I don’t know about you, but the older I get the more aware I have become of my failings and weaknesses. There’s something about the ‘ravages of life’ that strips away any pretence of self-righteousness or invincibility we may have possessed in our youth.
When I was younger, I was quick to excuse my flaws and compare myself favourably to others who seemed to be far more rebellious than me. Over time, however, the natural consequences of my self-centred attitude and motives eventually bore their unholy fruit. Other people were getting caught up in my poor choices and I could no longer pretend I was “OK”.
While this may sound like a bit of a sob story, in fact it was a very good thing. Like the prophet Isaiah, it wasn’t until I fully appreciated and humbly admitted to my shortcomings that the Lord was willing to use me for His divine purposes. As Pastor Brad recently reminded us, the safest place for us to be is in the centre of God’s will.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:11-13)
On the surface, Isaiah was a pretty ‘righteous dude’. He was born into a noble high-class family, able to freely mix with the religious and political elite of his day (cf. Isa. 7:3-4). He had every earthly right to feel good about himself and his position in society.
Many of us may be in a similar position. We’re socially conscious and outwardly respectful to others. Perhaps we’ve been part of the Christian community for much of our lives. We know all the Sunday School stories and all the key Bible verses (e.g. “For God so loved the world…”). We probably have every verse of Amazing Grace memorised and can recite the Lord’s Prayer in our sleep.
But God knows our heart. He knows every secret.
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb. 4:13)
The fact is, no matter how ‘good’ we may appear on the outside, there’s a giant chasm that separates us from God (cf. Rom. 3:10-12, 23). He is everything pure and right, while we are naturally sinful (cf. Psa. 51:5).
Like every good Jewish male versed in the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah no doubt well understood the innate corruption of the flesh from an academic point of view. But it wasn’t until he was literally in the presence of God that the reality of his depravity really hit him. Like Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 19:16-17), Isaiah was dramatically confronted by his sin. Responding the only way he could, he threw himself at the merciful feet of His Creator and Lord.
“Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." (Isa. 6:5)
In His mercy, God immediately responded to Isaiah’s prayer of contrition and graciously cleansed him of his sin.
“He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven." (Isa. 6:7)
Following his cleansing by God, Isaiah was strengthened and made ready for service.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!" He said, "Go, and tell this people”” (Isa. 6:8-9a)
It is the same with us. Once we have received God’s gracious forgiveness, we are washed permanently clean (cf. John 13:10; 1 John 1:9). God chooses to not only forgive our sin, He also forgets our sin, divinely wiping it from His memory.
"I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” (Isa. 43:25).
God lovingly picks us up, washes us clean and prepares us for service. Cleansed by the blood of Jesus (cf. Matt. 26:28; 1 John 1:7) and filled with the Holy Spirit (cf. John 14:16-18, 26; 15:26-27), like Isaiah we’re now ready to faithfully serve our Lord.
Let’s aspire to take a few precious minutes each day to ‘come clean’ before God, seeking to have our feet washed and our lips purified so we can be used effectively by Him in the lives of those around us.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psa. 51:10-17)