You have probably heard this story, but it certainly gives us food for thought: The amazing story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, is a wonderful illustration of what true faith is.
Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.
He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!
A large crowd gathered and the buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd “Oohed and Aahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across – one dangerous step after another – pushing a wheelbarrow holding a sack of potatoes.
Then a one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!
Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”
The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!”
“Okay,” said Blondin, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow.”
As far as the Blondin story goes, no one did at the time!
At the Preaching Conference last week one of the speakers used this account as illustration about Trust. And truly, we all believe that our God can do anything, but we aren’t always so trusting when God asks us to do things that we think are beyond our ability.
This passage from Isaiah relates to the call of God to the prophetic ministry. It is interesting to note that prior to this epiphany and call, Isaiah was already in the ministry. He was serving as a priest and was married to a woman who was a prophetess. During the reign of one of Judah’s stronger kings, King Uzziah, Isaiah served in the temple. He was on duty the day that King Uzziah attempted to unlawfully burn incense –an act that was clearly the responsibility of the priest. God struck Uzziah with leprosy and the young priests, Isaiah included, quickly ushered Uzziah out of the Temple. It was not long after than that King Uzziah died. And this passage that describes Isaiah’s encounter with God in the Temple occurred sometime in the year of the death of King Uzziah.
So here we have a religious man, a priest who was already in service in the Temple, already offering the sacrifices and doing the duties that were unique to the priesthood, a man who displayed intelligence, leadership ability, and who was closely connected with the ruling leaders of Judah, suddenly coming face to face with God. And God has a message for him.
Let’s walk through this passage that leads to Isaiah accepting God’s call on his life.
a. BLESSINGS COME TO THOSE WHO ARE FAITHFUL.
a. It is interesting to me that so many heard the call of God while they were in a Religious setting.The Old Priest Zachariah was in the Temple doing his priestly duties when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him in the New Testament with the announcement that he and Elizabeth would have a son and they were to name him John.And the Apostle John was worshipping God on the Lord’s Day when God gave him the Book of Revelation.And here in our passage today, Isaiah the Priest is in the Temple when He sees the Lord “high and lifted up.”
b. I have to tell you that I’ve often be a little troubled by those who are quick to tell us that the definition of Insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect to have different results. While I understand the truth in that statement, I also am aware that it is not 100% true. These folks that we read about in the Bible were doing the same thing that they and their ancestors had done for centuries. And it was in their faithful routine that God broke in with the unexpected!
c. And that brings me to where we are today. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be consistent in our Christian Life—to not neglect the details of our commitment;—to not neglect our church attendance and our acts of charity;—to not neglect our tithes and offerings—to not neglect “entertaining strangers unaware” (remember the verse that tells us about unknowingly entertaining angels?);–to give that cup of cool water or to visit the sick and those in prison and to clothe the naked and to give food to the hungry.It is often in being faithful to our responsibilities that God chooses to reveal Himself to us in a fresh way!
II. TO SEE GOD IS TO LOOK UPON HIS CHARACTER.
a. Isaiah was in awe of God’s Majesty. He saw God “High and exalted, seated on a throne, and the train of his robe filled the temple.” In Isaiah 66:1 the Lord says, “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool…” While Isaiah took in the powerful Presence of God in the Temple, God was just revealing a miniaturized view of His Greatness.
b. The atmosphere was one of worship and adoration. The celestial beings were calling out “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” It was an awesome and humbling experience to experience the heavenly beings as they were actively worshipping the Lord.
c. In Ephesians 2:6-7 Paul wrote, 6”And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”I would suggest to you that Isaiah’s experience is an experience God wants each of us to have. He wants to reveal Himself to each one of us. He wants us to see His majesty and His glory. He wants us to experience the reverence and awe that is to be given to Him by the angels in heaven and all of creation!
d. And then we are told that the very doorposts and thresholds shook as the temple was filled with smoke. All this suggests the almighty power of His Presence. In Philippians 2 we are told that at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. This display of power in Isaiah’s vision reminds us that none can resist Him. It is nothing for Him to cause everyone to fall on his or her knees in His Presence.
e. When is the last time you have been overwhelmed by the Presence of God—so much so that you couldn’t help but bow before Him? Someday everyone will bow—but until then we have the privilege of bowing before Him and by faith acknowledging His power!
III. WHEN WE SEE GOD WE SEE HOW UNWORTHY WE REALLY ARE.
a. Isaiah’s response to this encounter with God is to recognize how unworthy he is: “I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips” (see Isaiah 6: 5).Later in his book Isaiah would again echo that realization when he wrote, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6).No matter how long you have been a Christian and no matter how good you have been, there is always room for more improvement. It may be our actions. Or it may be our attitudes or our thought life. I’ve often said that we all have our so called “Achilles heel”—that point where we are weak or where we do not quite measure up. Just compare yourself to Jesus. One look at the holiness of God makes us keenly aware of our shortcomings!
IIII. ONLY GOD CAN TAKE AWAY OUR SINFULNESS.
a. Isaiah describes how the Seraphim took a coal from the fire and placed it on his lips to purge away the uncleanness.
b. I remember several years ago talking to a man about his spiritual condition. He told me how he was trying to be practical in his approach and was focusing on one bad behavior at a time. He told me that to try and correct all his sinful ways at once would be too much. I tried to explain to him that behavior modification would not make him right before God. No matter how hard he tried to make himself a better person, only God can forgive and cleanse us from our sins.
c. This purging by fire is a foreshadow of the work of the Holy Spirit in Entire Sanctification. John the Baptist described this redemptive work of Christ in Matthew 3:11-12 this way: “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
d. Isaiah was a priest of God. He believed in God and was doing all he could to live for God. I would think that his acts of sins were forgiven. But there was something more that he needed. There was something in his very nature that needed correction. And it is through the Holy Spirit that our very nature is refined.
e. Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit? Have you asked Him to not only forgive your sins but also to cleanse you very nature? Only God can do that, but He is willing if we will let Him!
V. GOD PREPARES OUR HEARTS SO THAT WE CAN HEAR HIS CALL.
a. It was after Isaiah had seen the Lord in all His majesty and had recognized his own need and after he was touched by the coal of fire and his iniquity had been purged that he heard the voice of God. In Isaiah 6:8 we read, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’”
b. I wonder what went through Isaiah’s mind at this point. After all, he was already serving God as a priest. He was already doing his best to obey God’s Laws. What did he think God wanted Him to do?Remember that Isaiah had been serving under King Uzziah and had seen Uzziah’s tragic end. Did Isaiah realize that by answering God’s call he may have to confront Kings and people who might be hostile to his message?He knew that God was calling. He knew that the Message God wanted to deliver was vitally important. He knows that someone had to answer God’s Call. I wonder if the thought, “If not me, then who?” And as he gazed upon God he realized that it was he himself who was in the best position to obey God’s Call.
c. When I think about God’s call I think of people like Queen Esther. Her Uncle Mordecai had told her, that God had placed her in her position “for such a time as this,” and that, if she didn’t obey, God would raise up someone else to save His people. If not Esther, then who would it have been?If David had not responded to Goliath’s challenge, what would have happened? If David had not slain Goliath, then who?If you do not obey God and help advance His Kingdom, who will? If you do not lead your family in worship, then who? If you do not stand up against the evil that is spreading in our country, then who will?
This morning, you are in God’s House—His Sanctuary, the Church. Have you truly sought His Presence, truly seen Him High and Lifted up? Have you recognized your own unworthiness and taken it to the Lord? Have you been touched by His Spirit and cleansed by His fire?
I can tell you that God is calling each of us to a life of holiness. He is calling you to be a witness to His Salvation. He wants you to share with others what God has done through Jesus and what He wants to do in the lives of all who will hear Him.
Can you respond with Isaiah, “Here am I, send me?” if you fail to respond, then who will tell your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors and those in our community who have not heard.
Would you get into the wheelbarrow if God is the who who is guiding it?
If not you, then who?