Whom Shall I Send?

Here I Am LordThis week, we focus on the writings of Isaiah. More so than, I think, any of the other prophets of the Old Testament, we Christians look to Isaiah as the one who foretold the coming of the Christ. But, for me, I’ve always been drawn more to Isaiah’s calls for justice and true devotion than his predictions that are typically referenced as referring to Jesus. For instance, Isaiah 1:11-14:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.

When you come to appear before me,
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation —
I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.

That sound to me a lot like Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees who followed the forms of religion, but had no real faith.

Or how about Isaiah 1:22-23

Your silver has become dross,
your wine is mixed with water.
Your princes are rebels
and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
and runs after gifts.
They do not defend the orphan,
and the widow’s cause does not
come before them.

Isaiah is calling the people to return to the ancient ways — to ensure that the powerful care for the weak, rather than focusing on themselves, and maintaining their own station. To my mind, the call to our own time is obvious. Especially in our society, where we value the “self-made” person above all else, we need to hear the words of Isaiah. Now, I have to say I’m feeling pretty hypocritical at this point. While I say that I think caring for the less fortunate, I’m not very good at actually doing it. I like my creature comforts far too much for my own good. I can definitely empathise with Isaiah when, in the vision reported in chapter 6, he says

Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!

That vision passage is one of my favorites in Isaiah. In it, a seraphim touches a burning coal Isaiah’s to his mouth, to purify him to enable him to speak for God. Part of me wishes I could have that experience, but I think a bigger part of me is afraid of how much that would HURT.

At the end of that vision, we get Isaiah 6:8

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am; send me!”

That is this inspiration of my all-time favorite hymn: “Here I Am, Lord”

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