The Calling of Isaiah

Text: Isaiah 6:1-13

Isaiah’s Vision of God - Isaiah 6:1-7

The first five chapters formed the introduction to what the remainder of Isaiah will discuss.
It is currently the year that Uzziah died (about 739 BC). Uzziah was also known as Azariah. He had become a leper because he thought he could offer incense to God directly (II Chronicles 26:16-21). His son Jotham became his co-regent during the last eleven years of his reign.

Isaiah has a vision of God sitting on a throne in heaven. The train of His robe spills down and fills the temple. Surrounding God are seraphim (fiery ones) each with six wings. How many seraphim were present is not mentioned. Two wings cover the seraphim’s eyes (unworthy to look at God), two cover the seraphim’s feet or lower parts of the body (humility or respect), and the remaining two were used for flying (speed). The seraphim call to each other that God is holy, holy, holy. Hebrew was written before the invention of punctuation or differing font types. Repeating a word or phrase emphasized the point. A word or phrase repeated three times formed a superlative. Thus, God is the ultimate expression of holiness, filling the whole world with His glory.

As the seraphim call out, the doorways of the temple are seen shaking and the temple fills with smoke.

Isaiah is terrified, believing he is not worthy to see such a vision. He isn’t worthy to cry out for mercy because he has unclean lips and he can’t ask anyone else to aid him because he realizes that all of Israel have unclean lips (Isaiah 29:13; Ezekiel 33:31). He is certain that he will be killed for looking at this vision of God.

One of the seraphim uses tongs to take a burning coal from the altar. Whether it is the altar of sacrifice or the altar of incense is not stated. We do know that the altar of sacrifice was constantly burning (Leviticus 6:12-13) and it would make a good symbol for the removal of sin. In this sense, the altar becomes a symbol of Christ (Hebrews 13:10). The seraph then touches Isaiah’s lips with it and states that Isaiah’s sin has been removed and forgiven.

Isaiah’s Commission - Isaiah 6:8-13

God speaks in Isaiah’s hearing asking who should be sent to go for God. Notice the use of “us” in verse 8, signifying that there are more than one being designated as God.

Isaiah immediately volunteers for the assignment before he is even told what would be expected of him.

God is going to send Isaiah to “this people.” Not “My people” but “this people” showing God’s displeasure of them. The message is in the form of a poem

Go, and tell this people:
 Keep on listening but do not perceive;
 Keep on looking, but do not understand.
 Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
  Their ears dull,
   And their eyes dim,
   Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
  Hear with their ears
 Understand with their hearts
And return and be healed

Isaiah is to talk to an audience that will not understand his message. The flaw is not in the presenter or the message itself. The problem is in the hearts of the people in the audience. If they can correct that problem, they would actually be able to be healed of their sins. However, the message will only make them more hardened in their sins.

Isaiah asks God how long he will need to teach this message that will not change the people. God’s response is that he is to continue until Israel is laid waste and there is no one left to teach. The people will be carried off to a distant land, but a small fraction (a tenth) would remain in Israel. This happened when Sennacherib destroyed all the fortified cities of Judah and took over 200,000 people into captivity. Those who remained in the land faced further attacks and destruction.

For Discussion:

1. Why does God's teaching have this effect on the people?
2. Why are the people not turning to God?
3. Why doesn’t God choose another way?

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