Monday 10 July
Bishop Rennis is the Bishop of Singapore as well as multiple congregations in South East Asia. This year at #Sligo17 he is leading the morning Bible Teaching in the Main Arena. Here VOX magazine editor Ruth Garvey-Williams brings a summary of the first of his messages on the theme of "preparing for revival".
Isaiah wrote his prophecy about 740 BC to 700BC it was a stormy period in world politics. It was a time of imperialism, a time of fear. Spiritually Israel / Judah is in decline. The nation was in a state of hardened waywardness.
Isaiah 5:20 - “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…” It is a make or break moment for the people of God. They are so hardened. Is there hope?
This passage in Isaiah 6 begins, “In the year King Uzziah died…” This (rather strange opening) is calling our attention to the way in which he died. Uzziah had many accomplishments but he ended on the wrong side of God. We pick this up in 2 Chronicles 26: 16-21. His pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God. When you grow powerful, you begin to believe the rules don’t apply to you. 2 Kings 15:5 - he was struck down with leprosy and his alienation from God was unresolved right to the point of his death. Isaiah is wondering if this is going to be the fate of his country. Have they gone so far that they are now alienated from God?
At this point, Isaiah sees a vision of the overwhelming majesty of God. The centre of point is the Lord God Almighty on His throne. He was high and lifted up.
Seraphs: They cover their faces as a sign of God’s utter holiness. They cover their feet - they disavow any intention to choose their own path. They are totally obedient to God. Their song is, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God.” In Hebrew, if you repeat a world it means totality and quality.
For Isaiah, what he hears the seraphs saying is “holy, holy, holy” - it is super superlative. God is perfect in power and purity. He is totally other. This is moral majesty. He is the warrior God who fights for truth, goodness and justice and the whole earth is full of His glory. His distinctness in ultimate power is displayed in all the world and particularly in nature. These are signs of the awesome divine presence of God. His glory yet hidden in the smoke.
What is Isaiah’s response? “Woe is me, I am ruined.” He is speechless. He is silenced.
Broken by the stunning holiness of God
That is where we want to begin. What is on God’s heart? The holiness of God’s people. He will take us deeper this week because He loves to set the captives people and release us from the chains of hypocrisy. Isaiah says he is a man of unclean lips. This is a man who is conscious of sin in the presence of ultimate moral purity. God’s stunning holiness convicts him - nothing good lies within me.
He says, “I am a man of unclean lips.” The seraphs are praising God. They are confessing God’s holiness with praise. As Isaiah hears them, he knows that the centre of his life is not the Lord God Almighty. He may say the words, but he knows there is falsehood and duplicity in his life. On the surface, everything is centred around the temple. But the truth is God is not at the centre of Judah’s national life. They were saying things they did not mean. They were not living according to what they were confessing.
In Isaiah chapter 5 there are six woes against the nation but in Isaiah 6 the seventh woe is his own because he is stunned by the presence of God.
Amazed by the sheer grace of God
Isaiah knows that he deserves to die but he is spared. He is cleansed by this burning coal that is applied to his lips. Where your uncleanness reigns, God will heal you. “Your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.” Isaiah deserved to die but instead he lives.
Captivated by the salvation purpose of God
Having been reconciled to God and spared God’s judgement, Isaiah was close enough to the divine presence of God that he can hear God speaking, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” He hears God calling for someone to go forth and serve and Isaiah jumps at the chance. He has experienced God in his personal wretchedness. He has been released and he knows that this God is a God of salvation. “Here I am, send me.”
Isaiah knows that this same God who spared me will move from judgement to salvation. His ultimate goal is salvation. It is going to be a tough assignment because the clearer Isaiah speaks, the more entrenched the people are in their stubbornness but God will make a way finally. The nation will be struck down (Is 6:13) and will be left as a stump but the “Holy Seed” is in the stump and there is the promise of salvation. Finally from the stump of Jessie comes the shoot and root that is Jesus Christ.
I want to serve God, this God… because He is a God of salvation. 2 Peter 3:9 - He desires that none should perish. His judgement is right but His end purpose is salvation and there is nothing too difficult for the Lord. As we gather this morning and as this week begins, God has placed revival in many hearts.
But as we think of reformation and revival of churches that will change nations but revival begins with the individuals. You can wear the Christian label and miss the reality of a relationship with the living God. God will not use a person greatly until He has broken him or her deeply.
Hear am I Lord to be broken, to be cleansed and to be sent anew to do Your will.