Isaiah: When You See God’s Mission

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!”

Samuel: When God Calls

In the Old Testament (OT), Samuel marks the end of the judges and the beginning of the prophets, and like Deborah, an earlier judge, Samuel was both a prophet and judge (1 Samuel 3:21; 7:15). Samuel is also the only major OT character with a nearly spotless record. Unfortunately, Samuel will make the same mistake as his mentor Eli by neglecting the spiritual development of his sons (8:1-2).

In contrast, Samuel’s story starts with a godly mother, Hannah, who wanted a child more than anything in the world; she wanted a child so much that she promised God that she would dedicate him fully to the Lord. God granted the desires of her heart. After she weaned her son, she and her husband delivered him to Eli the priest; here Samuel “ministered before the Lord” (2:11) and grew into a man. In this context, Samuel had the opportunity to grow up under the one person who should have been most attuned to God’s way.

One night God came calling. Having fulfilled the duties of the day, but just before the lamp in the temple had gone out, young Samuel was lying down in the temple not far from the Ark of the Covenant.

A voice broke the silence.

Samuel responded with “Here I am” and ran to Eli to see what he wanted. However, Eli had not called him so he sent Samuel back to bed. Three times the voice broke through before Eli realized it must be God calling.

Now Eli instructs Samuel to remain where he is the next time the voice comes and to respond: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

What happens next had to be difficult for someone as young as Samuel. God tells Samuel that because of Eli’s negligence in supervising and raising his sons, that God is going to end their lives. The next morning, though scared, Samuel does what he has to do: he tells Eli all that he has learned from the Lord. In this way, God tests Samuel’s integrity and commitment.

God could have revealed his intention straight to Eli, but instead chose to use this situation to call Samuel. Samuel was to learn—and this would not be the last time he would deliver difficult news—that being on God’s mission is sometimes difficult and at times borders on the impossible.

When surveying the whole of Samuel’s life, it is clear that he accepted the invitation to participate in God’s mission. However, this mission was punctuated with times when Samuel had to choose his comfort over lining up with God’s mission.

Perhaps you are at one of these crossroads, God is calling but the task seems overwhelming or unpleasant or even impossible. When we come to these moments, what we do next is critical since it will be the turning point to whether God can move us to the next level, or whether he will have to call again until we recognize his voice.