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Hineni ("Here Am I, Send Me") Part Two—Chalk Prayers and Lessons from Isaiah 6

How does our personal experience end up touching the world? Is the renewal of our individual lives all there is to the Chalk Revival? Scripture has a wonderful example to demonstrate the other side of one person's spiritual renewal. As we study it, we will be reminded that what happens in our personal Chalk Revival potentially has implications in many other lives, and that spiritual influence is the usual outcome of renewal.

When I was growing up, there was a song we sang way too often, but its message has never left me:

 

Oh Holy Ghost, revival comes from You;
Send a revival, start the work in me.
Thy Word declares thou wilt supply my need;
For blessings now, Oh Lord, I humbly plead.

With that prayer in mind, turn to Isaiah 6.

The backdrop of Isaiah's book is Judah, a nation empowered by military might and financial security, but which had grown self-sufficient and indifferent toward God. Presumption had replaced gratitude, and pride had usurped reverence. Judah's king Uzziah personified this attitude when he brazenly entered the temple to burn incense—a duty reserved for priests. (2 Chron. 26:16—“But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.”)

God in response struck the proud king with leprosy. After being confronted by Azariah the priest, 19] “Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD'S temple, leprosy [ The Hebrew word was used for various diseases affecting the skin—not necessarily leprosy; also in verses 20, 21 and 23] broke out on his forehead.” So Uzziah lived out the rest of his life in shameful quarantine until he died in 740 B.C. His godly son took the throne upon Uzziah's death, but the people of the nation “continued their corrupt practices”—27:2.

During this year, either just before or after Uzziah's death, Isaiah was granted a vision—of God, himself and Israel. W.E. Vines states, “Isaiah is given a vision of the Lord's glory, in contrast to the nation's shame. The glory was about to depart from the earthly Temple. It has never returned nationally since. In this connection it is significant that shortly after Uzziah's death Rome was founded, the power that was destined to consummate the devastation of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews” (Zondervan, 1971, p. 29).

Isaiah, as a result of this vision recorded in chapter 6, became a person God used to speak to Israel. But first God had to give Isaiah a personal renewal. (We would call it a Chalk Revival.) It was one of the most awesome spiritual experiences and renewals recorded in Scripture. So let's examine Isaiah's encounter with God and seek to apply the steps God took Isaiah through to bring him to a place of renewal, then inspired and impassioned speech for his nation.

 


 

How did it all start? For Isaiah, it began in a worship service, when he literally had an earth-shaking experience that changed his life.

1] In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2] Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.

Amazingly, in the midst of a people who had lost sight of God, Isaiah's vision opens with seeing the living Lord on His throne. God was high and exalted, His glory filling the temple. Even though an earthly king had died, the King of the universe still reigned. And even though He was in heaven, his robe—symbolizing His majesty—reached to the earth. Psalm 104 says that His garment consists of light and fills the heavenly Temple, just as a cloud (the glory of the Lord) filled the Tabernacle—Ex. 40:35. This helps to explain why nothing is hidden in God's presence.

So holy was His presence that even the seraphs had to shield their eyes as they sang praises around His throne—

2] Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3] And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4] At the sound of their voices the doorposts and threshholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

Seraphs were special kinds of angels. The word translated “seraph” comes from the root word meaning “to burn,” indicating the purity and brightness of these angelic beings—Ron Rhodes, Understanding the Bible, Isaiah, David C. Cook, 1992, p. 16. Each had six wings, two of which they used to cover their faces. Evidently the seraphs could not look upon the absolute brightness and purity of God, who “lives in unapproachable light”— I Tim. 6:16 (ibid).

Certainly this was no ordinary worship service. The angels proclaimed, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory”—v. 3. This worship service literally rocked the foundations of the temple and certainly Isaiah as well! At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke (v 4).

You may have wondered why this repetition (holy, holy, holy) exists. Does it reflect a lack of lyrical creativity? No, of course not. There are a couple of possible reasons they sang “holy, holy, holy.” (This has some significance to us as well, because of the number of songs we have with “holy, holy, holy” in them.)

The first possible reason is that this triple reference points to the fullness or completeness of God's holiness, signifying the infinite. In other words, the Lord of hosts of whom they sing is infinitely holy. The second theory, which some commentators hold, is that they were praising the trinity. Although some commentators doubt that there is an intimation of the Trinity here, it seems to be the most likely explanation. The seraphim do not praise God as twice or four times holy, but three times holy. In light of the plain New Testament teaching on the Trinity, why should there be a problem seeing foreshadows in the Old Testament? One must acknowledge that the full-fledged doctrine is not found in the Old Testament, but once the doctrine is seen as explicitly stated in the New Testament, some of the otherwise hidden allusions of the Old Testament become understandable. (Alfred Martin & John Martin, Isaiah, the Glory of the Lord, Moody Press, Chicago, 1983, p. 47.)

As we continue looking at this awesome scene, let's learn from the prophet Isaiah, whose experience of worship forever changed his life. In the presence of God, Isaiah saw a vision. Isaiah saw himself as he was before God. In the burning light of the Lord's holiness, Isaiah saw his own sinfulness.

“Woe to me!…[he said] I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty”—Is. 6:5 . He made it very clear that he was a sinner living among sinners. How else can one respond when confronted with God's holiness? Isaiah's words reflected both honesty and desperation.

 

A vision of God gives us the clearest vision of ourselves. In fact, in Scripture the ones closest to God are most aware of how unworthy they are.

 

Isaiah is not unique in the acknowledgment of his sinfulness/unrighteousness.
  • Job, who God called a blameless and upright man (Job 1:8), was overwhelmed with his own unworthiness when he saw God. He said, in Job 42:5-6—“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6] Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Does this mean Job's friends who demeaned and blamed him for his condition were right? Of course not; it simply means the brightest and best of persons cannot compare with a holy God (filled with every kind of goodness and the total absence of sin).
  • Daniel, called by the angel Gabriel a man greatly loved (Dan. 10:11), was absolutely overwhelmed by the vision he had of God's glory. (See Dan. 10:15-17.) 15] “He bowed with his face toward the ground and was speechless.”
  • John, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 21:30), when he saw the Lord glorified on the Island of Patmos, “fell at his feet as though dead”—Rev. 1:17.
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    All these men were exceptional, among the best when compared to others. But that wasn't the final evaluation when they were compared to God's holiness.

    All this acknowledgment of our unrighteousness, however, should never be the end result of our seeing a holy God. He had more for Isaiah, and ultimately for us, than seeing ourselves as we really are. Isaiah had a third significant step too:

    Isaiah had the fire cleanse him—vv. 6-7.

    v. 6—Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7] With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

    The Lord didn't abandon Isaiah in his sinfulness. God touched him with the cleansing fire of forgiveness, because Isaiah saw his own sinfulness more clearly than ever. He needed hope that a sinful human could stand before a holy God without fear of judgment. Notice that the angel with the burning coal flew to Isaiah.

    God knew the prophet's need and set the solution in motion; in other words, the Holy God reached out to a hopeless man.

     

     

    The Light moved into the darkness. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7. What a picture of the forgiveness God provides for us in Christ! For the repentant, humble, and contrite, there is immediate mercy available. Is. 57:15 says, “For this is what the high and lofty One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”

    Therefore, after Isaiah's sin was dealt with (atonement was applied afresh), another step in the sequence of Isaiah's encounter with God took place:

    Isaiah heard God's call/question. v. 8—Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Though Isaiah had felt sinful and worthless, it was only after an awareness of his true state that he not only received forgiveness, but heard a question from the Lord. Are you having difficulty hearing from God lately? Don't have the slightest idea what the Word is saying to you as you read it? Maybe it's time to be in the presence of God afresh in worship, to see the Lord, concentrate on Him and allow His glory and holiness to reveal what's going on in you.

     


     

    Then we see the next step of Isaiah's journey, essential if the world would ever be touched by his (or our) personal renewal (Chalk Revival).

    Isaiah prayed “Here am I; send me.” In other words, “Hineni.” Eager and grateful to God, Isaiah shouted, “How about me! I'll go for You. Please send me!” This is a wonderful model for us. God responded to this desire.

    God essentially told Isaiah to go and tell. He honored his willing heart. It's interesting to note that the same area where he was burned by the coal (his lips) was used by God. Through Isaiah's lips, people heard many of the phrases we have read throughout the book of Isaiah.