I am grieving tonight more so than I have since August 21st when the Syrian attack Saran gas was unleashed on innocent men, women and children. I have long seen our nation as King of this world dead and I have long grieved its future. Out of all God’s creations Man is the only thing that does what it wants. Man was given dominion over this planet and we have all played the harlot with our own lives and those of whom we have been trusted to Steward. I am in prayer that we as a nation would come back to our first love and begin to act as a nation with a Living King seated on the right hand of God Almighty.
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.
A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
READ: Isaiah 6:1-13
Not too long ago I watched part of a documentary on ABC Television which traced the history of the Royal Family – the House of Windsor. In that program they recounted the passing away of King George VI. In 1952 the sad word went forth from London . . . “THE KING IS DEAD”. King George VI had died in his sleep at the age of 56. He was somewhat of a private man, in comparison with others who’ve held the throne, but he was greatly respected and admired. His reign had carried him through the rigors of World War 2, the election of a socialist government, and the dissolution of much of the British Empire. His tired heart gave way. All across Britain, people flocked to churches to worship, to pray, and to seek comfort and hope.
In 1963, another shocking word was sent out across the world: “The President is dead”. It was unbelievable. JOHN F. KENNEDY, young, vibrant and dynamic, was cut down by an assassin’s bullet – a nation was plunged into grief. People flocked into churches in the greatest numbers since the announcement of the end of World War 2. Ministers changed their sermon texts and preached messages of healing and hope to the people of America.
About 700 years before Christ was born in Bethlehem, the sad announcement was made, “THE KING IS DEAD”. King Uzziah, the eleventh King of Judah, had died. Crowned at the age of 16, he had reigned 52 years. Despite his failings, he was the greatest king since David.
The heart of Isaiah, the prophet, was broken. Uzziah was not only his king, he was also his friend. In his heartbreak, Isaiah made his way to the Temple to worship and to seek comfort and renewed faith.
Friends, when sorrow comes, when life presses you in, the best place to be found is in the House of the Lord. (We ought to ALWAYS be found in the House of the Lord! But especially when we’re facing the difficult seasons of life – there is an answer in god, there is hope in Him, if we will quickly turn to Him.)
When Isaiah went up to the House of the Lord, he learned that the king was dead . . . BUT THAT GOD WAS NOT DEAD! He was still upon His throne. Isaiah had lost his earthly king, whom he loved, but he caught a fresh glimpse of the King of Kings. He met with God in an encounter that radically changed his life.
Would you note with me, tonight, that Isaiah saw four things that I want to draw to your attention:
1. ISAIAH SAW THE LORD.
Here is the greatest vision that anyone can ever have. To see the Lord! Let’s read about it together. [READ vv1-4.]
Isaiah saw something of God’s nature and character – he caught a glimpse “through the curtain”, as it were. He saw something of the Lord as Moses described Him in Exodus 15:11 – glorious in holiness, fearful in praises (or awesome in His glory – NIV).
The vision was of God high and lifted up upon His throne. He saw God as the central object of all praise, surrounded by heavenly courtiers – angelic beings – the seraphim.
What a vision! Oh, that we would all have such times of encounter with God. BUT, would you note with me, it seems that it was ONLY ISAIAH who saw the glorious vision. If others were seated around him there in the Temple, THEY had no such revelation. He doesn’t write “WE saw the Lord”, he says, “I saw the Lord”.
There is a sense in which our corporate worship is still very much made up of INDIVIDUALS who are worshipping. (Hopefully we are not “individualistic” in our worship, in the sense that we ignore or disregard others around us. We must be mindful of one another, and offer Him corporate adoration – BUT WE ARE STILL INDIVIDUALS as we do so!)
It IS possible for one person to be moved to tears, whilst the person beside them – on the same row of chairs – is UNMOVED. One repents, whilst another trusts in his own self-righteousness. One responds willingly – with a soft heart – to the claims of Christ, whilst another is desperately resisting the persuasion of the Holy Spirit.
Which one are you tonight? Are you sat here, going through the motions of a cold, formal religion, satisfying your conscience that you’ve come? Or are you meeting with God here? Are you opening up to the Lord as He knocks at the door of your heart?
Isaiah met with God, he had a revelation of the greatness of the Lord, and it changed his life forever. The same living Lord is here tonight to meet with WHOEVER will call upon His name. EARTHLY kings may come and go – but the King of Kings is alive forever more, and just as powerful as ever He has been, and just as willing to reveal Himself to men.
And listen, Isaiah didn’t get this revelation just because he was a prophet. He saw God because he had a soft, pliable heart, and a listening ear. Titles and offices don’t cut any ice with God!
2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is LOYAL to Him.
The Old King James put it: “Them whose heart is PERFECT toward Him.”
That word “loyal” or “perfect” is the Hebrew word “SHALEM”, which means “completely devoted to”; and it’s related to the word “SHALOM”, which means “PEACE” or “stillness”.
So, the verse says that God’s eyes roam the whole earth looking for a heart that is disposed toward Him, devoted to Him, and still before Him. God looks for people to reveal Himself to who are listening and available.
Isaiah was listening, and ISAIAH SAW THE LORD. The second thing that Isaiah saw this day in the Temple was:
2. ISAIAH SAW HIMSELF.
Isaiah SAW HIMSELF as he had never quite seen himself before. He did not see himself in the way that one sees themself as they admire their own image in a mirror. No, no! He did not see himself as a good person, worthy of God’s commendation, and the praise of people. He didn’t think to himself, “WOW! I must be the best person here, because God has honoured ONLY ME with a vision of Himself.” That was NOT his attitude at all.
Instead he cried out: Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips!
AND THIS IS ALWAYS TRUE. The closer we get to God, the more clearly we see our sins. The contrast between His holiness and our unholiness gives us a vivid awareness of just how very far short of God’s glory we truly fall.
The times when we DO feel we have made it – we’ve arrived – we’re knocking on the door of perfection – they’re the times that we’ve been neglecting to pray and worship and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
When Peter was CLOSEST to Jesus he said: Depart from me; for I am a sinful man. When John received the Revelation of Christ on the Island of Patmos, he wrote, I fell at His feet as though dead!
A lost sense of God brings a lost sense of sin. But a renewed sense of God brings a renewed awareness of our own sinfulness.
Isaiah saw himself in a whole new light.
The third thing that Isaiah saw was:
3. ISAIAH SAW GOD’S CLEANSING POWER.
And I praise God for this! Oh, if all we ever see is the weakness of our sin – the depravity of our hearts – without discovering the cleansing power of God, WHAT MISERABLE PEOPLE WE WILL BE. But He DOES have power to cleanse!
When Isaiah confessed his sin, God was faithful and just to forgive his sin and cleanse him from all unrighteousness.
Let’s read about it . . . [READ vv6-7].
A live coal – a burning coal – a coal that speaks of purification and cleansing – was brought by that seraphim from off the altar of sacrifice and touched to his lips. That altar that the live coal was taken from was the Altar of Burnt Offerings – it was the altar where the blood was shed. It was the place where the priests would kill those animals to pay for the sins of the people, because without the shedding of blood there is no remission (no cleansing) from sin – Hebrews 9:22 – God has declared it.
So you have a coal that has been touched by two things: BLOOD and FIRE. The blood speaks of cleansing from sin (only blood can wash away our sin), and the fire speaks of refining, purifying power. The blood washes away sin, the fire brings the refining of positive holiness.
When God saves you, what does He do? He applies to your life the cleansing power of the eternal blood of His Son, Jesus – that washes away the sins of your old life – and then He sets you in the way of a whole new life which is being refined by the workings of the Spirit of Holiness; we begin to live a life of positive righteousness. HE CALLS US RIGHTEOUS BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF HIS SON, AND THEN HE MAKES US RIGHTEOUS THROUGH THE WORKING OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT – the FIRE of the Holy Ghost.
This is the power that ONLY GOD has in a life. Government agencies, social workers, psychiatrists, modern education; they can all try what they will, they cannot change the heart of man with all their programs of reform – THEY’RE POWERLESS! But God can come in a moment of time, and revolutionize a person, and make them a new creation!
[ILLUSTRATION:] I understand that the success rate for rehabilitating hard-line drug addicts is pitifully low. An independent government study was undertaken in the U.S. and found that the success rate of de-tox centres in getting people off drugs permanently (tested after 7 years) was just 2 – 9%. The more intensive rehabilitation centres were not much better – just 9 – 11%. But this independent government study found that “TEEN CHALLENGE” (an organization that is thoroughly Christian – founded by David Wilkerson in New York – you may remember the story “The Cross and the Switchblade”) had a success rate documented as being 86%. When the government researchers were asked what was the difference, they replied (in their words) that the ONLY thing they could put Teen Challenge’s success down to was “THE JESUS FACTOR” (the government’s own words!). Teen Challenge are making a difference because this is not a program based upon the wisdom of men, but on the power of God to transform a life. they’re not preaching rehabilitation; they’re preaching RADICAL REGENERATION. And they’re not prescribing substitute drugs; they’re prescribing a relationship with the Saviour Jesus Christ!
Isaiah saw God’s cleansing power. The seraphim applied the blood-soaked, fire-purifying coal from off the altar and Isaiah experienced the sweet, clean feeling of forgiveness and peace. Hallelujah! Oh, there’s nothing like it in all the world!
Isaiah saw the Lord, Isaiah saw himself, Isaiah saw God’s cleansing power; then, the fourth and final thing he saw was:
4. ISAIAH SAW THE WORLD.
[READ vv8 – 9 (up to “GO!”)]
A knowledge of God will make us good in all our relationships. Isaiah got in with God and he heard God’s heartbeat for a lost and dying people. He heard God’s summons for a messenger to reach out to them. God said: Whom shall I send, who will go for us? And immediately Isaiah says, HERE I AM, SEND ME!
Would God call a sinful man to preach His message? A man of unclean lips?! Friends, there are no other kind of people available to God! Yes, God calls sinners to go for Him. He has not committed His glorious gospel to sinless angels, but to fallen men.
But God sends them ONLY after they’ve been cleansed of their sins by His grace. The message of God must be spoken through purged lips. The work of God must be poured from clean vessels. YOUR PAST WILL NOT EXCLUDE YOU FROM BEING USED BY GOD: BUT HOW YOU’RE LIVING TODAY MIGHT!
Yes, God can take YOU and use you for His glory – if only you’ll live for Him a cleansed, purified life.
Note: Isaiah did NOT say, “Where do you want me to go?” “What’s in it for me?” “What is the salary?” “What are the retirement benefits?” Isaiah signed a blank cheque on his whole life. He didn’t try to strike a bargain with God; he didn’t attempt to negotiate a compromise. God called – Isaiah answered. God commanded – Isaiah obeyed. Such an unconditional response comes only from the heart of one who has SEEN THE VISION: the one who’s MET WITH GOD.
The same thing can happen to you here tonight. THE KING IS ALIVE! He WAS dead – He died for our sins on the cross. But He arose from the grave and He lives today – He lives forever! He calls us to see Him as He truly is – the holy God. He calls us to see ourselves as we truly are – sinful and needing Him desperately. He calls us to discover that He can cleanse from all sin, and give life anew to those who will receive Him. And then He commissions us to look on the fields of this world that are white unto harvest, and to GO and be His witnesses.
Where are you along this process tonight? Have you seen Him? In the pages of His Word – in the voice of the preacher – do you hear His call? Do you recognize that your sin and guilt keep you from Him? Have you accepted His salvation – purchased with His own blood? Are you hearing His call to go, to be His witness to others?
Open your heart to Him tonight. Don’t be the one who is hardened, and goes away empty. Respond to Him with the faith He gives.
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