søndag 25. oktober 2015

Isaiah 7:1-9:7 The Messiah: the promised child who brings judgement – and salvation

Isaiah 7:1-9:7

God! Vast, powerful, enthroned in glory. We saw Him in chapter 6 on the throne, surrounding by massive powerful burning angels. He was in the Temple and his glory filled it. Here is the true King of Israel.

And in this chapter this great King, this being of Ultimate Power in the Universe promises a sign. A sign that he is in control. A sign of his power and his sovereign rule. A sign that will show the world God is in charge.

What kind of sign would you expect? 10 plagues? Sea opening up? Worldwide flood?

The sign God promises? A baby.
A baby?!
Yes, a baby.

That’s probably what King Ahaz thought as well! Seriously? That’s the big sign? A young woman will have a baby? A virgin will get married and have a baby. Wow.

And in Isaiah and Ahaz’s time, yes, the sign of the baby wasn’t that impressive – although it did come true. By the time the baby was a child, the two nations threatening Judah had been wiped out just as God had said. But the baby, well, the baby didn’t seem that important – at least not then. Not until a young unmarried woman – a virgin – called Mary - became pregnant without having sexual intercourse. And suddenly Isaiah’s prophecy became a lot more interesting.

Let’s have a look. Remember what I said about prophecy often working on two or more levels, in two or more time periods. This week’s chapters find their partial fulfilment in Isaiah’s time, and their full fulfilment in Jesus’ time.

We’ll follow Isaiah and Ahaz’s story first, then look at Jesus, and then apply it to us.

1. The child: a sign of judgement for Ahaz

The scene is set in v1-2: Ahaz, King of Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel, is being threatened by Syria and the Northern Kingdom of Israel (in some translations called “Ephraim”). This is bad! V2 the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.

So, Isaiah is told in 7:3 to go and meet Ahaz and tell Ahaz not to fear, but to trust God. Stop looking at the problem. Look up! But just as God had said in chapter 6, Ahaz will not listen. God says don’t worry? Are you blind God? Look at Syria’s armies! Look at Israel’s armies! How can you say this invasion will never happen? V7

Ahaz does not believe because what God is saying through Isaiah was just unbelievable. God says their enemies are nothing – that in fact, Israel (the North) will be no more in just sixty-five years (v8). Pff. No. They’re Jews like us. We are Israel, God’s people! God would never abandon his people like that. Shut up Isaiah, you speak lies.
Isaiah’s message ends at the end of v9 with a warning, translated a bit weirdly in the NLT. Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm. This almighty God “cannot”? The ESV has a better translation, as does the Norwegian bible: “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all”.
Literally: If not believe / established then not believe / established. It is the idea of a secure foundation. Ahaz – be warned: the only secure foundation, the only safe path through this terrible time is the Lord. If you will not stand on Him, then you will not stand. A few weeks ago back in chapter 2 we saw how all the world will be shaken, our lives will be shaken – and only Christ is unshakeable. And I asked us this question “When my life is shaken, what will stand?”

That is the question for Ahaz. Stand or fall on me. Says the Lord. But Ahaz, we know, will not listen, so in v11 God tells him to ask God for a sign! Very interesting.
But Ahaz refuses! Why? He uses religion “I will not put God to the test” but actually he doesn’t want to be convinced. He does not want a sign from God because he does not want to obey God.
We’re good at that – coming up with reasons for why we shouldn’t obey God. Sometimes, and these are really good, we come up with spiritual, religious reasons for disobeying.
We only fool ourselves. Not God. Not ever.

Look at God’s response: 13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. What is the sign? Look! The virgin (or young woman) will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)...16 For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted.
The sign will be a young unmarried woman, a virgin, giving birth to a son. The boy will barely be grown up when the threat of Syria and Northern Israel (in some translations called Ephraim) will be no more.

And in chapter 8 what do we find? Isaiah has sexual intercourse with a young woman - his wife - and she becomes pregnant with their son. And by the time he is ready to eat solid food (yoghurt and honey) – Assyria captured Syria and North Israel. My personal view is that chapter 8 is supposed to be seen as the fulfilment of 7:14. For Isaiah’s time. There are many who would disagree – there are 10 theories on how this is fulfilled! But I think that like in previous chapters we are supposed to be looking beyond the partial fulfilment and waiting on the Lord to do what he promised. Because waiting on the Lord is a major theme of these chapters!

Because a young woman does give birth to a son. But the word Isaiah chooses is not the usual “na’arah” meaning young woman, but “almah” – which means virgin woman, or young unmarried woman. And Isaiah’s wife isn’t exactly a virgin! Also, the boy was to be called Immanuel “God with us”. This boy is called Maher-shalal-hash-baz (called Baz by his mates) – which means “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens”!! Which kind of sounds more like “God has left us” than God with us!

However the sign, was fulfilled in Isaiah’s day, we’re looking beyond to a future day, waiting for God to bring a sign: a virgin who will bear the son Immanuel. The reality of that prophecy was mind-blowing, and we miss it because it’s so familiar. But let’s finish off Isaiah and his son ‘Baz and Ahaz before we get to Jesus…

The Lord promises in 8:5-10 that Assyria will come like a flood. All the human powers that Israel trusted in have come to nothing. Only the Lord can save. And he will. Because Israel is called “Immanuel” (v8), God with us. He is with his people. And for those of us who are slow v10 ends with “God is with us”. And remember Isaiah’s first son’s name? Shear-jashub “a remnant will remain”. That remnant will be like Jerusalem just keeping her head above water in a flood.

Everything else they’ve trusted in will come to nothing – but God will save them. The message is summed up in v11-22 Fear GOD, and nothing else. If not, he will be a stumbling block and a snare. V14 But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.

Either God is your saviour, or he will be your destruction. You either stand firm on God, or you do not stand at all.

For Israel in Isaiah’s time, for Ahaz, the child was a sign of judgment. They should have listened to God: Isaiah’s plea is clear 18 I and the children the Lord has given me serve as signs and warnings to Israel from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies who dwells in his Temple on Mount Zion 20 Look to God’s instructions and teachings!
Because looking to anything else, listening to anyone else, will lead to v22 will be trouble and anguish and dark despair. They will be thrown out into the darkness.

The people are blind – looking to the wrong thing to save them. They are deaf, listening to the wrong voices – the voices of the dead instead of God. What hope is there in this darkness?

2. 9:1 – 7 The child. A sign of hope for the world.

9 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory. 2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. 4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. 5 The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire. 6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen

There is one coming, oh yes, who will usher in a new age, a golden age. Isaiah and his sons do not offer much hope. A small hope: a remnant will remain. Jerusalem will not be completely destroyed. But this, this is something else. No more slavery, no more war. A child who is called Mighty God. Is this the Immanuel? The God with us.

Yes! And how!

This child is the sign God will give to Ahaz and all like him who walk in darkness (That’s all of us by the way!)
The virgin will give birth, and that child will be Immanuel himself. God, the great God on his throne will come down, shrink himself down and become one of us. A baby, born of a virgin, Mary from Galilee. And from there a great light will shine out across the whole world v2. He will be the King, the King who will rule forever in righteousness and truth for he is the King, the Lord Almighty, our Everlasting Father and Mighty God himself.

Now that’s a sign!

Turn to Matthew 1:18–25 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. 20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: 23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’ ” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Now we see why Isaiah used such a strange word for “young woman”. Because it pointed to Mary. A young woman becoming pregnant is not much of a sign is it. This will be the sign, someone will fall pregnant – and that someone will be a YOUNG WOMAN.

But a virgin falling pregnant – now that’s something else.

The disciples of Isaiah’s day were longing for the day when God would rescue his people - a day when the people now in darkness, now unable to see and hear because the Lord has hidden himself from them – one day they will 9:2 see a great light! Joy as the rescuer will come. This rescuer, this child – yes, the child promised in 7:14, not the child of Isaiah, but the child born to a virgin, the miracle child - he v6 will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And we know this will happen because God guarantees it. Look at the end of v7 there The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

God says: Oh Isaiah, your people are a mess, I know. But I have set in motion my plan to rescue them. And not just them, but all who are in darkness. I will bring them out of the darkness and into the light. I will do this myself. So have patience. Wait upon the Lord.

Mt 4:13–17 [Jesus] went first to Nazareth, then left there and moved to Capernaum, beside the Sea of Galilee, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 This fulfilled what God said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 “In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” 17 From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

The Kingdom is near, yes, because the King is standing there in front of you. And friends the kingdom is near now because Jesus is still ruling, and he is here now, calling on you to respond. For his kingdom is eternal and he rules forever. He came to earth to shine a light, the only light, into this world. He died in our place to take away our sins so that we who are blind and deaf can be restored to see and hear. Jesus deals with the problem of our spiritual blindness. Is 32:1–3 (NLT) Look, a righteous king is coming! And honest princes will rule under him. … 3 Then everyone who has eyes will be able to see the truth, and everyone who has ears will be able to hear it.

Jesus is the sign of hope for the world. We walk in darkness, we are blind and deaf – but Jesus, Jesus shines a light into our darkness, and calls us out with power and mercy. So, how should we respond?

3. Our response: to actively wait on the Lord in obedience

King Ahaz is the example of what not to do. When put to the test Ahaz shows his faith is elsewhere: Ahaz has put his faith in Assyria, not God! Chapter 8 shows us why. Because Ahaz is listening to the wrong voices. Not the voice of God, through Isaiah, but to the voices of the dead, the voice of Satan.
What is my trust in? When I am challenged, what do I really put my faith in? In the Lord? Does my life show this?

Let me give two examples:

I know two ladies, both single, both attractive. Both started going out with non-Christian men. Why? Because that is how we are designed. To be in relationship. But we are first designed to be in relationship with God. Both were challenged with whether they trusted God or men. One repented, the other, well, she’s still working it out.

I know two men. Both put under pressure at work to lie. Both were worried about their jobs, having no security net – if they lost their job life would be difficult. One was afraid, and so compromised, and went through a difficult time. The other realised that his salary is provided by God, not by men. He sized up the moment, marched into his bosses office, and told him that he served God, not men, and therefore would not lie and also had to expose the corruption. Oh, things exploded around him – but the Lord was with him and he was at peace.

Who do we serve, God or men? Do we really believe that God is sovereign? That he is in control.


That waiting is not passive, slouched on the couch. We wait like King Hezekiah, we wait like Daniel. Hezekiah went to the Temple and prayed to the Lord, listened to the prophet Isaiah, and obeyed everything he told him. Daniel read again and again the words of God in Scripture and so he knew that the exile would soon be over. He prayed every day to God, even when his life was threatened. That’s waiting on the Lord. That is true faith.
Friends, it is simple to be a Christian: let us read the Bible every day, let’s meet together as a church, let’s love and care for each other, pray together, eat together, encourage each other as the Day of Christ’s return approaches. We keep sharing the gospel, keep holding out the word of life, keep praying for our non-Christian friends and family, and wait patiently for the Lord to work in His time and in His way. We obey the Lord, no matter what the cost. We love instead of take revenge. We tell the truth even when it costs. We are faithful even when it hurts. We forgive, because Christ forgave us.
Do not lose heart. Stay the course. Be obedient and trust God.

The people of Israel had to wait 735 YEARS before they saw the true meaning of the sign “the young woman/virgin will be with child”. But oh my was it worth the wait! Never in our wildest dreams could we have known that God himself would be our saviour, that he really would be Immanuel, God with us. That’s the God we serve.

Take comfort and strength. The Lord is with us.

søndag 11. oktober 2015

Isaiah 6:1-8 Who is God

Isaiah 6:1-8

Who is God? If you could stand before Him now, what would you see?

And who are you? How would God react to you?

These are not questions that people often ask. But they are probably the only questions worth asking. They are the only ones that matter. Who is God, and what does he think about me?

The answer to that question will change your life.

Isaiah got the answer to that question in today's passage. He got a vision of God. He saw God – and he saw himself. And it changed his life.

I mean, it takes some serious courage to say what Isaiah has said over these last few chapters – pointing out the sin of Israel. Especially the last chapter. Hey what should I do with this vineyard of bitter grapes. “tear it up!” say the people. “That's right, I'll tear it up” says God. You can imagine the shock when they hear God’s next words (in 5:7) when he says my vineyard... is YOU.

God is going to judge his people. His people, his vineyard, have failed to produce sweet fruit of righteousness, goodness – but instead the disappointing bitter fruit of sinful, selfish lives, greedy, false religion.

Why? Because they had a wrong view of God. Their god was small and dumb. A god who could be fooled by the outward show of religious duty while you ignore him the rest of life.

And because they had a wrong view of God, they had a wrong view of themselves. They thought God was pleased with them. They thought they were good. See, their God was like them. Maybe slightly better. He was not the God of the Bible, the holy and exalted God, perfectly good, full of power and might.

1. This is the God we worship! Holy, holy, holy God!

Is 6 (NLT) It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” 4 Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

What did you see in your mind’s eye when you heard that read? An old man in a beard with a bright light behind him? Perhaps with a couple of pasty-looking effeminate angels in a white dress, strumming a harp saying “glooory, glooory”. That's our culture's view of “God” isn't it? Maybe a bit of gold thrown in there.

But that's not what Isaiah sees. Look at Isaiah’s reaction – deathly fear! v5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed! It’s the reaction you have when a lion turns towards you and suddenly lets out a powerful roar. Even though he was over a 1000 metres away and behind two fences – I thought for a moment I was going to die. The power of the roar was overwhelming. The power of the roar said he could do anything – and I was powerless to stop him. And that’s just a lion. Isaiah saw the Lord almighty: Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

What is the most frightening experience in your life?
My Dad once had a elephant charge at him. It came rushing forward knocking down trees in its path. That’s power. That’s fear.

That’s the kind of fear Isaiah experienced – but much much more. This is not some lion that’s miles away. This is not an elephant that you can get away from by being calm under pressure and reversing very fast.

This is the LORD! The creator of the world. Holy God. Mighty. Power unbelievable! This is the glorious God. And the angels that serve him, the seraphim there in v2: oh, they are not thin, weedy, droopy men in white shirts strumming a harp looking about as frightening as the local vicar in a nightie. No! These are seraphim, angelic beings whose name means literally “holy fire”. These are massive creatures, burning with a holy fire. They're like the Hulk, or a wrestler or gigantic body-builder. Massive, powerful. Their voice is so powerful it shakes the room like an earthquake. The Temple was a huge stone building – great blocks of stone – and they shake so the dust rises when the seraphim speak. Holy, holy, holy Lord.
They have six wings – faces and feet covered as a mark of respect to God on the throne. They may be creatures of holy fire – but for them to look upon the Lord Almighty… – even they cover their face, cover their feet. The seraphim would not even look upon the Lord because of his glory and holiness.
You can understand Isaiah's fear when he says I am doomed...I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

I mean, can you picture it? The LORD, Yahweh, the God of Israel, the one who spoke all things into existence; the one who judged the world in the great Flood - but rescued Noah; the one who called his people out of Egypt with a mighty hand, punishing Pharaoh and the Egyptians but rescuing his people. This God! There he sits on his throne. The train of his robe – that’s not a choo-choo train, but it is the long piece of material on the royal robe that trails along the ground. The longer the train, the more important you were. It showed your wealth – you could pay for expensive material just to drag on the ground. And the Lord’s train – well, that FILLED THE TEMPLE. It’s just like all over the place. He has unimaginable wealth. There is nothing anyone can offer him that he does not already have.

So his throne is high and lifted up, his train is everywhere, and his servants, his attendant, are angels of fire – and they are singing his praises: v3 “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

You know, we will not stand before the Lord and argue with him. We will not negotiate with God. “Hey my friend I got a deal for you”. “I’ll give you a million krone”. “I’ve got this sweet cabin in Kragerø”.
We will not say “But God is a God of love, he’ll like me” “it’s because I’m worth it”
We will not walk in there saying “I’m a pretty good person”. Every one of us will fall horrified to our knees in fear as we see who God really is.

This God will not be impressed with our foolish attempts to please him with our religious activities. Are you really going to stand before God with your church attendance card or baptismal certificate - din 4-åringsbok, dåpsbevis eller konfirmasjonsbevis – are we going to stand before this God with that. The seraphim would laugh and all our pathetic religion would just burst into flame the moment they came close – and they’re not even God himself, just his servants.

When we catch a vision of God we understand, like Isaiah, Our religion is worth nothing. Our money is worth nothing. Our goodness is worth nothing. Our family connections are worth nothing. There is nothing we have that is of any value when we come before the Lord God Almighty. Nothing. What was it the apostle Paul said “I count all things as rubbish (garbage) compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ our Lord” (Phil 3:8)
We are wretched, naked, ridiculous in front of this awesome God.

Brothers, let us see the Lord in all his glory. Holy is he.
Holy means: other, set apart, different. He is not like us. He is something magnitudes greater. He is holy, holy, holy Lord. Holy Father. Holy Son. Holy Spirit.

You know, if we could just see, really see, understand, who God is. Then we see ourselves as we really are, we see others as they really are. We understand the world – everything comes in to focus. As it did for Isaiah. This moment changed his entire life. From this moment on, he was a different man. He was the prophet of God. And no-one could make him stop telling everyone about this God. The Word of God was on his lips throughout his life.

It was the same with the disciples. What does John say? We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life

They had a visions of God. They met Him. Saw him with their own eyes. Touched him. But Jesus was not on throne surrounded by flaming angels. So how did they know he was God? Well, he was powerful, yes. But they recognised him as God because he was full of mercy.

You see, the most amazing thing in this passage is not the greatness of God. It is the mercy of God. Mercy which allows a sinner like Isaiah, like you and me, to know this God, to stand in his presence, to serve him, to partner with him in his work on this earth. How incredible is that.

2. The mercy of the holy God

Isaiah is struck down with fear by meeting the holy God. Seeing God’s holiness, his perfection, his glory, Isaiah is suddenly aware of his own unholiness, imperfection, sin.

It’s like going through a dark, muddy cave – and when you come out into the light – whoa! You’re filthy! Covered in dirt. But when you’re in the cave, in the darkness, you can’t see the dirt.

That’s what it was like of Isaiah. Merrily going along thinking he’s a pretty good guy – check my holiness, it’s up to here. I go to church, I pay my taxes, I help my landlady take out her garbage.
And then Isaiah wakes up in the real world – confronted by God – God as he truly is.

5 Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

I had a similar experience to Isaiah. I was going along my merry little life. I gave God a bit of worship every day, just enough to you know keep him satisfied. And then got on with MY LIFE.
I’d confused God with a pet. Pat him, give him a bit of food. Then one day, he took hold of me. He grabbed by the scruff of my neck and marched me down to church, where he and I had a little chat. Yes Lord. Sorry Lord. Yes Lord, I will obey you. Yes Lord, I am yours.

And from that day, my life has never been the same again. It was like the sun came up and flooded my life with light. I had deep joy. I had seen the Lord – and I was not destroyed, but lifted up.

What mercy God has to sinners like us. Look at what happens to Isaiah.

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

Isn’t that incredible? Isn’t that mind-blowing? Isaiah has no place there. He is not glorious. He is not an angelic being of fire. He is not holy. He should be thrown out. Or simply blasted into nothingness – burnt up like the unholy rubbish he is.

As the seraphim approached him – burning coal at the end of a pair of tongs held by a mighty burning creature whose voice shakes the huge stone Temple – I wonder if Isaiah thought “this is it! One touch and I’m dead”. You can imagine the great burning hand reaching out and crushing Isaiah like paper, consuming him in holy fire until nothing remains except ash to be blown on the wind.

But instead the mighty voice which shakes the room says Isaiah your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.

It's like the paralysed man on the mat in front of Jesus: son your sins are forgiven. What? Could it be true? Or the sinful woman washing his feet with her tears. Or Zacchaeus the short tax collector. Or Legion, filled with demons. Your sins are forgiven.
One touch of the coal from the altar and Isaiah is made holy. He can stand in the presence of God!
The altar was the place where sacrifices for sin were made. It was on the altar that blood was shed to pay the price for sin. It was on the altar where the guilt of the person’s sin was placed on the sacrifice - there was a swap. The sacrifice was treated as if it had sinned, the person was treated as if they were innocent. Isaiah’s guilt was transferred from him to the sacrifice. And he was declared innocent. His guilt was removed. His sins were forgiven.

Isaiah did not know how that could happen. How could one coal take away his sin? But we do. In John 12:41 we read Isaiah.. saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of him.
Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory when he saw the glory of God. He saw Jesus’ glory and later spoke of it: the suffering servant whose sacrifice took away the sins of the world. He saw and experienced Jesus’ glory when the coal touched his lips and he knew that he was no longer a sinner, under judgement, but now a holy one, like the seraphim, able to stand in the throne-room of God.

For each of us who belong to Christ, the same has happened. One touch from his sacrifice on the cross, his altar, and our sins are dealt with. Our guilt was placed on his shoulders – we are guilty no more. Through his death our sins are forgiven.

And so we have moved – from unholiness to holiness. From those who will be thrown out of the presence of God – to those who stand before the Almighty. By His grace, we belong now to him. There is now no fear, no fear even of the seraphim, no fear of his awesome power and might. We are his. In fact, even further than that, because we can call this almighty God, Father. Daddy.
Because that is how Jesus knows him. Jesus, the son of God, swaps places with us and gives us his life, so that we too can be called children of God. Isn’t that incredible?

3. The result of grace: service

What happens as soon as Isaiah is purified, made clean?

The Lord has a task for him. 8 Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”

There’s only one man there. Lots of angels, only one man – one man whose lips have just been made clean.
Who will speak for God? Who will be the Word of God among the people. It’s kind of clear who's supposed to respond… and he does.

V8 “Here I am. Send me.”

See the confidence he has in the grace of God. He is now ready to serve God. No more “I am doomed”. How much we can learn from Isaiah!

I love the interplay here between God’s sovereignty and human choice. It is quite clear that God has called Isaiah to be his prophet. It is quite clear that that is going to happen. God is sovereign, in control.
But it is equally clear that when Isaiah says “Here I am. Send me” that it was his choice. He was not a robot. God was not forcing the words out of his mouth. The angels were not threatening him. Isaiah looks at himself, his new self, his forgiven, guiltless self and says “yes, I can do that”. I can carry the word of God to the people.

That's what Ephesians 2:10 means when it says For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

What we are to do, the good we are to do has been prepared by God. But we are not unwillingly forced along this path – we want to do it! We are created in Chrsit Jesus, a new creation, a new man that wants to walk the path God has prepared – and chooses to walk that path.

This world uses a show of power to force a response – you will obey.
But God here forgives, declares right, stands Isaiah up on his feet. Then he asks “Who will go?”. Not “YOU WILL GO!” but “Who will go?”. And Isaiah answers not from compulsion, not from fear – but from love. God's perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). Oooh, me! Send me! He wants to do this for God because he loves God.

So too with us. We don’t want to sin anymore. We want to please our Lord. Not out of fear for the consequences - because we have already been declared righteous. Our guilt is gone. There is no fear. But respond out of love. Our hearts have been swapped out – from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh – from hearts that hate God and always choose to disobey him, to ignore him, to avoid him – to hearts that love him, and want to obey, want to be with him.

As Christians we are fundamentally changed. We have new nature, a new DNA. The DNA of Christ. The heart… of Christ.

Who is God, and what does he think about me?
He is powerful, He is awesome beyond belief. He is terrifyingly holy. To see him is to be doomed – and we all will see him one day. And all of our goodness and religion will be laughable before him – exposed as dirty faces and unclean hands. Unholy!
But one touch from the altar, one drop of the blood of Christ, and we are made holy. Each of us who belong to Christ are holy, able to be with God. To call him our Dad. Without being afraid. Without being burned up.

Brothers, when we're battling sin, let us remember who we are. Remember who He is. And remember that we are loved.