Christians have sung it for years but may be unaware of its origin in scripture. We sing, “Holy, holy, holy,” and talk about “cherubim and seraphim.” These terms come from the call experience of Isaiah in chapter six of his book in the Old Testament.
It was in the year King Uzziah died after a reign of 50 years. The country was in mourning and felt keenly the loss of stability. Some believe the king and the prophet were relatives; if so, Isaiah’s grief was compounded. He went to the temple and found God in a fresh way.
In the temple, Isaiah saw God, but didn’t describe God. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful had he spent a little time telling us what God looked like? He probably didn’t describe God for the simple reason that God is indescribable. The best we can do is use what theologians call “anthropomorphism” -- understanding God by using human terms to describe him, such as his eyes, his arm and his heart.
Then Isaiah saw himself. In the presence of God, he saw himself in a new light. He was unholy in contrast to the holiness of God. Whenever we come into God’s presence, there’s no question who’s sinless and who’s sinful. It’s like wearing muddy boots on white carpet.
But Isaiah also learned about the mercy of God. The heavenly creature took a coal from the altar of God, touched the young man’s lips and pronounced him clean. The God of the Bible is merciful and kind, and delights in removing our wrong when we honestly confess it.
The freshly forgiven prophet then heard the voice of God issue a call for volunteers: “Whom can I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah eagerly responded, “Here am I Lord, send me.” We honor him today for his willingness to serve God in contrast to so many others in the Bible who were reluctant to obey.
Encapsulated in this beautiful passage is a good model for Christian worship. We come into the presence of God to worship him. The church is “God’s house,” and it’s a place set aside for a special appointment with him every week. We approach him humbly for he’s holy and sinless and we’re not. We need his cleansing forgiveness and we’re assured of it when we admit our wrong to him.
But worship isn’t complete until we volunteer for the service of God.
The First Baptist Church of Montgomery has a sign in its parking lot visible to those who exit: “You are now entering the mission field.”
How true! Worship isn’t complete until we go into a world of need to share this message of forgiveness and love.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.