Most people in the Western evangelical world are familiar with the passage I refer to above. If you have not read it before, I urge you to do so before you continue here. Isaiah has what we might call, to use some common language, an over the top experience. God’s call on his life and purpose for him was extreme. I have heard he was ultimately sawn in two by the religious leaders of his day because of the message he was given to deliver. To prepare him, the Lord brought him into a visionary experience where he saw the glory of God. This man was not one who had no faith or relationship with God beforehand. It is implied and we believe it to be true, that Isaiah was saddened over the death of the king Uzziah. With such a change, the people, Israel, were in transition. Isaiah, in the awesome presence of God hears the Lord say, “Who will go for us, whom shall we send.”
I have heard this repeated many times as a means to move believers to go out into the world to spread the gospel. But what are we spreading? Have we been sent by Him? Isaiah was not a novice when he was called. Consider another prophet, Elijah. I may have mentioned him before, but some things are worth repeating. He appears on the scene in dramatic fashion with the words, “the God before whom I stand.” Do we have that relationship with the Lord? Do we know Him like that? Elijah suddenly appears at a time when Israel had been separated from Jerusalem, God’s center in the earth at that time. God was still working to gather people back to Himself including Ahab, the king of Israel. One needs to read that story concerning the prophet and Ahab and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal truth for the reader.
To have and use the authority that Elijah had, he had spent much time in God’s very presence. Yes, we have no details regarding that but I think it is not possible to wield that power without such a relationship. Later, God’s approval of His servant is publicly displayed when He answers Elijah’s audacious claim that He will answer with fire. His story is not one to simply teach us some principles of faith. The Lord answered with literal fire, and Elijah responded with death to the prophets of Baal. Careful here for I am in no way suggesting any of us should be putting people to physical death. The Lord will do that if and when He chooses it. Simply consider Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). In fact, He rules over the times and seasons not only of nations but of our individual lives. The differences in our destinies lies in our response to Him when He is revealed to us, and His own sovereign rule over the days and hours of our lives.
We are told, “Today (every day) if you want to hear His voice (to know Him by real experience) don’t harden your heart (don’t stiffen up on the inside)”. When you find yourself doing that, stop and say, “God soften my heart”. He said He would take the stony heart out of us and give us a heart of flesh. If we believe that, and want that, we learn to not resist Him when he speaks. It is a process and we learn patience and long-suffering as part of growing. We must submit to His personal, direct teaching and discipline before we are ready to be sent. If we go without that, we speak an imperfect word at best, and a deceptive word at worst. Jesus told the religious of His day, “You travel the world to make a convert and you make him twice a son of the devil as yourself.”
Didn’t He say to them, “Your father is the devil?” He did not say it because He hated them. He wanted them to see what they were so that they might turn away from it. When we see bitterness come out of us, what do we do? I know for me, I ask Him to search me and get the root of it out. He will do it. This is what we understand His refining fire, His sanctification, our growth and maturing to involve. Faith comes by hearing. How will people believe unless they hear? How will they hear except someone preaches, or declares it, or simply tells them? How will they preach unless they are sent? Whom shall He send? He Himself will only send the ones He has prepared.
Some are mature and prepared and truly function as apostles. They will know He has sent them and they will set His house in order. Again, I warn us all, let no man take the title, “Apostle” to himself. The basic meaning of that word is “sent one.” As a brother recently wrote, we, as we hear Him, are all apostolic. The Lord Himself knows those who are mature and fit and sends them. Let them know and be His bond-servants, His love-slaves. They are sent because of His love for them, and their love for Him and His people.
This is not written to discourage us from going but simply to learn to know His voice and go when and where He sends us. He creates the hearing ear, that place in our spirits where His still, small voice registers. I have known that inner voice to be very loud and emphatic, sometimes as a warning. And sometimes it will come as a wake-up call. Let our ears be those of disciples who He awakens morning by morning to be led by Him. Those that are led by the Spirit, these are the sons of God.