So it turns out my man, Oswald Chambers has just turned this well-known passage on its head for me — yet again! That guy. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suppose he wasn’t the life of the party at company dinners, but it sure would have been interesting to sit next to him. There aren’t a lot of witty quips in his widespread daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. Not a lot of LOLs or LMAO moments in there. In fact most of what he writes goes well over my head. I honestly don’t know anything about his life here on earth, although I’m pretty sure he died at a young age. Most of the good ones do. But I do know, more often than not, when God graciously illumines my human mind, Ozzy’s passages pretty much kick my hiney.
Take today’s entry for instance. Yup, today’s date. Chambers tackles a very quoted passage in Christian circles… Only slightly behind John 3:16 or Jeremiah 29:11 in popularity we find Isaiah 6:8, “Here am I; send me.” Upon further investigation in the context of this passage, it turns out God wasn’t directly addressing Isaiah at all. Chambers writes, “God did not address the call to Isaiah; Isaiah overheard God saying, ‘Who will go for us?’ (Now here’s the kicker!) “The call of God is not for the special few, it is for everyone. Whether or not I hear God’s call depends upon the state of my ears; and what I hear depends upon my disposition.”
Isaiah has just been privy to the Holy of Holies. In some sci-fi moment, the angels surrounding the Lord are actually covering themselves in reverence and Holy fear. They are singing of his glory and the whole temple fills with smoke. Isaiah immediately shrinks with the revelation of his profound unworthiness and declares himself a sinful man. No sooner has Isaiah uttered these words, than an angel swoops down, touches his lips with a burning coal and declares Isaiah’s guilt removed and his sins forgiven. AFTER this encounter with profound grace, Isaiah’s ears are opened and he hears the Lord asking for a volunteer to be a messenger to his people. Isaiah thrusts his hand in the air and in a Donkey from “Shrek” kind of moment says, “Pick me! Pick me!”
Um, I hesitate to pause the story here, but Isaiah, do you even know what God is going to ask you to do? My 21st century, American mind would like to have some more details before I just go blindly off into the deep, dark woods. What’s your return policy? Is there a “satisfaction guaranteed” mentality? What about customer service and creature comforts…. I could go on and on. Truth be told, I have done just that in some of my conversations with the Lord. As it turns out, the Lord’s message via Isaiah is none too pretty. He’s going to have to speak of death, destruction and wastelands. I’m pretty sure his “prophet rating” plummeted.
Upon hearing the message, Isaiah asks the Lord how long he must do this? It turns out it’s going to be a while as God scatters His people to distant lands and the whole country becomes an utter wasteland. Israel will be but a stump, BUT the stump will be a holy seed that will grow again. Therein lies the promise. What has been destroyed will be made new. God’s truth will restore beauty from the ashes.
Five years ago, when my husband and I celebrated our 10th anniversary enjoying cheese and wine on a park bench in Napa Valley, I don’t suppose we honestly envisioned our seemingly flippant words of “adoption” would come to pass. We labored over conversation about family planning and wondering how God would use us. At the time, our two children were 6 and 3. We weren’t planning to “have” any more children biologically, but (and I quote) “should God ever want to grow our family, we would pursue adoption.” Period. End of story. We flew home, gathered up our children from Grandma’s house and went about our lives. Birthdays were celebrated, moves were made. Life went on.
Of course, God did show up as He always does. It may not have been recognizable at the time, but this whisper of adoption, however faded or slight, kept beating in our hearts. Prayers were jotted on paper every now and again or breathed into the darkness of the night. Adoption probably wouldn’t be the path for us, but just in case. After all, we are cruising right along. Two healthy kids. Check. Great marriage. Check. Nice house in the suburbs. Check. Great job. Check. Comfy life….. Um, check.
Just this past summer, we came face to face with the Holy of Holies. Nothing extraordinary had happened. In fact, quite the opposite. We just slowed down our pace. As Bill Hybels says, we “lowered the ambient noise” in our life. And sure enough, I heard God speaking, “Whom shall I send?” Together, we prayed. Not knowing all the answers, not being able to map the course with any certainty, we said, “Here we are Lord. Send us.” In this way, at this time, we will obey your call. I know our life may very well look like a stump at some points. The challenges may overwhelm us. But the Lord is faithful, I trust the He will turn the proverbial stump into a holy seed that will….. grow again.
Now, just help me remember that. 🙂