Worshiping by Response

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12 and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:1-13)

As we have looked at Isaiah 6 over the last two weeks, we have observed a few things. It has been interesting to see how God has comforted Isaiah in his distress, there was great national distress in the land and personal distress for Isaiah at the losing of their leader, King Uzziah. King Uzziah was not a perfect man, but he had brought stability to the land. In this tragic event that would lead to national and personal uncertainty, the Lord appears and begins to remind Isaiah of truth. It is in times of distress when we need to hear truth, to be reminded of truth. That truth was that though an earthly king had died, the heavenly Lord still reigns. Personal tragedy, national tragedy does not leave any one of us as believers exposed to chaos, or even to a certain disposition of fear. If there were no Lord reigning on high, then there is chaos and there is reason to fear. But we have a Lord who is ruling and reigning. And though we may not understand the events we see before us, or understand how all the pieces of life fit together, we can be assured they do fit in the mind of our holy God who not only reigns and rules, but who loves us.

These are not just words to hear, they are truths that should impact our lives. We are constantly, or at least regularly put to the test regarding this. Our world begins to rumble around us, difficulties come in many forms and varying levels of intensity, relational struggles, financial woes, embarrassment, physical affliction, dreams shattered, faith that is weak at times, joy that seems lost, and in all of these things we face a decision to either believe that our Lord reigns, rules, is in control, and loves us, or to act as if none of that is true. 

But we have seen in this account with Isaiah and the Lord that there is more than just the fact that the Lord is high and lifted up as a ruler, reigning. He is certainly that, He always does that. But we also have seen that He is holy in His rule, in His character, and all His conduct. This means He is perfectly pure. He is perfect in all the decisions He makes, in all that He does, in all that He allows into our lives, it’s perfectly pure and right, and consistent with who He is. That’s always the case. And this is why, I think, or at least one reason why Isaiah, after seeing the Lord and hearing the proclamation of the holiness of God, that he became fearful and said, “Woe is me! I am lost.” He saw who the Lord was and came face to face with who he was as a man. A terribly sinful man standing in the presence of perfection, of holiness. Being in that situation, what could he say other than, “I am doomed”? Isaiah saw this reality here that we may sometimes lose sight of, that is who the Lord is and who we are without Him. We need to be reminded of this, we need to experience this, we need to understand our lowliness in our own flesh. We need to see that without His grace we are doomed, we are lost. I wonder for us if we have been where Isaiah is. For each one of us, have we understood who God is and who we are without Him? Do we remind ourselves of our need for the Lord in all of life, in everything we do?

The Lord did not leave Isaiah in this place. His grace was poured out to Isaiah. It must have been the greatest relief that could ever be experienced. 

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

What an act by a gracious, perfect, holy Lord! This act, this declaration, “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Is that not a phrase that we need to post everywhere we go? Are you feeling down, depressed, stressed, lost? Remember this as a Christian, “your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for”!

1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God…6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:1-2, 6-11)

It’s the gospel message of grace. God coming to us, making Himself known to us, even with our unclean lips and dwelling in a people of unclean lips. God entering into our world, coming to us, having given His Son Jesus Christ to take away our sins, His willing death paying for our sins, wiping our slate clean, saying, “Yes, your guilt is taken away, your sins are forgiven, I have declared you to be free from any wrath of God, I have taken that for you.” Christ Jesus stood in our place. This is the message given to us. We stand where Isaiah stood on that day. We have been set free from any fear of wrath to come. From death to life, from a cowering fear to a relationship with God, that is where we are. So all this takes place, all this happens, and in that context the Lord speaks:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8)

And this man who had seen the Lord, had been brought low by the holiness of the Lord, who had then felt the grace of the Lord come upon him, the Lord’s gracious compassion came to him in his lowliness, and now he hears this call of the Lord and without hesitation he responds. I mean what is he going to say at this point? After what had just been revealed to him, what had just happened in his life? What is he going to say? He says: “Here I am! Send me.” There is much to say about this call and Isaiah’s response, but I want to focus really on one main thing. The primary thing I want us to understand is that Isaiah’s response to the call of the Lord was an act of worship. Worship has been our theme for the last four weeks, and here we see worship, a very important aspect of worship. We see this man touched by God, saying, “I will give myself to serve you.” Now there is a lot behind that, and we have seen what has occurred leading up to this active worship: revelation from God to man, seeing Him on the throne, declaration of His holiness, understanding who God is and his own lowliness, declaration that his sin was atoned for, his guilt taken away, all of that leading up to this act of worship that all began with God, it includes grace, the Lord’s sustaining grace as we will see. It’s all to serve God as an act of worship. I’m using the words “serve” and “worship” together, and I want you to see that from Scripture.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

The word “worship” here means an expression of adoration and reverence toward God. Isn’t that what our service is to be also? It is sometimes translated as “service,” meaning service to God, active adoration and reverence toward God in what we do next and how we serve Him. Paul is saying to Christians, “Present yourselves, your bodies, as a sacrifice to God, which is to worship or serve Him.” You will notice that when the Lord asked the question, ““Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” that he asked for a volunteer before giving the details of the mission. I don’t know how it is at your house, but when I ask for a volunteer before describing what the task will be, I tend not to get a response other than, “Volunteer for what?” When the Lord asks, Isaiah does not say, “Send to do what?” or “Go for you to do what?” He didn’t even ask the question, he basically just said, “Pick me, I want to go, I’m ready, send me!” He didn’t analyze it, he didn’t research it, he didn’t question the Lord, he didn’t consult with his friends or family, it was just, “I’ll do it, if you’ll have me I’ll do it!” Why such a response? Because he was overwhelmed by God and God’s work in him. The Lord had captured this man’s heart, comforted his soul, he was a man now ready to serve, and his service would be an act of worship.

Every day, every day I believe, we are right here where Isaiah is in this passage. I’m talking to those of you who are Christians, who have been saved by the Lord, who have by faith believed in the finished work of Christ. Every day we find ourselves where Isaiah is in this account. By that I mean, God calls us to go out into the world, into relationships, into every circumstance that He puts before us. He calls us to go out for Him in worship and service. That means, like Isaiah, this life we live is not our own, it belongs to the Lord, the one who has taken away our guilt and atoned for our sins. We are His. We can answer the call as Isaiah did.

We are to be worshipers of Him in all that we do, and that worship will look like faithful service in every respect. Adoration for God, reverence toward God, loving God, desiring to please God, this is worship and it is service. That like Isaiah, every step we take will be focused on the Lord and how we are going to represent Him in this world. If on the other hand our focus is on ourselves, we will not represent him well nor will we worship. But like with Isaiah, worship does not begin or continue by saying, “I’m going to go out and be a worshiper today, I’m going to go out and be a servant today.” It doesn’t really start with that decision, it begins in being overcome, stirred, touched, affected by God. By gazing into His glory, being dazzled by His person, overwhelmed by His grace and compassion. That is where it starts. It is not some cold, indifferent, or simply dutiful worship or service. We don’t just buck up and say, “I’m going to be this way or that.” We are moved to it as we relate to Him as lowly sinners saved by His grace. And so when we are and we say, “Here I am, send me,” we are saying, “I want to live for you. How else am I going to live having known you, having been changed by you?” And that means when we meet our neighbor who is treating us unfairly, we then as an act of worship serve them in love. When our children don’t respect us as parents, then as an act of worship we parent by grace as we serve that child. When our spouse does not respond in a way that we want them to in love, we respond in love as an act of worship. In other words we do as God has instructed us to do as those called by him and those who have said, “Here I am, send me.”

We get into trouble and fail to worship when we put God off in a corner, His work in and for us on a shelf, we leave behind the glory due Him, we forget about that for a time and go our own way, and walk as if those things didn’t happen or He doesn’t exist. We may say, “How do we maintain a steady life of worship? Life can get really hard and sometimes my feelings are really strong that pull me in another direction other than serving the Lord, worshiping Him, so I don’t know if it is possible to even worship steadily through life.” Well, if we think life can be hard, then consider what Isaiah lived through. After Isaiah speaks up saying, “Send me, I’ll go,” the Lord begins to outline his new mission, and it was not an easy one.

9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

The basic message to Isaiah was, “You go and represent me to these people, but you need to understand, they will not respond positively to the message. But you go and deliver it anyway. This is how you can worship me.” Isaiah was going to move into some dark times, reaching out to a people who were not going to respond to him, to the message. If he was all about feeling good about himself, or having the approval of man, or feeling successful in the eyes of the world, he would be severely disappointed. So he would be tested, is he serving the Lord or man? Serving God or self? What can sustain a man through such a ministry? How can he go on with rejection from the people he is ministering to? How does he go on, how do we when it is really hard? By remembering who sent him, remembering the Lord high and lifted up, by recalling His grace, by gazing into His glory, being overwhelmed by Him and no other, that’s how he would go on, and that’s how we continue on. If this is about worship, then we can go on adoring God and living in awe of Him, making Him known, remembering Christ, spreading His fame even in the face of fierce opposition or persecution at times.

Moving down to verse 11, Isaiah asks the Lord a question. He says, “How long, O Lord?” I think in this question we are reminded that even though we may be fully focused on giving glory to God in worship and living in service to Him, we are not to be devoid of compassion for our fellow man. We don’t just go forward by detaching ourselves from people around us and focusing on God. Remember, we are to love God and love our neighbor. Isaiah was committed to serving the Lord and yet he wanted to know, “How long will they reject you, Lord? How long will their stubbornness go on? When will they turn to you?” We are not to be worshipers of God in a vacuum. We don’t worship in isolation. As worshipers we are not to be an unfeeling people without compassion. Isaiah was concerned for the people to whom he would speak, he would not let that drive whether or not he would be obedient to the call of the Lord, but he did have compassion for them. The Lord’s response to Isaiah’s question:

11 And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12 and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:11-13)

The basic answer was: it’s going to get a lot worse, and they will not listen, it is going to get ugly. This was a great reminder for him not to base his obedience on feelings, but on truth. But in the end we see hope for a remnant. A holy seed that will remain and will rise. Even in God’s judgment there was compassion.

As I close I just want to ask: what motivates your worship, or your service? Let’s be honest, sometimes it may be things other than a genuine love and adoration for the Lord. Sometimes we can know this because it fades when we are not recognized by others and praised. Sometimes we give up on worship and service because life gets hard, and it’s not going just the way we hoped it would. Sometimes we back off from worship and service because we’re dazzled by other things, and drift away. But if our minds are set on Him, if our focus is on His glory, if our hearts are resting in His grace, then we will go on in spite of what others think or whether or not life is hard, or if the world tries to send competing gods our way. What I am saying, put simply is this: either we live by the gospel of Christ, in adoration of God, in awe of Him, in worship, or we exchange that to live out some other gospel that is anti-God.

In Galatians 1 Paul reminds the Galatians of the truth they had received and embraced.

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5)

Paul is reminding them of the truths of the gospel, of what they had received, of who they were in Christ. That was something they had embraced at one time, and then in verse 6 Paul is rebuking them for rejecting what they believed, in practice rejecting it.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)

I am simply saying that if we are not embracing the things of God, what He has done, who He is in His holiness, what He has done in our lives, the grace He has given us, the salvation that is ours, that our guilt is taken away and our sins atoned for, if we are not focusing on that and living in that, are we not accepting some other gospel? Choosing to live some other way? What we are talking about today is remembering truth, and remembering it constantly in life, so that we will worship every moment of every day.

What is true for us, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ? What is true for us? The way we answer that will determine if we’re worshipers, or if we’re not.

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)