Friday, April 09, 2004
The World's Great Crisis: A Lack of Yielded Servants
Comments On 2nd Quarter Lessons 2004: #1
Chapter six of Isaiah begins with the death of King Uzziah. 2 Chronicles 26 describes him as a man who brought honor to God until his old age, when he became proud. Walking into the temple, he intended to burn incense. These activities were off limits to all but the officiating priest. Seeing his intent, the priests ran after the king and were able to prevent him from carrying out his lawlessness. In his arrogance, the king became infuriated and in response, the Lord struck him with leprosy. He died never recovering from the stigmatizing disease. Because of his position, King Uzziah presumed he could cross the line God had set to divide the offices between the political and the spiritual. He probably felt that his exalted position entitled him to act, as he felt best. In presuming to disobey God's explicit commands, he demonstrated a rebellious and disobedient heart. Unfortunately for Uzziah, he thought he could serve God in a ministry for which he had neither calling nor commission.
Transported in vision to the Heavenly Sanctuary, prophet Isaiah is allowed to view God in His holiness, perfection and beauty. Hearing the angels sing "Holy, Holy, Holy!" as they praise God, he realizes how inadequate and feeble are his praises. The veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place is pulled aside, and Isaiah is permitted to view God's character in His entire glorious splendor. (His character, nature and being are all one--there is no division). In comparison to God, Isaiah knew he was not pure or holy, and feeling doomed, he proclaims, "I am a man of unclean lips, and live among an unclean people." With such mercy and tenderness, God commissions an angel to fly to Isaiah with a lit coal from the altar. The continuous burning, living coal is placed on his lips, purging him, and God pronounces him holy and pure. It is after this living experience that Isaiah answers the call to be God's special messenger for his generation.
I am glad the author of the lesson offers the contrast between the King and the Prophet. There are so many lessons to learn from both of them. Uzziah's presumption occurred in his old age. Isaiah was called in his youth, and summoned to heaven in a vision. Uzziah came to the temple out of his own selfish desire, without God beckoning him. Had Uzziah succeeded he would have burned the incense with a coal from the earthly altar. Isaiah was purified and purged from sin with a living coal from the heavenly altar. In a sense Isaiah became the incense. He embodied the prayers for purity and forgiveness for himself, and as an intercessor, for the people. The fiery coal released heat, light, smoke and aroma--all biblical symbols representing the work of the Godhead in Christ.
Christ is the light of the world. Smoke represents the prayers of the saints ascending before and above the veil between the Holy and the Most Holy Place. All sacrifices that God accepts are pleasantly aromatic to Him. It's not that Isaiah became Christ, but in a sense he personified Him, as a prophet, High Priest, and suffering servant. Christ dwelt in Him. While King Uzziah presumed personal greatness, perhaps equaling himself to God, Isaiah humbled himself as a servant wanting only to serve His master.
The world needs more men (women and children) like Isaiah, individuals who wait for God to summon them: Individuals who tarry, praying, repenting, studying--actively awaiting the call and the rain from the Holy Spirit. It takes patience to be a servant. Those who, like Isaiah, are humble, wait until their Master says they are ready "in His power" to do the job. They are the ones who reply, "Send Me." Following God's instructions to a tee, they will not cross boundaries nor take shortcuts. The unconditional love gift from God pervades their hearts and spills over onto those to whom they are sent to preach. The world needs those who, like Isaiah, cross out their own agenda to follow God's plan. The world is in need of servants.
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