All who look at Isaiah chapter 6:1-8 discuss whether this passage speaks of Isaiah’s first calling or second calling. If you ask me, I will say it is neither. In the case of Isaiah, I propose that he did have a call earlier. As a result of that calling, he had visions (1:1) and spoke God’s word to the people. But he did not identify with the people he spoke to and had no second thoughts about preaching “woe” to others (see 1:4; 5:20). He had been telling people that they were going to be ruined. The prophet needed a fresh vision of God. That was given to him in chapter six. With that vision, he was renewed, he rededicated his life to God, and gained a fresh vision for ministry.
Under king Uzziah, Judah prospered. A prosperous nation made the king proud, so much so he decided that he would ofer incense in the Temple (2 Chron. 26). The Lord struck the king with leprosy for his disobedience. On the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah had a vision of GOD. Isaiah must have come to the Temple umpteen times before. But he did not receive a vision of God. The socio-economic condition of Judah was good. Isaiah must have been quite somebody to be able to get in and out of the Palace as he pleased. Life was good for him and he told others how they must live. But when Uzziah was struck down by God and eventually died, Isaiah turned up in the Temple possibly wondering about the severity with which God had dealt with the king. That was when he lifted his eyes upward and had a life-changing vision.
Isaiah saw God seated on the throne. He saw God in His sovereignty. He saw God in His holiness. The temple was flled with smoke (a symbol of the presence of God). He heard the angelic beings call out “holy, holy, holy.” Isaiah probably understood why God was severe with Uzziah. It was because HE was the thrice holy God. We need to remember that God is a very, very, very holy God who expects holiness of lives from us. When Isaiah saw God in His holiness, he was convicted of his own sins. He realized that he was not any diferent from the people he spoke to. Then he said, “Woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips.’ Only when we feel the wretchedness of our sins, God’s cleansing can come over us (vv. 6-7). It is only when we admit our sins that we become most useful to God.
Why did Isaiah need a vision of God and a conviction of sin? Was he not already doing ministry and giving prophetic word to the nation? It is possible to do ministry mechanically, routinely and unthinkingly. It is possible to lose the passion for the God-given task and lose the compassion for the people we minister to. If you and I are not careful, it can happen to us. We can come to a point where ministry is no more about God, or people, or gospel or missions.
Graham Scroggie was a famous Bible expositor/ teacher in the 1900s in Britain. On one occasion while ministering he was taken ill. During the illness he had much time for self-refection. After a period of prayer, he came to the conclusion that he was a preacher for his own sake. So in tears he rededicated his life to be God’s man for the works of ministry. He recovered from his illness and served God for many more years. It is possible that after some time, ministry is not about God and people anymore. Ministry could unfortunately be for the sake of our own position, pleasure and power.
Then Isaiah heard God say, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” After the vision and after the cleansing, Isaiah was all ready to submit to the will of God. He was willing to go wherever and to whoever God would send Him.
John Wesley said, “Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven on earth.”
Thankfully there are still people who are experiencing renewal, responding to God and shaking up the gates of hell. About two decades ago I think, 100,000 Korean youths pledged to spend a year overseas sharing the word of God. In 1975 there were 300 Christians in all of Nepal. Today, it is estimated that there are 1 million Christians there. We, Malaysian Methodists, need a fresh vision of GOD in order to experience a renewal in our lives and a revival in the church.