Service as Response

I was struck yesterday by a familiar passage: Isaiah 6. I’m sure I have encountered this text dozens–if not hundreds–of times in my brief life. How many times I have read it, heard it, listened to it preached, or referred to it in conversation I could never tell. But the Spirit brought a fresh thought to mind yesterday while considering Isaiah’s vision of and response to the glory of Yahweh.

The chapter may be subdivided into four units.

  • The first is the vision of the Lord on his throne (1-4). Here is Yahweh–identified as Christ himself in John 12–in his rightfully exalted place, surrounded by unspeakably beautiful seraphim who unceasingly declare his unmatched holiness and his omnipresent glory. (Isn’t it interesting that these angelic beings would remind one another of God’s glory throughout the earth?)
  • Following Isaiah’s vision is his transparent acknowledgment of his sinfulness (5). Such a sinful man has no business standing before the King.
  • But the third section records God’s gracious forgiveness (6-7). And not only this, but it is the divine assurance of forgiveness that is inherent in the word from God: “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.”
  • The last section is one of commission (8-13). This section (particularly Isaiah’s response, “Here am I; send me!”) may very well be the most well-known of the entire chapter–and not without good reason. Isaiah’s vision of the glory of God compels him to do whatever this great God desires.

See then the progression:
(1) A vision of God’s glory
(2) An acknowledgment of one’s sinfulness
(3) An assurance of one’s forgiveness
(4) A commission for God’s service

What strikes me about Isaiah 6 is that this is a pattern that I should regularly repeat. Almost every morning I wake up thinking about what God has for me to do today. Whom am I meeting for lunch? What phone calls must I make? How many e-mails will be waiting in my inbox? And when will I ever get to my Sunday school lesson? But God graciously reminded me that I should start this day with seeing the greatness and goodness of Christ–or, to put it another way, to begin with number one, not with number four. It is as we meditate on the majesty and worth of our highly exalted Savior that the Spirit will lead us into a humble acknowledgment of our shortcomings and sinfulness. There he will remind us of the perfect life and vicarious death of Christ that have forever satisfied the righteous wrath of God. Then–and only then–will I be able to respond with a life of worship and service.

Trying to begin each day with what I must do is like trying to run a lawn mower without first putting fuel in the tank. Is it any wonder that I worship and serve so joylessly and mindlessly and restlessly when I have not first reminded myself of the greatness and goodness of our God?

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