Do you want a job? In this economy, that introduction should catch some attention. If you’re looking for one, after a while, just about any job sounds good. So you want this one? Here are the details: nothing to speak of for pay; it won’t earn you any respect or appreciation, either. Sound good?
That’s the job offer Isaiah got in Isaiah chapter 6. God called him to be his prophet and told him that he would be ignored, rejected, hated and scorned. In fact, for 60 years of service to the people of Judah, the only pay to speak of he received from them was the sharp side of the saw that was likely used to cut him in half. Why in the world would Isaiah take that job? He had the same reasons you do.
Yes, Jesus promises a cross for those who serve him, but we say with Isaiah “Here am I! Send me!” Why? We say it because, like Isaiah, we have seen God’s glory and we have seen God’s love. Last week, we saw that glory of God’s holiness that dropped Isaiah to his knees in God’s presence. He said “Woe to me!” because he couldn’t exist in the presence of holiness.
But Glory to God. He loved us. And that love made him do something about our fundamental problem. Look at verse 6: “Then one of the seraphs (angels) flew to me with a live coal in his hand which he had taken with tongs from the altar. God didn’t banish Isaiah from the throne room or strike him dead. No, he so loved the world, he took action as our Savior. Here the angel brings a coal 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 is atoned for.’”
At first, this picture doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Touching your lips with a burning coal seems like it would be the last thing you’d want, seems bad. The pain should be incredible. But for Isaiah, something that looked terrible was wonderful. Something that looked like it would bring pain brought healing.
That coal from the altar of sacrifice is a perfect picture of Jesus Christ and what he did for us. He went to the cross and was nailed, hand and foot, and he died a gruesome death. It looks like nothing but death and pain and hurt. But Jesus rose from the dead, triumphant over the grave, our conquering Savior, and suddenly that cross became a cleansing coal. His pain brings our healing.
God loved you enough to come and touch your unclean lips with the coal of Christ’s death from the altar of his sacrifice. He came to each of you to make you holy, cleansing your lips, taking away all guilt, washing away all sin. No longer do we need to tremble at the thought of God’s holiness, because we’ve seen the other side of it… because we have Christ’s holiness now. We are just as set apart as he is. God sees no stain of sin when he looks at us because we have been washed in the blood of the lamb. That is love.
Then came the job offer: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’” (Isaiah 6:8). Through the power of God’s word, you’ve seen and heard the same things as Isaiah. What’s your answer?
Isaiah’s was, “Here am I. Send me.” Think about that change in Isaiah. He had just barely finished condemning himself to death in fear, and now he is volunteering himself for service in God’s work. Why? Isaiah had seen God’s glory and he had seen his love.
How about you? Through the power of the word, you’ve seen God’s glory and God’s love. Will you go for God? The job will not make you rich, but you will bring God’s treasure to the poor in spirit. The job doesn’t promise power, but you will be the tool God uses to bring his power to bear. You may not even always be welcomed here — but one day you will receive a hero’s welcome in the kingdom that knows no end.
You want the job? “Here am I. Send me.”
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.