Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Unpopular Calling

Isaiah 6 is probably one of the favoured passages for those 'called' of the Lord. There we read the call of Isaiah to be a prophet, with its stirring imagery of the LORD seated on the throne, high and lifted up. There's the sound of the seraphim, the angels calling to one another "holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" There's the drama of the moment when Isaiah cries out 'woe is me' which is resolved when the burning coal from the altar is touched to his lips. There's the resounding question "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"

But herein lies the problem. Normally when we read this, particularly in church, we stop when Isaiah heroically steps forward and says "Here am I! Send me." Verse 8, quick, close your Bible. He's going, and so should you!

Yet when we read on, we find that the 'call' Isaiah responds to wasn't easy, and certainly wasn't going to be popular. His message is one to the people, telling them to keep listening but not understanding, to proclaim the word of the Lord in order to harden the hearts of the people so that they won't turn or be saved.

Now then, are we so willing to respond? You might come back and say, ah but that was the Old Testament - now as Gospel ministers we call people to be saved with the good news of the Kingdom.

Yes, and yet at the same time, our message is still not popular. Our message that salvation is possible and available is not welcomed by some. And in the end, our message continues to harden some people who will never respond to God, continuing to reject God's word as we all naturally do.

So why respond to God's call? Why proclaim God's word? Because there is still hope - that some will respond! Not all turn from God's word, and as the final words of his commission declares: 'The holy seed is its stump' Even though the most of the nation will be destroyed because of their disobedience, there remains a holy remnant, who will be saved. God's word is effective and powerful.

There's an old Puritan saying: The same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay. God's word melts the hearts of some, while hardening others. Our job is to faithfully proclaim and let the word do the work.

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