All of us want our lives to make a difference. As a young man in my 20’s, I wanted to change the world. I was going to be a religious leader who made a real difference in the world. I imagine Isaiah felt the same way, possibly even more than me. He was a prophet of God. He lived as the mouthpiece for God. While living in an ungodly society, I am sure he thought more than once that God would use him to do something great.
Then came his great undoing. King Uzziah died, and Isaiah was left searching for answers to the future. His wanderings led him to the temple, where I am sure he was going to pray and seek God’s direction for his future. In an unprecedented moment, the sky was rolled back, and he saw God high and exalted. The train of his robe filled the temple. His voice shutters as he can only cry out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
His moment of terror gives way to a six-winged creature flying to the altar picking up a hot coal and touching his lips with it. Either because of the heat or the blood that was still on the altar, “his guilt is removed, and his sin atoned for.” Isaiah felt the weight of sin and then the freedom of forgiveness.
Then the voice of the Lord says, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”‘
Without hesitation, Isaiah says, “Here am I. Send me!”
The Lord instructs him to go and preach but be warned the people will listen but not understand. Their hearts will grow calloused, and they will not understand you. None of them will be converted or healed.
Isaiah is still optimistic. Surely, he will preach, and the people will not listen for a time. Then after that, they will change, and he will have a considerable impact. So, he asks, “How long, Lord?”
The response is baffling in many ways. You go until the cities lie in ruin and the people leave. Eventually, everything will be laid to waste, and all that is left is just a seed in the empty ground.
This is where my imagination kicks in, and I begin to play with the story. I picture Isaiah saying, “What? Lord, are you sure? You want me to preach and never have a single convert? But I was going to change the world?” The look of disappointment must have registered on his face.
The story is essential for anyone who serves the Lord. God calls us to be faithful to him. The results do not matter, as long as we do what he called us to do. He is working out things we do not understand and may never see in our lifetime. A believer is someone who is faithful to God, even when the world gets worse despite our best efforts. Faith has teeth and tenacity in its spirit. It keeps doing the right thing day after day while the world is falling apart. True faith stands strong when things are getting worse because that is what God called us to do.