Dead in the Water
Now I’m not a seafaring man, but I know a ship needs impetus to move; wind or steam… something has to drive it forward. Seems it’s much the same in our personal lives. We have to connect the drive-train so our rudder can work the direction we take. Without propulsion however, we are dead in the water – a condition we all can relate to. There are times when we feel no progress, our lives offer very little in terms of meaning, significance, and purpose. We will take our text from Friend Isaiah today and will glean four insights into getting propulsion into our lives:
- Live in the difference between you and God
- Live cleansed in your speech
- Live without personal certainty
- Live in obedience to His prescriptions
Always good to get the context attended to when studying the Bible. Isaiah relates to us the account of what he saw and how he reacted when faced with a great question from the Almighty God.
- In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple – Isaiah 6:1
The name Uzziah means Power of Yahuah. There were 20 kings who ruled Judah and 20 kings who ruled Israel. Now of the 20 kings who ruled Israel – ALL of them were evil. Of the 20 kings who ruled Judah – 8 were righteous (“did right”) and 12 were evil. (here’s a nice summary table for you: Table of the Kings of Judah and Israel ) King Uzziah was a good king.
- SIDEBAR: 2 Chronicles 10 describes what happened that the 12 tribes, the families of the 12 sons of the Patriarch Israel, split into two separate (and antagonistic) kingdoms – it took place after King Solomon died – you might want to smack this link – it was an important turning point: How Israel busted up into two kingdoms)
Isaiah sees the dwelling place of the Lord. I love the phrase: “lofty and exalted” All that follows is a direct result of this encounter. But before the Word offers the important instruction regarding Isaiah’s response to this, we are introduced to special created beings named: Seraphim. There are two lessons to glean right off the bat – one more informational – and one positively vital.
- Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” – Isaiah 6:2-3
The description of these magnificent life-forms challenges the imagination; it speaks of the variety and beauty of God’s creation – Wow! Yay, God! But what I find as vital is what they call out (not mumble or speak – but call out). Shouldn’t this be our way? Shouldn’t you and I make His holiness an object of our vocal attention and affection? Shouldn’t you and I make a bigger deal about proclaiming the wonder and abundance of the Glory of the Most High God? We see Him everywhere; in everything – and yet we are callused and dull to it. Not so our Friend Isaiah!
Live in the difference between you and God
Isaiah is clearly overwhelmed by it all. He stands dumbfounded; his senses engulfed by the “other worldliness” of it all. He stood there (as my Dad used to say) with his bare face hanging out; drained of all wit except to denounce himself and declare his bankruptcy. He stands before absolute holiness; before the pure and irresistible attraction of perfection and at once succumbs to the Truth of his sin-driven humanity. “Woe is me.” The dread of his sin condition is upon him. But here too is the first of the four take-aways from this lesson – if you want propulsion in your life, if you want to gather steam and find direction, you must – absolutely must – be alert to your sinfulness; be alert to your indulgences – remember where He pulled you from.
- Woe to me!, I cried. 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 – Isaiah 6:5 NIV
Live cleansed in your speech
The gulf between who we are and who we should be is not lost upon the Most High God. He knows that only He can fix what is broken.
- Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged – Isaiah 6:6-7 – KJV
Notice first, the Seraphim takes from the altar – the place of sacrifice. Those on the Jesus Path recognize that Christ is our living coal from the altar of His living sacrifice (Ephesians 5:2). Notice too, where the healing work is applied – on the mouth, the lips.
- But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man – Matthew 5:18
We speak from the overflow of our hearts. The stuff that comes out of your mouth has already travelled the distance from your selfish heart – the place where feelings cannot be counterfeited. Lies may leave your fat mouth, but your gut knows the Truth. You say it, you mean it. That’s all. We pay attention to the things we say, we then gain traction in our hopes for direction, purpose and meaning in our lives. If you talk like a punk then your heart is in some state of rot. Read this link and note who’s holding the match: James 3:6. Don’t talk like a sausage. Look to Christ for repair of your heart. Work at it.
Live without personal certainty
For me personally, this is the heart of the passage. Isaiah has taken us away from dusty earth and bids us stand with him in the Presence. Be alert to important sequencing as our passage continues:
- Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” – Isaiah 6:8a
So first notice the personal pronoun “who will go for Us.” The Bible teaches there are a bunch of critters who occupy the unseen realm, those who inhabit the second heaven. We have studied these unseen and often dangerous clans of evil elohiym (litte “g” gods). It was the first instruction in a six-week series on something we all need; all of us: Recovery. You really ought to check it out (Check it out). So the plural “Us” might sensibly be considered to mean all critters; that is until your dig further… Brother John writes (Check it out ) that only Christ is Worthy. The Subject of “Us” is capital “E” Elohiym – the Lord in plural form. It can be written of on other than Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Man. He is the only One with the Authority to command any spirit (bodily or no) to go upon any task of His choosing.
A second and more tricky insight comes next. The Lord of Glory asks “whom shall I send, and who will go for us” without providing a single clue about the thing being sought for. He considers which among His hord of messengers to send without offering where or what for. This is an important lesson for you and I. He gives them only what He intends them to know. And because of this You and I often make horrible messengers. We would seek assurances before we go; we like things mapped out, our risks assessed. Not Isaiah:
- And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8b
Now stop. Are these words really going into your brain right now? What? – Is this guy crazy? He has no idea what He is going to come up against in the future – though like us he knows the stressors he already has – as well as an idea that his decision will make for new stressors. He knew when he called attention to himself that it meant trouble, that it would add complications to his life. But our lesson is amid the thronging host of heaven Isaiah alone heard the question. It was directed at the heart of the one God readied to hear it. When you see a need arise – it is God calling because when God calls, He speaks directly to you. For Isaiah, it was as if he was the only one there.
Live in obedience to His prescriptions
Now we get to the place in the text where it seems so simple we are likely to accelerate our reading and make little of the meaning of the words. But let’s you and I slow down to assure comprehension.
- He said, Go and tell this people:
- be ever hearing,
- but never understanding
- be ever seeing,
- but never perceiving
- Make the heart of this people calloused;
- make their ears dull and close their eyes
- Make the heart of this people calloused;
- make their ears dull and close their eyes – Isaiah 6:9-10
- be ever hearing,
Let’s peal this back and learn from the evil progression. First, “Ever hearing” describes the condition when you and I digest the Work of Christ from a distance. This person lives with an awareness of spirituality and at some level listens to spiritual matters. But our verse makes it clear there is no action on their part. He doesn’t move, he takes it all in; lacking the wisdom to derive understanding from what he listens to.
Next we encounter the second condition of “ever seeing”. This person lacks the depth character needed to make time for spiritual matters. This person is seen in all of us. We want to see our world clearly but without the burden of meeting the needs of others. We want direction and purpose ; to perceive and anticipate all our pathways but without shouldering the burden of discipline required by the Jesus Path.
He speaks next of a “calloused heart”. . As we deny and transgress the Lord, our ability to serve willingly gnaws away at our resolve and we become calloused. We turn into robo-people who warm the pews, who lose our interest in times of personal connection with God – or who dislike the company of others. We begin to live without its former fervor, without love. Good to ask at this point “who made the hearts calloused?” It was Isaiah himself. In answering to the Command of the Most High God, he was to present Truth to them without expectation of success.
And thirdly, we need to understand it becomes harder and harder to hear the Message of the Jesus Path. The Text says our “ears dull”. By this point you can only take so much religion. You see buildings full of hypocrites and you loose interest in the Message of Christ, until you finally refuse to look…
Fourthly “closed eyes”. This is a two-pointed thing. Closed eyes most certainly describes the one who sleeps; who fails to take responsibility for their own spirituality, who foregoes warnings from the Word or others; as well as from their own conscience. They sleep through the whole matter. But “closed eyes” also most certainly includes the idea that eyes can be shut intentionally. Our heart can grow so cold we turn from the promptings of God the instant we recognizes them as such. We close our own eyes.
None of this is cool. But see the compassion of the Glorious Lord God Most High. He offers a counter-proposal in verse 10 below. He clearly describes how he designed to us; how we are pre-wired to accomplish service – and how if we do not follow the unrighteous path outlined above, that there exists an Otherwise.
- Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed – Isaiah 6:10 – NIV
Lets compare the two paths! He first remarks that they “see with their eyes”. Our first step to gaining real traction – to add propulsion and impetus to our living is to look at the light in the Word of God. We are to look for ourselves; to examine; to explore the Bible in personal times of study. It takes work to make time and read from the word.
But doing this important task of prepares us for the second phase: to “hear with their ears.” Now comes the time when we sit in front of teachers and friends to listen to the Word discussed and applied. We prepare with individual study (we see) and we progress to sharing the great truths and warnings with each other (we listen).
What benefit is private reading and public worship? Very great in every respect. Certainly Isaiah supplies the answer: it is the promotion of understanding within our hearts – our hearts are touched and softened – that we might “understand with our hearts.”
See next the verse calls for a turning in us. We must turn from our former ways – we don’t want to be that person anymore – we want traction, we want propulsion and that begins by turning back around and running into the hands of God!
The last of the six listed by Isaiah is healing. I am not sure of what causes you to suffer. What made you scared, or scarred. I can tell you we all need healed up. We all got stuff; most of it unattractive. But the the sun of righteousness has risen with healing in its wings. We, all of us, are wounded. And maybe our healing has failed our expectations; that it didn’t come as anticipated. But if we are intentional about looking, we will soon find the healing glory of the Lord risen from the most unexpected places – but .
Isaiah sets out the contrasting approaches to our daily walk. The second pathway is what I mean when I list my fourth point: we must live in obedience to His prescriptions. This is the approach we must practice and perfect. Read, Listen, Understand, Turn and be Healed. All this becomes possible when our daily walk is coupled with our attention to the (1) differences between ourselves and God (2) living cleansed in speech and (3) without personal certainty. It is my prayer that you will leave this study determined to apply these principles. May the Lord Bless You as You Go!