Many of us have dreamed at one time or another of doing something heroic—rescuing the proverbial damsel in distress, volunteering to be the guinea pig for a potentially life-altering medical experiment, or raising the flag at Iwo Jima. But when the need and the opportunity present themselves, we often fail to do the real heroic thing right in front of us. We daydream of sacrificing our lives while failing to sacrifice only our comfort. Isaiah was not such a man. When the call from God came—“Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us”—Isaiah instantly responded with “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8).
Isaiah was under no illusions regarding the nature of the task for which he had eagerly volunteered. He knew the people would not heed his message (6:9-13). He knew the deplorable spiritual state of his nation, which was just as he would describe it from the mouth of the Lord at the beginning of his vision (1:2-9):
Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the Lord speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” Alas, sinful nation, People weighed down with iniquity, Offspring of evildoers, Sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, They have despised the Holy One of Israel, They have turned away from Him. Where will you be stricken again, As you continue in your rebellion? The whole head is sick And the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head There is nothing sound in it, Only bruises, welts and raw wounds, Not pressed out or bandaged, Nor softened with oil. Your land is desolate, Your cities are burned with fire, Your fields—strangers are devouring them in your presence; It is desolation, as overthrown by strangers. The daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, Like a watchman’s hut in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. Unless the Lord of hosts Had left us a few survivors, We would be like Sodom, We would be like Gomorrah.
Though that analysis was written some 2,700 years ago to the nation of Judah, it would be difficult to find a more apt and succinct summary of the status of the United States today. In some significant sense, God reared up this nation, but we have revolted against God and have consciously and deliberately refused to know Him any longer. Sinful to the core, rebellious against God and His righteousness, our nation is shot through with the illnesses produced by profligacy. Strangers and aliens are devouring our resources, and our once-great nation is like “a shelter in a vineyard,” as insecure and vulnerable as the temporary hut used by the vintner to shade him from the sun for a few weeks. We murder millions of unborn babies, relegate the Bible and prayer to private places, legislate against righteousness while protecting and promoting sin, and exalt false religions while denouncing the truth of God. Our mores mimic those of Sodom and Gomorrah, and we await their fate.
Isaiah was commissioned to announce God’s view of these conditions: “I have had enough . . . . I cannot endure iniquity . . . . I hate your . . . feasts, they have become a burden to me . . . I am weary of bearing them (v. 11, 13, 14).
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