Isaiah’s Great Commission

As lifelong Christians it is natural to spend much of your time studying the New Testament.  But time and time again I find myself being drawn back to the Book of Isaiah for many reasons.  There is some debate about whether Isaiah was a single individual, or a group of prophets whose work was combined into the Book we know today.  But whether Isaiah was one prophet or more does not diminish the power of the message nor the importance of the work.

Isaiah’s great commission is important for a number of reasons.  When God communicated to the people he did so through the Prophets, and for me Moses and Isaiah are the most important in the Old Testament.  Isaiah, the Prophet is often quoted in the New Testament and for good reason.

Isaiah holds the distinction of foretelling the fall of Babylon in Chapter 47 and the coming of Jesus in Chapter 53.  However, this early section of the Book refers Isaiah’s vision of God and the forecasted fall of Israel to the Assyrians.  The opening lines, Verses 1 through 3, pinpoint the time of writing to the reign of King Uzziah, during the seventh and eight centuries B.C., so we have a specific place in time as a reference.  Many scholars place Isiah’s ministry in the range of 700 B.C. to 740 B.C. 

He was writing to the people of Judah and Israel because they were falling away from the teachings of the Torah.  The fall of Israel to the Assyrians is a well-documented historical event that happened in 722 B.C.  But there is also hope in his prophesy because Isaiah foretells the eventual restoration and rebirth of Israel.

Isaiah’s Great Commission is placed in the sixth chapter of the Book, an oddity unto itself for me, but placed after he documents the sins of Israel and Judah in the first five chapters.  In the New International Version, the commission reads:

1In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  

Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 

And they were calling to one another:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

Isaiah’s vision of God is the key to these opening verses.  God sitting on a throne “high and exalted” paints a vivid picture of the events.  He does not say that he dreamed the event, but instead that God appeared to him.  Also, key is the description of Seraphim, the six-winged entities described nowhere else in the Bible but assumed to be attendants to God.  The Seraphim also serve to purify Isaiah and prepare him for God’s mission when one takes a hot coal and touches it to Isaiah’s lips.  We tend to think of them as angels, perhaps because they flew, but the Bible does not spell that out.

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook, and the temple was filled with smoke. 

“Woe to me!” I cried . “I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 

With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

This verse also has been interpreted in many different ways, but clearly Isaiah did not feel worthy of being in God’s presence nor to the potential task he will take on in his mission.  One interpretation is that Isaiah merely wanted to be purified before accepting God’s charge.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 

 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.  Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

In verses 8 through 10 Isaiah accepts God’s commission and then there is a confusing passage concerning the hearing and seeing of his message.  The best interpretation of this metaphor is that God is telling Isaiah that his message will neither be understood nor heeded.  That he will labor to get the Israelites to reform, but they will not heed his warnings.

11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”  And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged,

12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 

13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste.  But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

Verses 11 and 12 spell out that Isaiah is to carry this message until Jerusalem is laid waste by the Assyrians, and the Israelites are taken away and nothing remains.  But through all this struggle we learn in verse 13 that a remnant of the Israelites will remain and from this restoration will come in time.

Why does the story of Isaiah still resonate today in America?

America is the great melting pot of nations, but also a great melting pot of associated religions.  As a nation we are still primarily Christian (69.6%), but also Muslim (0.9%), Hindu (0.7%), Jewish (1.9%), Buddhist (0.7%), and a host of other religions (Source: 2018 survey).  Isaiah is a prominent figure in Christianity, Judaism, and Muslim religions.

The story of Isaiah is one that has resonated down through the ages because of its clearly defined theme, with cycles of falling away from God, and later reawakening and redemption.  There are parallels today to the times in which Isaiah lived and the struggles within our society.  One just needs to step back and see them.

We must understand that unfortunately some apocalyptic visions can come true.  We are surrounded by people with “unclean lips” but it has become so pervasive that it seems the norm, not an aberration.  Just consider these issues.

  • Our media and politicians now lie about the state of the economy, immigration, and illegal drug sources.
  • Our policing agencies are either falsely under attack, or in the case of the FBI, now distrusted by citizens.
  • Those on the left and atheists work tirelessly on our youth to focus them on atheism, identity politics, abortion, victimhood, gender, and climate change as their substitute for “religion.”
  • Many of our cities lay in waste (Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles) with rampant crime, drugs, and homelessness.
  • Children as young as 6 are regularly exposed to such debauchery as drag queen shows, and our State Department has even gone so far as to pay for a drag queen concert in Ecuador.
  • Our previously renowned hospitals and universities are now willing to perform gender mutilation surgeries on children as young as fourteen just for profit and political acceptance.
  • Our military now goes through diversity and inclusiveness training in an obvious attempt to weaken them.
  • Our manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and chip making are now controlled by our enemies.
  • Politicians understand so little about economics and supply chains that they create crises such as the Abbot Baby Food Formula.
  • Our corporate leaders are now colluding with our enemies all in the name of the almighty dollar.
  • Some important youth organizations like Boy and Girl Scouts have been destroyed in the name of inclusiveness.
  • Our schools at all levels have become indoctrination facilities for our youth.

All of this is a part of the cycle of “falling away from God,” and it is up to us to complete the cycle and bring our nation back to God.  The left is working to break us down, we must work just as tirelessly to complete the circle.  The left also works ceaselessly to pit groups against each other through identity politics.  This is intentional, methodical, and a force we must fight against to preserve and heal the nation.

But most important in all this is the parallel to Verses 8 and 11.  These are the path for our times both individually and as a nation.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”  And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged,

As followers of Jesus, we are called to speak the truth and push back on those who would corrupt the nation and attack the core precepts of our Constitution.  We are now seeing parents, a few civic leaders, and a few teachers starting to push back.  It is our job to support them, so they know they are not alone and do not lose faith.  But we are also called to join the struggle.  For how long?  For as long as it takes!

And that is why Pillars of the Republic is here, we are called to the struggle.