Week of June 2: Worshipping God leads us to a place of response
By Kim Reindl
Lesson for the week of June 2
Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8
Opening question: Have you ever had a time in your life when you felt that God was calling you to do something? Explain.
One of my favorite hymns in recent years is the hymn “Here I Am, Lord.” I remember a time in my life about 12 years ago when God was moving me to a place of action. I had been involved in Disciple Bible Study for almost two years. The message for me as I read and studied the scripture, time and time again, was that God invites imperfect people to be involved in the work of God’s perfecting love. I certainly knew that I was not perfect, but somehow I sensed that God wanted to use me. While in worship one Sunday, as I heard the words of Isaiah reflected in that hymn — “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart” — tears began to flow. The Holy Spirit was moving me to respond to God’s call, “Whom shall I send?” I knew in my heart that the answer had to be “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Imagine the scene described in Isaiah 6:1-8. Isaiah’s vision magnifies the glory of God. God is seated on a throne, “high and lofty,” and the very hem of his robe fills the temple. There are seraphs, often understood in religious tradition to be the highest of heavenly creatures with a burning love for God. These holy beings dare not even look on God’s majesty, and therefore cover their eyes with two of their wings. With two more of their wings they cover their feet, symbolizing the holiness of this place. Furthermore, the seraphs fly around calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory,” while the pivots of the temple shake at sound of their voices and smoke fills the house of the Lord. When this scene is envisioned, it is easy to understand Isaiah’s reaction. When faced with God’s perfection and glory, Isaiah’s natural response is unworthiness.
When Isaiah stands before the majesty of God he sees himself as he truly is. Isaiah is no longer able to compare himself with the people around him, perhaps differentiating himself from them. When faced with the reality of God, the standard of the world is no longer the basis of comparison. When confronted with God’s glory, Isaiah has no choice but to see himself as one with all others, sinful and human (Isaiah 6:5). So it is with us. When we are faced with the truth of God’s divine character, we begin to see ourselves for who we really are. It no longer matters how we compare with others in the world around us. When God is our standard, the truth is that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Although feelings of inadequacy are natural when faced with the truth of God’s perfection, God does not desire to leave us in the paralysis of unworthiness. God knows that we are so much more than our current state. Not only were we created in God’s image as part of God’s “good” creation, we are redeemed through God’s grace and transformed through God’s love. God never sees us merely for who we are, but always for who we were created to be and who we are to become. God sees Isaiah as so much more than “a man of unclean lips.” God knows that Isaiah needs to see himself that way as well. Therefore, no sooner have the words of confession left Isaiah’s mouth than God’s purification is made undeniably clear. As the cleansing coal touches Isaiah’s lips, the seraph proclaims, “your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out” (6:7).
Once Isaiah understands himself to be forgiven, he is now ready for God’s invitation. As one proclaimed by God to be guilt-free and sinless, Isaiah is overwhelmed with responsive love. You see, when we are burdened by our own inadequacies, we are not available to God. Yet, when we are able to see ourselves through God’s eyes, as those forgiven by God and claimed as God’s beloved, we are available to take our place as God’s children.
Therefore, worship of God that engages the glory and holiness of God leads us to a place of response. First in seeing God in all God’s holiness, goodness, purity, and love, we are exposed to the truth of how far we are from who we are meant to be. This realization leads us to a point of confession. This confession is good for the soul because it opens the soul to the transformative power of God’s forgiveness and grace. For us, as followers of Christ, we know in our hearts that “in the name of Christ, [we] are forgiven.” Hence, as those forgiven by God we find ourselves ready to respond. Therefore, when the Father cries out, “Whom shall I send?” we as children are prepared to say, “Here I am! Send me!”
Questions for further reflection:
• How does knowledge of God and God’s character lead us to a point of confession? Why is such confession good for us?
• John Wesley stated in the preface to Hymns and Sacred Poems “‘Faith working by love’ is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection.” In your opinion, can Isaiah’s response to God be seen as an example of “faith working by love?” Explain.