Holy Trinity • Isaiah 6:1–8 • June 3, 2012
By Wally Becker
Sometimes referred to as the “call of Isaiah,” these verses might better be described as an update in Isaiah’s assignment. Although a previous call to the prophet is not recorded, Isaiah had been serving in that role prior to chapter 6, during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah. The death of Uzziah marks a change. Not only is the security of Judah threatened with the increasing power of Assyria, but the people refuse to heed the warnings. They “will hear but not understand, see but not perceive” (v. 9). This is exemplified most clearly in their new king, Ahaz, who refuses to trust God and his word from the prophet, but would rather put his trust in an alliance with Israel and Syria.
Isaiah sees a vision of the glory of the Lord exalted on his throne, his train filling the temple. The seraphs call out their praise to the Lord Almighty. The temple shakes and is filled with smoke.
Experiencing the glory of God brings Isaiah to humble repentance, a sense of ruin and destruction, a sinner in the presence of the holy God, a man of unclean lips, whose eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.
But the righteous God forgives and gives his righteousness. A seraph brings a burning coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips and declare, “Your guilt is taken away; your sin atoned for.”
Forgiven, restored, and strengthened, Isaiah responds to the call of God, “Here am I. Send me!”
These verses offer wonderful encouragement to all God’s people to follow their calling as God’s people (see also Luther on Vocation). We are not God’s people because we have chosen him or in any way deserve to be called the children of God. We recognize God’s holiness and our total unworthiness. We come before God’s throne in repentance, remembering our baptism, the drowning of the old Adam, remembering also that in baptism God put his name upon us, covered us with the robe of Christ’s righteousness, and claimed us as his children, “Your guilt is taken away; your sin atoned for.”
Called in our baptism to be the people of God, we also can respond, “Here am I. Send me!” And we live as the people of God in our communities, in our schools in our places of work, in our homes with our families, in our congregations with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We use the gifts, the talents and abilities, the resources that God has entrusted to our care, our stewardship, to help and serve and love those around us. Our calling from God is to be his children, his people in this world, wherever he sends us, wherever we happen to be right now, whatever station or position in life we have right now—to be the best husband or wife we can be; the best mother or father, son or daughter we can be; to be the best student, or teacher, or executive, or mechanic we can be, because we are God’s redeemed children, his light in this world.
We may not see a grand vision of God’s glory as Isaiah did, but God’s call to us is just as real. He may not call us through burning bushes, or voices in the night, or visions of glory filling the temple, but he speaks to us through his word, and his presence is just as real to us through the sacrament. We recognize our sin and our unworthiness to be in his presence. We confess our sin and receive his forgiveness. We are strengthened by his spirit and enabled to live as his people in this world. As we draw close to Jesus through his word, he provides direction for our lives; he is able to give redirection for our lives, updates to the assignments he has for us.
For some, that may be the changes that age and maturity bring as we go from being children to having our own children, and then to being godly influences in the lives of our grandchildren. For some, these changes and updates may come as factors like the economy make job changes necessary, and we might even look to making a career change, seeking a new calling or vocation. We can follow God’s leading in humble response, “Here am I. Send me!”
For some, that calling is to full time work in the church—to serve as pastors, teachers, deaconesses, or directors of Christian education, music, family life ministry, or outreach. For some, there may be a sense of direction to serve in the church as early as grade school, or in middle school or high school. For others that desire to serve in full time church work may not be realized until while in college or well into another career. One should not dismiss these desires or leadings, but should consider if God has given abilities and skills that would lend themselves to this service, and seek to help in these areas of ministry within the congregation. They may even receive encouragement from some of God’s people who also recognize their gifts and affirm them.
This call to full time church work, which comes from God through his people in the form of a call from a congregation, is not earned or deserved by the person being called, but is by God’s grace alone, and by God’s choosing. God is the one who equips us for the ministries that he calls us too. Like Isaiah, we give humble response, “Here am I. Send me!”
Called in our baptism to be the children of God, God has a plan and purpose for each one of us to be his people in this world, loving, helping, and serving the people he puts into our lives, bringing his word of warning and encouragement and hope.