I thought I’d start off this morning by sharing with you some interesting trivia. As you know, most people in this country answer the phone by saying, “Hello”, but it wasn’t always that way. When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, he expected people to say “Ahoy!” when they answered the phone. That was a little bit too nautical for most people, though, and it never really caught on. Soon after that, it was Thomas Edison who suggested the word “hello”.
And you may assume that everyone around the world answers the phone by saying “hello” in their own language, but that’s not the case at all. Most other countries have different ways of answering.
- Russians will pick up the phone and say, “I’m listening.”
- The French will say, “Who is on the phone?”
- Italians will say, “Ready!”
- The Spanish will say, “Speak!” (Hable!)
- Germans will answer the phone by giving their last name.
- The Portuguese will say, “I’m here.”
Just as there are different ways of answering the phone, there are also different ways to answer a call from God. In the Bible, we have several different examples of how people answered God’s call.
There was Jonah who answered his call by saying, “Here I am. I’m not going.” God said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:2) “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” (Jonah 1:3). If Jonah had been using a cell phone at the time, he would have blocked God’s number and said, “I’m not taking this call.”
And then there was Moses who answered his call by saying,“Here I am. Send someone else.” God came to Moses in a burning bush and said, “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10). But Moses was reluctant to accept that call and he eventually said, “My Lord, please send someone else.” (Exodus 4:13). “Lord, what you’ve got in mind is a great plan; I just don’t think it’s for me. I think someone else needs to answer this call.”
And then there was Isaiah who answered his call by saying, “Here I am. Send me.” And this is going to be our text this morning. Isaiah 6:8, “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.’”
This morning, I’d like for us to consider the question, “What would lead a man to fully surrender his life to God like that?” because that’s the kind of attitude that I want to have. I want to be able to pray, “God I’ve been comfortable for way too long … I know you want to use me to show your love in this world. Give me eyes to see the needs of others. Give me a heart that is ready to get involved in wherever you’re working. God, my life is yours. Whatever you want, wherever you lead, here I am. Send me!” So how do we get to that point?
And I want to show you this morning three things in our text that brought Isaiah to that point. But I want to begin by reading a statement to you that will summarize where we’re going this morning.
“It is only after we have grasped the majesty of God, our own inadequacy and sinfulness, and the grace of God that cleanses us that we are properly motivated to do the Lord’s work.”
First of all…
1. Isaiah saw the majesty of God
“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. 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. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6:1-4)
Isaiah had an incredible worship experience. He came into the very presence of God and he had a vision of God that changed his life dramatically. And I believe that our daily walk — our daily service — is directly proportional to our vision of God. I believe that our concept of God determines how we much we will love and serve him. I believe that how we worship God one the first day of the week has a lot to do with how we live and serve God throughout the rest of the week.
Because if we don’t see God for who he really is here on Sunday, then we’re not going to be motivated to render him much service Monday through Saturday. On the other hand, if we do see God properly here, then that will change how we live tomorrow. Our worship together has everything to do with who and what we are the rest of the week.
Notice as Isaiah 6 opens that this was a dark time for God’s people. Verse 1 tells us that these things took place “in the year that King Uzziah died…”
It would appear that Uzziah’s death had a big impact on Isaiah, and that’s understandable King Uzziah had reigned for 52 years. He was the greatest king the Jews had known ever since the time of King David.
But now Uzziah was dead. And Isaiah’s heart was broken because Uzziah was not only his king, he was also his friend. And so, in his heartbreak, it was only natural that Isaiah would make his way to the temple to worship God and to find comfort.
And that’s where that he has this vision of God that changes his life. Isaiah saw several things that made an impact on him.
First of all, he saw that God was in control. Notice where God is. He’s seated on his throne. It’s important that we understand this morning, that in our darkest hours, when things don’t seem to working out, when life tumbles in, God is still on His throne. God is still in control.
That’s what the Jews struggled with when they saw the Assyrian armies surrounding them. They wanted to know, “Where is God?” That was one of the things folks struggled with when the twin towers collapsed on September 11th, 2001. So many people were asking the question, “Where is God?” Because it seemed like God was nowhere around. It seemed like he was no longer in control.
And that’s the way we all feel when things collapse in our own lives – when we face financial difficulties, when a mate walks out the door never to return again, when a loved one dies. It may seem like God is nowhere around. But we need to constantly remind ourselves that God is still on his throne; God is still in control. And though we may not always understand exactly how, God is still working out his plan and his purpose in the midst of what seems to be a world spinning out of control.
Secondly, Isaiah saw the fullness of God. Notice how many times the word “filled” appears in this passage. The train of God’s robe filled the temple. God’s glory, his presence, filled the whole room. The whole earth was filled with his glory. The house was filled with smoke.
And I think the idea here is that when God fills the room, there isn’t room for anything else. When we see God for who he is, we understand that he must fill our lives; he must be first and foremost: God said, “You shall have no other gods before me.” There isn’t room for anyone else’s glory when we come into God’s presence. When we worship, there is no room in our worship for any glory other than God’s glory. We’re not here this morning to honor anyone else but God. His glory must fill this worship experience.
Thirdly, Isaiah saw the holiness of God. The seraphim, the angels, are flying around singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord! the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3).
Why do they sing, “holy, holy, holy”? And no, it’s not because that’s the way the song is written in our songbooks. That song came much later. So why say it three times? Well, when we want to emphasize the importance of something in English, we may underline words or use boldface or capital letters, or all of those things all at the same time. We may even follow it with an exclamation point or two.
But when the Jews wanted to emphasize something, they used repetition. For example, if you said a stone was big it would mean one thing. If you said the stone was big big . . . you would mean it was a really big stone. If it was big, big, big, it would mean that it was a gigantic boulder.
To mention something three times in succession was to elevate it to the highest degree. And so, when the angels say, “holy, holy, holy,” they are emphasizing just how great God’s holiness is!
Incidentally, this is the only attribute of God in all of scripture that is repeated three times. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God is “love, love, love”, or “truth, truth, truth”, or “wrath, wrath, wrath”. But it does say that he’s holy, holy, holy.
Fourthly, Isaiah saw the power of God. It was like an erupting volcano. There was an earthquake. The foundations of the temple shook, and Isaiah is made aware of the omnipotent power of God.
I want to suggest to you this morning that when we come together to worship God, we need to see God as he truly is. We are here to be in his presence. We are here to worship God. We’re not here to be entertained. We’re not even here so we that can go away feeling good. We’re here to worship God. We’re here to see God. We’re here to be reminded of God’s power, his love, his holiness, his goodness. We’re here to give God praise, honor and glory. We’re here to adore God, to recognize his greatness.
And it is possible for someone to go away this morning having seen the glory and majesty and holiness of God, and someone else go away having seen nothing but four walls, a pulpit and a gray-headed, goateed old man.
It reminds me of a little boy who lived out in the country in the early 1900’s. He had never seen a traveling circus, and one was coming into town the next weekend. His father said he could go, so Saturday morning, when his chores were done, the little boy asked his father for some money to go see the circus. His dad gave him a dollar bill, and off the little boy went.
As he came into town, he saw people lining the streets. And then, he got his first glimpse of the parade headed to the circus. There were animals in cages and marching bands. A clown brought up the rear of the parade. The little boy was so excited that when the clown passed, he reached into his pocket, handed him the dollar bill and headed home. He thought he had seen the circus when, the truth is, he had only seen the parade leading to the circus.
And I wonder if there are some people who come to church like that little boy went to the circus. They come intending to worship God, but all they see is the parade – the parade of songs, prayers and preaching. They sit in their seats, watching all the activity, and then head home when the closing prayer is said; thinking they’ve seen the worship, but, in truth, they missed out on worship because they never saw God.
It’s important for us to ask ourselves the question, “Are we here to see God?” Because the ultimate purpose of worship is to see God’s greatness. But secondly….
II. In Worship, We See Our Inadequacy and Sinfulness
Notice what Isaiah’s response was when he saw God. In verse 5 he says, “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!” Isaiah’s response was to say, “I am a sinner and I live in the midst of sinners!”
Ruth Graham tells about a time when the TV news wanted to interview her and her husband Billy in their home. They cleaned the house and got it all spic and span. At least, that’s what they thought, until the cameraman’s lights were turned on in their living room. With all that light, Ruth could see all the dust and the cobwebs that they had missed.
You see, light will always expose the dirt. And it’s the same way with God. The closer we get to God, the more aware we are of the sin in our lives.
Isaiah may have been a pretty confident fellow before this. He was probably the most upstanding citizen of his day. Everybody honored him. He was a spiritual leader, the voice of God, a servant of the Lord. But all it took was one glimpse of God’s holiness, and Isaiah was a wretch in his own eyes.
As long as Isaiah compared himself with other people around him, he was able to think pretty highly of himself. But the moment he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he realized that he was morally and spiritually inadequate,
Throughout the scriptures, you see that that’s a common response. Whenever people in the Bible encountered God, it made a difference in how they saw themselves.
For example, Luke 5, Jesus helped Peter to gather a large catch of fish and Peter’s response was to say, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). That passage puzzled me for years. Why in the world would Peter say something like that? Jesus catches a lot of fish and Peter talks about his sinfulness. But I came to understand that it’s because Peter began to realize at this point just who Jesus was. He knew he was in the presence of God. And anytime you recognize that you’re in God’s presence, it makes a difference in how you see yourself.
Seeing God’s power reminds us that we are so weak by comparison. Seeing God’s wisdom reminds us that there is so much we don’t understand. And seeing God’s holiness reminds us of our own shortcomings.
Let me illustrate this using the screen to my left. Jared, if you would put up the next screen. You’ll notice that this is a black screen with four white circles. At least they look white. However if we put a white screen behind them, the four circles don’t look so white, do they? The same color was used on both of those screens. The difference is that when you compare any color with absolute white, it doesn’t look so white any more.
It’s the same way with God. We may think that we look pretty good. Compared to all the blackness in the world around us, we look real good. We may even look pretty good when we compare ourselves with other Christians. But when we compare ourselves to God and his holiness, we see our sinfulness. When we truly understand who God is, it makes a difference in how we see ourselves. When we see God for who he is, we see ourselves for who we really are.
What that means is that true worship forces us to spend time in self-examination. That ought to be part of our worship here every Sunday morning. We ought to be asking ourselves the question, where do I stand with God? Am I truly putting Jesus first in my life? Am I living as salt and light in the world so that people can see the difference that God makes in my life? Is there anything in my life that I haven’t been willing to surrender to God?
Furthermore, seeing God as he is should cause us to humble ourselves before him in complete surrender to Him. Have you ever noticed in the scripture what people’s posture was when they come into the presence of God, when they saw God for who he really is? Generally, it was face down in the dirt!
Abraham saw the three men on the plains of Mamre, one of whom was the LORD and Abraham bowed before him….he called Him Lord. Moses hid his face.…probably face down before the burning bush. Jeremiah fell on his face before the Lord. Saul on the Damascus road fell to the ground in the presence of Jesus. John fell down before Christ as though he were dead in Revelation 1. Do you begin to see a pattern in all of this?
When we see God for who he is and we see ourselves for who we are, it causes us to humble ourselves before God…realizing our weaknesses, our sinfulness, which in turn causes us to understand our need for dependence upon God.
III. In Worship, We Experience God’s Grace
Notice how God responds to Isaiah in verse 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. 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)
Isaiah received the cleansing of God. One of the seraphim flew to him with a live coal, touched his lips with it and said that his guilt was taken away. Isaiah felt the burning coal, but inside, he felt something even more — forgiveness. God said to Isaiah, “Yes, you are sinful. But I will cleanse you, I will take away your sins, take away your guilt, make you pure.” God responded to Isaiah with his amazing grace.
And I would suggest that our worship is not really complete until we feel the forgiveness of God. When we come into the presence, it is important that we not only see his throne, but that we see the altar, the place of sacrifice for sins. A throne without an altar means simply conviction and condemnation, but worship is ultimately not for the purpose of going away feeling like a horrible person. It is a time for us to be reminded that God has made a way for us to be forgiven and to be seen as righteous in his eyes.
In verse 8, we come to Isiah’s response to all of this. “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)
It is only after Isaiah sees God for who he really is, and after he sees himself for who he is, and after he is touched by God’s forgiving grace, that Isaiah is ready to properly respond to God — to go out and do the Lord’s work.
And notice that Isaiah didn’t say, “God, where do you want me to go?”, or “What’s in it for me?”, or “What’s the salary?”, or “What are the retirement benefits?” Isaiah basically signed a blank check on his whole life. He didn’t try to strike a bargain with God; he didn’t attempt to negotiate a compromise. God called – Isaiah answered. God commanded – Isaiah obeyed. And that’s the kind of unconditional response that comes only from the heart of someone who has seen God.
So, let me ask you this morning. How many of you are like Isaiah — Ready to go….Ready to live for God daily? Ready to stand up and say, “Lord, pick me! Send me! I want to a job to do! I want to teach a class! I want to talk to somebody about Christ! I want to minister to the sick and those in need! I want to be involved in meeting the needs of this community! Here am I! Send me!” Unfortunately, there are times when we would rather respond like Moses did — “Here am I, but send somebody else.”
In our worship, we need to see God as he is. But the result of our worship should be that we see the need to surrender ourselves to God. Surrender means it is no longer my life, my purpose, my plans, my ideas, but his.
Paul said it so well in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Paul says, it’s no longer my life. I’m just here to do whatever Jesus wants me to do. And whenever we see God for who he is, and we see ourselves for who we are, and after we receive God’s amazing grace, then we can also, with absolute faith, turn our lives completely over to God.
That’s why Isaiah could say, “Here I am! Send me.” It wasn’t that Isaiah thought he was smarter that everybody else. He didn’t think he was more talented or had more ability, or had more resources than anyone else. No, the reason Isaiah said, “I’ll go” is because he had seen God for who he really is. I want you to know this morning that will change your life….You can count on it.
I’ve always found it interesting to notice the signs that some churches place in and around their church building. I think those signs reflect something of the personality of that particular group of people. There’s one church, for example, that has a sign out front that says, “Where Jesus is Lord, the Bible is taught, and people are loved.” I like that. I think that sign says something about that church.
There are some pulpits that have a little sign on them simply quoting the men who came to Philip in John 12:21, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” That’s not a bad reminder for the preacher, that he is speaking to a group of people who want to see Jesus.
I recall seeing one pulpit sign that simply said, “Stand up, speak up, shut up.” I’m not sure what that says about the church — probably something about how long they’re willing to listen to the preacher.
But there’s another sign that I’ve actually seen in quite a few congregations. It’s usually put over the door coming into the auditorium and says, “Enter to worship, Depart to serve.”
Worship is coming into the presence of God and being driven to our knees by his majesty. Worship is giving to God the glory and honor and praise that he so richly deserves. And if we will do that, it will move us to see our weakness and sinfulness before him. Worship is an opportunity to take hold of the grace and forgiveness that God offers. And the end result should be that we should be re-energized in our desire to serve God with our lives each and every day.
May we truly enter to worship and depart to serve. “Lord, here I am. Send me!”