God is the master of the unexpected invasion, and He will use any tool at hand when He breaks through a person’s defenses. The walls of arguments, excuses, and ignorance that often stand between people and God crumble under His persistent grace. His purpose, though, is never to defeat or conquer. He wants to set us free. He knows that everything we use to keep Him out actually only keeps us imprisoned within. Sometimes God uses a personal crisis or someone else’s troubles to get our attention. Sometimes, God uses a national crisis to prepare us for change.
King Uzziah’s death marked the end of an era for the nation of Judah. In that moment of crisis, Isaiah saw a new vision of God sitting on the throne of heaven. He was vividly reminded that God was still on the throne in spite of the nation’s future. Isaiah’s ministry eventually spanned the reigns of several kings, but his personal preparation for ministry occurred when he faced God in all His holiness and himself in all his sinfulness. His pronouncement of “Woe,” (Is. 6:5) upon himself was a confession of sin. Because of his repentant heart and the deep, amazing grace of God, Isaiah received a sign of forgiveness from The Lord. One of the angels took a burning coal off the altar of heaven and placed it on Isaiah’s lips, announcing that his sin had been purged.
In a time of national crisis, rather than pointing out all of the sinfulness of the nation or the wickedness of the next kings, or the uncertainty of the nation’s direction, God chose to help Isaiah to first focus on his own relationship with God. God chose to enable Isaiah to change his perspective about this relationship and then God made the relationship right between them. Only then could Isaiah be used of God. Until God could help Isaiah see things from God’s perspective, Isaiah would not be willing to align his priorities with God’s.
Isaiah’s acute awareness of sin was replaced by a grateful willingness to serve the God who had cleansed him. Our willingness to serve God and others will be deeply influenced by the degree to which we have received God’s gracious work in our lives. Until we are willing to turn away from pointing fingers at others and see our own deep need for grace, we will retain our own selfish priorities, desires, and understandings. Forgiveness liberates us to be useful to the Lord.
I struggle with this. For many years, I focused on the sins of others. Before I became a Christian, I pointed at the evilness of man and the hypocrisy of Christians. After I became a Christian, I pointed at the sins of others – those who did things differently, or didn’t understand Scripture as well as some, or listened to different music, or struggled with persistent sin that was different than mine, or… It was a very long list. I wasn’t the type to condemn meanly. It was more of an internalized “well, I could be worse…” Not that I actually even admitted that to myself, but looking back I can see that it was a distinct undercurrent for a long time.
Now I struggle with another issue. A few years ago, I came face to face with my deep sinfulness. Like Isaiah, I cried out “woe is me. I am undone!” God has been showing me how completely He forgives and how all encompassing His grace is throughout every area, every spot, of my life. Now for me, it’s more a matter of understanding that He can use me in spite of my sinfulness. It’s not a matter of my worthiness or unworthiness. It’s a matter of His choosing to show His grace and strength through a weak, flawed person such as me.
It’s so easy to get caught up in separate hot button topics today such as abortion, homosexuality, etc., but these things are only symptoms which show how deeply our nation needs God and Godly people willing to be used by Him. People who are willing to love unconditionally, who speak edifying words to others, who are kind and tender hearted, recognizing that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, who understand that it is only by and through the grace of God that we have become righteous – these are the people our nation needs today.
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:19-21). Instead of focusing on the sin of others, I need to focus on the love and grace of God – needed so much more today as the sin abounds. The gospel of grace is what our nation needs above all things. I know. It’s what I desperately needed myself.
I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am