In the Southern Baptist tradition, December is a time to focus on missions. The Lottie Moon Christmas offering provides a substantial amount of financial support for thousands of missionaries.
I have preached and heard many sermons from Isaiah’s call during the December missions emphasis.
Many people have responded to a call to missions when they made Isaiah 6.8 personal.
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!”
The next verses of Isaiah 6 are often omitted because they seem so distant from a missions message.
And he said, “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
“Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
“So that they may not look with their eyes
and listen with their ears
and comprehend with their minds
and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6.9-10)
At face value, these words appear to make God into an angry Being who is intent on judgment by closing the minds and hearts of people.
A careful reading of Isaiah demonstrates that this is not the case. Isaiah’s mission was to faithfully proclaim God’s message.
The people who trusted the word of God that came from Isaiah’s lips found God to be their strength and song (Isaiah 12).
When the same word of God came to unbelieving persons, they experienced God as a consuming fire (Isaiah 5).
Confronted by God’s living word
According to Hebrews, “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4.12).
Like God’s word from the mouth of Isaiah, it continues to address the people of God. Like God himself, his word is living and active – absolutely effective in all it does.
We cannot evade God’s living word. His word will lead us to an encounter where we trust God with all our heart, or we will resist him to our peril.
God’s word challenges humans to completely trust God. When we trust God, we fully rely on him for the outcome of every aspect of our lives.
The Bible can be read through the lens of people who trusted God and those who refused. We can start with Abraham in Genesis 12 and read how frequently he was challenged to trust the One who was leading his life.
Moses faced a crisis of faith when God called him to lead a million slaves out of Egypt, the superpower of their day.
Many of those who were healed by Jesus were asked to respond in faith to his word of healing.
Faith in God’s word results in power, healing, salvation, direction, and much more.
Unfortunately, not all people have faith. Isaiah challenged the king and the public to place their faith in God rather than in alliances with failing nations.
From the very beginning pages of the Bible and throughout history, people have preferred self-sufficiency and self-interest over trust in God’s word.
The lament of Jesus over Jerusalem expresses his grief over people who reject God’s word.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13.34).
Hebrews speaks of God’s word as a call to repentance for everyone who resists God’s word. We are challenged to change our minds about self-will and self-sufficiency.
Instead, we are to come to God with humble trust.
Rudy Ross and I talk about this passage today on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.
I am indebted to Gareth Lee Cockerill’s excellent commentary on Hebrews for information about the Letter to the Hebrews.
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