The call of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13) into God’s mission takes a shape similar to that of Moses. In the calling of Moses we noticed several elements of the call narrative: the revelation of God, the motive of God expressed, the commission of God, the objections of Moses, God’s reassurance, and God’s signs. Notice these same following elements in the call of Isaiah.
Revelation. Dated to the year that King Uzziah died (ca. 742 BC), Isaiah has a visionary experience that brings him into the very presence of God.
In vivid detail, the text paints the visions for us: the throne, God’s robe filling the temple, doorposts and thresholds quaking, smoke filling the temple and multi-winged angelic beings, calling to one another in antiphonal worship:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
Objections. To this revelation of God, Isaiah can only respond that he is doomed; in contrast to God’s holiness, Isaiah can only confess that he has unclean lips and that he lives among unclean people.
Reassurance. In response to this confession, one of the angelic beings takes a coal from the altar and touches Isaiah’s lips to symbolize that God had taken away his sin, thus qualifying him to accept God’s mission.
Commission and Motive. Here the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” To which Isaiah, cleansed, can now say, “Here am I. Send me!” His mission is to preach to a people whom Isaiah knows will not listen to him. They will not repent, but God will send Isaiah anyway as a sign that God has not given up on his people.
Signs. While there are signs associated with Isaiah’s mission (see Isaiah 7), I think it is fair to say that for the people of Judah, Isaiah is the sign. Isaiah is to preach to a people who will not listen and he is to do it until God says otherwise (see Isaiah 6.11-13).
Isaiah was to serve during a time of pruning … until there is nothing left but a “holy seed” left as a “stump” in a wasteland. What starts out as an amazing revelation of God concludes in Isaiah being given a very difficult job
While Isaiah cannot make the people come to God, his mission serves a signpost pointing the way back to God. Sometimes, our ministry is just like this. The successes seem far apart and the defeats come more often than we think they should. Yet, in the midst of that we assent: “Here am I! Send me!”