People need to know him and know holiness is part of who he is.
If we take him seriously, and all better do so, who doesn’t squirm and sweat at those words and the thought of holiness? We are so far away from it. But thank God he is not only holy; he is also a God of grace.
Our holy God does not abandon the unholy, but he loves them. God also wanted Isaiah to see that and see that well. He wants us to see that and see that well.
We see something very unusual happen here, “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.’”
Did you hear that? Do you understand that? An angel took a live coal from the altar placed it into the mouth of Isaiah and said his sins were taken away. You would expect Isaiah to protest and say he would pass on the coal. You would expect Isaiah to scream in pain. Instead, when this hot coal was placed into his mouth, he was assured of the forgiveness of his sins.
How unusual! What exactly does that mean? Put yourself back in the Old Testament to help you appreciate this picture. Remember where the hot coals came from. They came from the altar of sacrifice. That altar was where the Old Testament people brought their lambs and sheep as offerings to atone for their sins. They were a picture of the once-for- all sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.
Martin Luther made a comment on this unusual verse, which I think is insightful. There was something tangible that assured Isaiah of forgiveness. It was that hot coal. He points out that the Lord assures the world of forgiveness through his Word by giving us a tangible sign. It is not a hot coal but the waters of baptism and the bread and body of Christ and wine and the blood of Christ of the Lord’s Supper. “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins.” Take and eat, this is my body...Take drink, this is the blood of the New Testament given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins.” Remember your baptism when God said your sins were washed away and made acceptable to God. When you come to the Lord’s Supper, he tells you that you can return to our seats personally assured of forgiveness, for we received into our very mouths the body and blood of Jesus which won forgiveness on the cross. Our God is a God of grace.
You all know what latch key kids are. They are the children who get home from school without any parent waiting for them. Many come from single parent homes or when Mom and Dad both work. Sociologists and psychologists are concerned. We can see the reason why. They aren’t getting the attention they need. When they are home alone they can easily get into trouble, especially when there are other latchkey kids in the neighborhood. When it comes to the Lord, don’t ever question whether the Lord gives you special attention. With his Word he tells you that you are his child. In the sacraments God deals with you in a very personal way. No one is baptized for you. It is your baptism. No one takes the Lord’s Supper for you. You partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord wants you to know he is gracious and full of mercy and that there is plenty more where that came from. He is a God who in his grace declares you to be holy, forgiven of sin.
In the light of his grace he calls his cleansed to serve him. When Isaiah was assured of cleansing, the Lord asked the question, “Whom shall I send? And who shall go for us?” Isaiah answered, “Here am I. Send me!” There was no need to bend his arm or make a deal with Isaiah. Isaiah was more than willing.
Our Lord, who is holy, but also full of grace, deserves our lives dedicated to him too in all we do. No you don’t deserve the privilege. No one is. Isaiah wasn’t; Peter wasn’t; Paul wasn’t; Larry Zahn isn’t. No one is. But Isaiah teaches us a very serious lesson. Once Isaiah knew his sins were forgiven, then he wanted to serve. That makes sense, doesn’t it? There is no one in the world who is more capable to tell others about forgiveness than those who have been forgiven. There is no one in the world who is better able to serve than the person who knows he has been served by the Savior.
Service for the Lord is not something that needs to be forced because there is resistance. Serving comes naturally. I love the way Martin Luther said it. “Serving the Lord is done the same way a pear produces pears. You don’t have to tell a pear tree to bear pears. You don’t have to stand over it with a whip to force it to bear pears. You don’t have to promise it all kinds of rewards if it bears pears. It just does it.” That is the way a Christian serves the Lord. He just does it.
If you are having a hard time serving or giving to God as he has given to you, do what Isaiah did. See God’s holiness and the holiness that you lack but that God provided in Christ. Listen to his promise of full and free forgiveness. Listen to his promise, “Your sin is taken away and your guilt is atoned for.” Remember your baptism and all its promises. Come to the Lord’s Supper for personal forgiveness. When the Lord asks who will we send? Who will go for us? It is so much easier to say, “Send me, Lord. You can count on me.”