13 June 2017

Isaiah 6:1-8

“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!’” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 29


This is a wonderful and mysterious passage that acts as a flashback scene in the book of Isaiah - taking us back to when Isaiah was called for his prophetic ministry (or, more accurately, when he volunteered!). Isaiah is one of the most important prophets of the Old Testament, and the ministry contained in the book that bares his name is believed to cover several centuries (possibly by three different authors, following in the tradition of the original Isaiah). It is a book of severe judgement on God's people (especially the first 39 chapters) and yet this judgement is followed by hope and promise of redemption and renewal (especially the last 27). In that sense it rather resembles the whole of the Bible!

The sense of holy mystery surrounding this passage brings it often into church on Trinity Sunday, especially because God is worshipped as being "holy, holy and holy" (v. 3), and because God asks the question "who will go for us?"

Isaiah recalls how he was caught up in the majesty and awe of his extraordinary vision. He became aware of his sinfulness and the sinfulness of his people, but God enabled his sin to be "blotted out" (v. 7) in an act that we might describe as sacramental: where the physical act of the coal on the lips was infused with new meaning when accompanied with God's own mercy and proclamation. With this barrier removed, Isaiah was able to hear the holy call of God, and he answered God's question enthusiastically, offering himself in service.

Isaiah's task was difficult, and the message he had to proclaim caused him to wrestle with God's purposes. It wasn't all about God's love and blessing! There were some very hard things to declare, and in the end God's judgement fell on the people. What was important to God, in relationship with God's own people, was that not to bring judgement without first giving many years of warning and opportunity for repentance. It's fair to say that Isaiah may well have often regretted volunteering.

However, there is, in all of this, a sense of the God who opens up the throne room to humanity, who allows us a glimpse of glory, who touches us with divine grace, and who invites us into God's own wonderful and often inexplicable purposes. When we think about God as Trinity, a holy community of love, it is this constant 'inviting in' which can bring both immeasurable joy and awesome challenge.

To Ponder

  • Have you ever volunteered for something and then regretted it? If so, did it ever bring a sense of satisfaction in the end? How?
  • What do you make of the mysterious vision of Isaiah? How do you picture God in the throne room? What room in your imagination is there for the awesome and unimaginable?
  • In times of worship, do you ever experience a strong awareness of your sins and mistakes, combined with the sure knowledge of God's forgiving grace? How do Father, Son and Holy Spirit all play a part in this?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Murphy

Andrew Murphy is married to Emily and they have two children, Phoebe (aged 4) and Benjamin (aged 18 months). Andy is the superintendent minister of the Market Harborough Circuit (a small circuit in the south of Leicestershire, and over the border into Northants). Previously, Andy’s ministry was based in Barwell in the Hinckley Circuit for eight years. And before that, he trained at the Wesley Study Centre in Durham, close to his home-town of Consett. Andy has a passion to help God’s people grow in faith, and occasionally writes hymns, sketches and songs. Spare time includes trips to play parks, watching Disney films or Postman Pat, reading Mr Men books, visiting Middle Earth, and reminiscing over the good old days of supporting Newcastle United. In the picture, Andy is the one in blue (and the snowman’s name is Olaf)!