Today: [Isaiah 6] Here am I Lord Send Me! In chapter six of Isaiah the young prophet enters the environs of the temple and in a moment of blazing glory and holy fire he sees the Lord sitting upon the throne. In that very year king Uzziah has died after a long illness brought upon him because he presumed to look upon the very glory and vision of God that Isaiah now beholds in this vision. Isaiah is undone. He realizes that the sickness that took his king’s life afflicts his own soul and the heart of his own nation. He cries out to God for mercy and is touched with the coals from off the altar of God.
[Isa 6:1-13 KJV] 1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. 3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, [is] the LORD of hosts: the whole earth [is] full of his glory. 4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. 6 Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, [which] he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid [it] upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here [am] I; send me. 9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. 10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. 11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, 12 And the LORD have removed men far away, and [there be] a great forsaking in the midst of the land. 13 But yet in it [shall be] a tenth, and [it] shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance [is] in them, when they cast [their leaves: so] the holy seed [shall be] the substance thereof.
In this chapter young Isaiah mourns the death of king Uzziah and in the temple experiences a dizzying vision of the throne that leaves him undone. It is important to remember the life of Uzziah and why he figures into the vision that the prophet experiences. Uzziah was a relatively good and wise king, however he presumed upon the priest’s office. Uzziah’s reign was a time that there was tension between the power of the priesthood and the power of the throne. To change the balance of power Uzziah decided to take on the role of a priest – even the high priest. Not being a Levite, this was strictly prohibited by the law of Moses. Nonetheless Uzziah is determined to act. When he enters the temple he is met with a phalanx of 80 priests who despite their overwhelming numbers could not hold Uzziah back. He breaks through into the presence of the Lord and to his horror and the dismay of all present is suddenly and visibly struck with leprosy manifesting in his face and body. We find this account in 1 Chron. 26:
[2Ch 26:16-21 KJV] 16 But when he [Uzziah] was strong, his heart was lifted up to [his] destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. 17 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, [that were] valiant men: 18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, [It appertaineth] not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither [shall it be] for thine honour from the LORD God. 19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and [had] a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he [was] leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him. 21 And Uzziah the king was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house, [being] a leper; for he was cut off from the house of the LORD: and Jotham his son [was] over the king’s house, judging the people of the land.
During this time and throughout the active reigns of the kings of Judah the balance of power in the southern kingdom lay in the prophet, priest and king. This is similar to our own government in America being held jointly by the executive, judicial and legislative branches of our duly elected officials. For Uzziah to presume to act as a priest was not simply a breach of protocol but an affront to God Himself. In the things of God we must always remember that matters that arise in Christian leadership or even among brothers and sisters in Christ are carried out before the face of God Himself. Is there an example we can give that is relevant?
At the current time and for many decades in the modern church the office of pastor is universally accepted and holds the reigns of access to the people of God. However Ephesians 4:11-12 tell us that there is not only the office of the pastor who leads the church but also the apostle, prophet, evangelist and teacher. I have received many e-mails over the years of people asking their pastors about the place of prophets in their church. One pastor snidely replied to his wide eyed parishioner “if you need a prophecy I will give it to you …” This is the spirit of Uzziah. This is Uzziah’s error. Likewise in the emerging movement restoring the office of the apostles to the church it is often remarked that the prophets need to get in line and subjugate their prophesying to the approval / disapproval of the apostles. I’ve seen many strong apostolic works that are so stringent in their handling of the prophetic as to exclude it altogether. This is the spirit of Uzziah. This is Uzziah’s error of one ministry office presuming upon another. Uzziah to be sure was a strong and effective leader. Yet his strength fueled his presumption. Likewise there are many churches that are populous in numbers and effective in administration but know this that a rejection of the office gifts of God because of pride, insecurity or unbelief is not acceptable in the eyes of God.
Isaiah well understands this when in a visionary moment sees the glory of God. He realizes that this is what Uzziah saw moments before the leprosy broke out in his forehead and he was condemned. Isaiah cries out to God for mercy – he cries out that he is a man of unclean lips dwelling amidst a people of unclean lips. In other words Isaiah is acutely aware that the presumption of Uzziah the king doesn’t stop with Uzziah. He realizes that were God to so look upon the sins of the nation as He looked upon the sin of Uzziah that they were be an entire nation of lepers. Thus he cries out for mercy. In our own day it would be difficult to put a metric on the magnitude of presumption that characterizes Christian culture. We claim to serve the God who said through Paul “let there be no divisions among you” yet we are a people comprising over 16,000 distinct religious entities. We decry corruption and vanity in church leadership yet we champion individualism as though it was the over arching commandment of God that we be allowed to live our lives completely immune from accountability to anyone other than ourselves.
It gives us pause and we could almost as Isaiah be overwhelmed with the reality of just how disqualified we are as a people from the very things we have cried out to God for. In the midst of this God breaks through Isaiah’s despairs and sends an angel to touch his mouth with the coals from off the altar. In other words you can’t solve the problem on the level of the problem. The presumption and individualism that infects church culture like a leprous stain is never going to yield to any manner or effort to bring about reform. As Isaiah 1 tells us the whole head is sick, the whole heart is faint. What is the answer? The touch of heaven. The hand of God and the heart of God breaking through the humanity of our religious experience and delivering us by His glory. Isaiah is slain in heart and soul. A moment before he quivered and trembled in fear of his life. Now something has gotten hold of him. The fire from off the altar didn’t just reach his lips but when down inside his very being. A churning cauldron of holy fire burned away all distraction from anything but the face of the one who sat upon the throne and he cries out perhaps with a voice so strong as to have never escaped his lips with such force and passion:
Here am I Lord send me!
Notice that he didn’t say “there THEY are – go judge them!” He wasn’t looking at that moment at anyone other than himself. He sees the glory of God and suddenly being in a city so corrupt it was called Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t matter any longer. Be in the midst of a nation of idolaters and murderers as he prophesied in chapters 1 and 2 doesn’t matter any longer. He not only sees the Lord but in seeing the Lord he knows there is a commissioning. He doesn’t have permission to merely grovel and the footstool of God. Many make this mistake. They see the glory and they are undone and never rise from that posture of astonishment. All they want to think about is what is God going to do about what is happening around them. Truly a person who is not prompted to action has not truly apprehended the glory of God. Isaiah has been impacted by the genuine extract of God’s glory. We know this of Isaiah and we will know it of ourselves when we rise willing not only to observe and expect God to do it all as we look on but we cry out in concert with the cry of Isaiah’s mighty shout “here am I Lord – SEND ME!”
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