Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
How willing are we to go wherever God calls us? Would we be willing if it meant great sacrifice?
Isaiah records God’s call to him as a prophet. That call certainly applies to ministers of the gospel and to those who serve in the special offices. But there is something in this call for each and every one of us.
Prior to receiving the call, Isaiah saw a glorious vision of the King sitting on His throne, high and lifted up. His train filled the temple. Above the throne were seraphim in postures of utmost reverence: with two of their wings they covered their faces; with two wings they covered their feet; and with two they flew. These angels called out “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts” ().
When Isaiah saw the revelation of God’s holiness, he immediately recognized his own unworthiness: “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (). Isaiah mentions his lips because they are the instrument that a prophet must use in the service of God. Isaiah sees his unfitness to serve the holy God and so declares his lips to be unclean.
Graciously, God did not leave Isaiah in this miserable state. Rather, He sends an angel to take a burning coal from the altar and touch his lips in order to cleanse Isaiah from iniquity, not only the iniquity of his lips, but also that of his heart. The angel tells him, “Thine iniquity is taken away and thy sin purged” (). Isaiah came to understand that there is forgiveness and cleansing on the basis of the sacrifice offered on the altar.
After this good news, Isaiah hears a voice, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah responds, “Here am I; send me.” Oh, that God would work in us such a willingness to serve that we would be willing to go wherever He calls!
After the angel assured Isaiah that there was forgiveness for his iniquity and sin, Isaiah says, “I heard the voice of the Lord” (). Isaiah refers to God as ‘Lord’ (Heb., Adonai) because he knows God is his Master and he is God’s servant. Such is the way we need to see ourselves: we belong body and soul to our faithful Savior. He not only created us; He bought us with His precious blood. He has complete authority over us.
How sad when the Sovereign Lord speaks to us and we fail to bow before Him and listen! How shameful when the Lord of heaven and earth reveals His commands and we take them as mere suggestions! The Lord who speaks to Isaiah and to us is none other than the King, Jehovah of hosts, who sits on His throne. He is the Great I AM, who rules over all the hosts of heaven and earth. He is the thrice holy God whose purpose is always to glorify Himself. His glory ought to be our chief purpose as well.
This glorious King sitting upon the throne is one God, for He asks “Whom shall I send?” But, He is also three Persons, as evidenced by the question, “Who will go for us?” The King is holding a conversation among the Persons of the Trinity. These three Persons in covenant fellowship are the Holy, Holy, Holy God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All of them together work to create us and to accomplish our salvation, to the glory of His great and holy Name.
It is this worthy and loving covenant King who calls Isaiah to serve by the words, “Who will go for us?” That is, “Who will go in our service? Who will go on a mission that will bring glory to us”? Although the King does not mention Isaiah by name, He does bring the need to Isaiah’s attention. As if God said, “I desire a servant to accomplish my decrees.” Of course, God does not need servants; but God has chosen to use means to accomplish His will.
Perhaps Isaiah did not know how difficult the task was that lay ahead of him. But a difficult mission it was:
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed ().
His mission was to preach to the people in order that their hearts would be hardened.
Who would want to be a prophet whose word hardens the hearts of a nation? Who wants to preach a message that will bring greater judgment upon others? Who would want to preach a message if he knew that the great majority of people would reject it? That is why Isaiah asks, “Lord, how long? (). Isaiah did not relish God’s answer either: “Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land” ( ). Isaiah’s mission would bring judgment upon the land. And yet, Isaiah knows it would also be for God’s glory.
Consider that God calls each one of us to serve Him. He calls officebearers in the church. But He also calls believers in general to serve him in our individual stations and callings. He calls fathers to serve Him as spiritual heads of our homes, providing for our families by the work of our hands. He calls mothers to serve Him in the day-to-day task of keeping the home. He calls children to serve Him by honoring father and mother. He calls young people and young adults to serve Him in school and at work. Older folk, too, He calls to serve Him through their pains and frailties. The truth is, these duties are often burdensome and at times downright depressing. But then, I need to remember, God called me to do this! God put me right here, right now, for a particular reason and purpose.
What was Isaiah’s response to the call? He does not respond as we do at times: “Does it have to be me?” “Why not send someone else?” “I suppose, if I absolutely have to!” “Al right; but, I’m only going to do this much and no more!” Rather, he says, “Here am I; send me.”
Answering that way, Isaiah was not emphasizing how capable he was. He was not trying to sell himself by saying, “Lord, I am the best man for the job!” He was not comparing himself with others. Rather, he was simply acknowledging his desire and availability to serve God in the task at hand. As if to say, “Lord, if Thou desirest someone to go in Thy service, I want to be used by Thee; I will go wherever Thou desirest to send me.”
Isaiah’s response was of someone eager to serve his holy God. Previously, he had seen his sins and sinfulness, crying out “Woe is me! For I am undone.” But, now he stands as one who knows the forgiveness of God. In light of God’s abundant mercy, Isaiah responds in thankfulness: “Here am I, send me!”
Is that our response in light of God’s mercy toward us? “Wherever you send, Lord, I am willing to go.” God calls and sends officebearers to be His servants. It is not always the most pleasant labor. It may mean long evenings away from the family and long hours in the study. God says, “Whom shall I send?” How do we respond?
God calls fathers and mothers to teach and discipline their children. Do we say, “Lord, why must I do this over and over again?” Or, do we say, “Here am I. Whatever way You tell me to raise them, I will do it to the utmost of my ability. Grant me the grace I need for this difficult task.” God calls husbands and wives to love one another as Christ loved the church. Do we say, “Lord, You don’t know my husband!” “You don’t know my wife!” Or, do we say, “Lord, Here am I! You have called me here; grant me now the grace to serve You and be faithful to Your will in my marriage.” God calls young people to a life of holiness. Do you say, “Lord, when I am older, then I will serve Thee.” Or, do we say, “Here am I, send me.” No matter what station and calling, no matter the circumstances, young or old, God would have us serve Him. Are we eager to serve our gracious God, no matter what the cost?
When we see the enormity of the calling God sets before us, we must see that we cannot serve the King in our own strength. The possibility of faithful service must rest in the King who sits upon His throne.
In the first place, it is the King who elected a people for Himself. In essence, Jesus Christ, the anointed of God, said to His Father, “Here am I, send me.” He was willing to serve as Mediator between God and man. Christ, the King, humbled Himself and took on the form of a servant. And, though He was rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, nevertheless, He did everything for the glory of God, even when that service cost Him His very life.
Jesus was and is the Servant of Jehovah, sent to save. That is why Jesus quotes from Isaiah 61 at the beginning of His ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised…” (). When God sent Him, He went in love for His God and for His people. He will certainly accomplish the gracious work He began.
Our faithful service to God is possible only because of Christ, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (). We would be truly undone if we were still under God’s wrath for the guilt of our sins. But the King has made a sacrifice for us on the altar. He gave Himself so that we would be justified and stand in God’s favor. Now Christ touches us with the coal of His Holy Spirit so that we experience forgiveness and all the blessings of salvation. The same Spirit works in us true thankfulness for all His mercies.
When the King applies that salvation to us, by His grace we will say, “Here am I, send me.” Not that the struggle is gone. The old man of sin seeks his own glory instead of God’s. There will certainly be hesitation when we say, “Here am I.” We might be like Jonah for a time and refuse to go where God calls. When we recognize that hesitation, we must repent and pray to the King on His throne: “Forgive my lack of devotion to Thee. I am willing; help Thou my unwillingness.” Augustine put it this way, “Lord give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt, and thou shalt not command in vain.”
The King on the throne calls us to live lives of thankful service: “Who will go for us?” What will be our response?
He is worthy, worthy, worthy of all our service. May He be glorified in us.