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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

God's Question: "Whom Shall I Send?"

Have you ever been asked to attend a meeting and the person in charge is saying, "Now we need a volunteer to organize and coordinate this event. Who wants to do it?"

You look around and realize that you're the only other person at the table. And the person in charge is staring at you with an expectant look on his face.

Maybe that's how it was when God Almighty asked Isaiah that famous question in Isaiah 6: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”(verse 8). God asked the question and stared right at Isaiah. Because there wasn't any other human in the room!

OK, let's get this straight.
There's no one else that can take this opportunity (who is human).
God knows who He wants to take the opportunity.
He's staring right at Isaiah.
Yet God Almighty asks! He offers the opportunity. Although God has no qualms about directing and telling people what to do--in this case, He asks. He opens a door and asks who will walk through it.

Why?
Based on what Jerry Bridges writes in his book, The Transforming Power of the Gospel, I believe it's because God wanted to give Isaiah an opportunity to live out his gratitude.

Remember what happened in Isaiah 6 before God offers the opportunity? Isaiah sees the Holy God high and lifted up in all His regal holiness. What are the continual words spoken by the Seraphim? “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” (vs. 3).

And what is Isaiah response to this magnificence?
“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (vs. 5).

Isaiah fully expects to be killed in that very moment. The Word says no one can see the Lord and live. In that moment, on the threshold of death, he is the most woefully sinful person on earth.

But an amazing thing happens: he is cleansed. One of the Seraphim brings a burning coal and touches his lips, saying, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (vs. 7).

I wish the Word gave us some clue as to how Isaiah felt. But don't you think grateful is on the top of the list? He is about to die and suddenly he gets a reprieve. It would be like sitting in the electric chair knowing you are being justifiably punished because you are guilty. Just when they start to pull the switch someone says, "Wait! The clemency has come through from the President of the United States." Not only would you be stunned, you would be willing to kiss the President's feet!

I just breathed a sigh of relief thinking about this. I didn't realize I'd been holding my breath.

The Word doesn't tell us how Isaiah feels, maybe because it's supposed to be all about God's wonderful grace, not about Isaiah. Regardless, Isaiah's response is exemplary. Jerry Bridges writes, "His response is immediate and spontaneous. He said, 'Here am I,' not "Here I am.' The latter denotes location, whereas, 'Here am I' means 'I am available.' He didn't ask any questions, such as, 'Go where?' or 'Do what?' He, in effect, gave God a blank check for his life."

Mr. Bridges believes Isaiah responded like this because "Isaiah was so deeply impacted by the gospel that he responded in heartfelt gratitude to God for what He has done for him." The gospel was communicated when God took action through the burning coal to forgive and cleanse Isaiah. It was God's gracious action; nothing Isaiah did. That's the gracious Gospel!

Mr. Bridges points out that the timing of God's question to Isaiah is significant.
1. If Isaiah had heard God's question before his vision of God's holiness, he could have responded, "Here am I, Lord. I'm qualified to be your spokesman as a law-abiding Jew." Mr. Bridges writes, "He then would likely have gone to his people in an attitude of self-righteousness rather than love and compassion" because he doesn't regard himself like the people: sinful and unclean.

2. If Isaiah had heard the call of God after he had been totally devastated by an awareness of his sin but before he heard the gospel, his response most likely would have been, "Not me, Lord. A few minutes ago I would have volunteered, but not now. I'm unqualified."

Mr. Bridges writes, "It was only after he had become painfully aware of his sinfulness and had received the assurance that his sins were forgiven that he was in a position to hear the call of God and response so immediately out of deep heartfelt gratitude."

I'm wondering if we should pay more attention to the timing of God's questions in our own lives. I believe He works in the best timing to set us up for obedience and a grateful response. Would it not be encouraging and motivating to recognize His timing as supportive?

I'm thinking of how I was struggling with some ungodly attitudes recently and that evening a dinner with two friends had already been planned. I knew the Lord had set up the timing to ask me the question, "Will you allow your friends to minister to this rebellious place in your life?" I was all the more eager to have them minister to me because I could see His gracious plan. My gratitude gave me confidence to know God wanted to minister to me through them. The evening was powerful for strengthening me to obey God and release the ungodly attitudes I had been stubbornly holding onto.

What question is God asking you? Maybe it seems overwhelming. Can you recognize God's gracious provision of support and encouragement? Is His timing revealing His care for you?

He loves you so much. Trust Him. Will you answer, "Here am I"?

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