Often when we think of encountering God, it is a rather peaceful encounter.
God is the still, small voice. The one that brings us peace and calm. And yet,
the encounter with God can be a violent, loud, and humbling experience. That is
what Isaiah experiences here. He is overwhelmed by the power and majesty of
God. The angels shout so loudly that the doorframes shake. Like being caught in
the sound of a jet-plane taking off. And Isaiah’s reaction is: “I am a man of
unclean lips!” That seems an entirely reasonable reaction given the situation.
To which God’s solution seems a bit harsh. Take a glowing coal from the
altar and touch it to Isaiah’s lips. That sounds more like a method of torture
than a means of conveying grace from a loving God. I mean, I like hot sauce, I
like food that burns my lips sometimes, but not quite that hot!
One of the things this reminds us is that the same God who comforts us, who
holds little lambs, like Jesus does in the stained glass windows back there, is
the same God of power and might who shaped the mountains and the stars, and the
same God who calls nations and kings to bow before the throne.
Sometimes God is silent and still, calm and peaceful, but sometimes, like
in the days of Isaiah, God must blare the message in order to be heard over the
noise of the time.
You see, in Isaiah’s day, the nation of Judah was under threat. Their
neighbor Assyria was looking very scary. They were building their army, they
were taking over Judah’s neighbors. So you can imagine what the people are
feeling. They have a powerful enemy, and are worried about invasion.
The king, whose name is Ahaz, then does something that sounds politically
wise, but is religiously very wrong. He starts to make an alliance with Egypt.
Remember the history of Egypt? This is the country that made slaves of the
Israelites, until Moses led them to freedom. So the king of God’s people is
making an alliance with one powerful former enemy in order to protect themselves
from another powerful current enemy.
And into this political turmoil steps God, on a throne, shaking the
foundations of the earth, and reminding Isaiah, that they should be trusting
the one with real power – not politicians, not kings, not other nations, not
armies, but God and God alone. And God calls Isaiah to tell the people that. To
remind the people that there is a different way out of this situation, that
rather than living in fear, rather than consorting with one enemy to protect
themselves from another, they can trust in God’s awesome and incomparable
It is a reminder that as awesome as it is to know that God is tender and
loving, and that Jesus holds sweet little lambs. Sometimes what we need is the
purely breathtaking, awe-inspiring, forcing you to your knees, worship-inducing
strength of God. Because our world is also often a world of fearful situations,
where there noisy voices shouting for attention trying to convince us that we
are too weak or the situation too awful and we need something more than God to
help us. The voices forget, and sometimes they make us forget that God is way
more powerful than our problems.
As I was looking for ways of talking about God’s power, I ran across this
wonderful children’s book, called Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is,
by Robert E. Wells. –[read the book]http://a.co/3KvToeM
And we add to that our own ending – And we know – that God made all of
this. So why do we act like God is so small, and that we need to be afraid of
so many things in life?
So let’s step back for a moment and make this personal. In your life, what
situation is like the situation of Judah?
Where are you overwhelmed or afraid? Where is the noise of life trying to
tell you to trust something other than God? And what does God shout to you?
What message must be blared loud to be heard over the others?
When Isaiah heard God’s message he immediately felt unworthy to heed this
calling of God, so God makes him worthy. So keep thinking abour your situation,
What is God calling you to that you do not feel worthy to pursue? And how does
God address that?
I was reading the story of Linda Down. Linda Down “had dealt with the
limitations of cerebral palsy all her life. One day, she got this crazy idea of
running the New York Marathon. But Linda walked with difficulty, so running
seemed out of the question? She used Canadian canes with arm clamps to steady
her arms. On top of this she was 25 pounds overweight and jobless.”
“In a state of depression, she began reading in the scriptures about the
power of God at work in people's lives.”
“She read Phil. 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who
strengthens me." While training, she listened for God. She thought as she
was running in the dark at night: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped
for, the conviction about things not seen" (Heb. 11:1)
She thought about her limited dreams, her inability to see beyond the
obstacles of life. Faith, she said to herself, was running in spite of the
“As the NY Marathon began that cold morning, . . .she wore gloves on her
hands to soften the impact of the crutches. It was windy on the bridge and
uphill. She had not expected the beginning to be so difficult. As she finished
the mile-long Verrazano Narrows bridge, there were no runners in sight ahead of
her. Spectators were gone for the most part. But one little girl ran out into
the street and cheered her on, "You can do it!" Others on the curb
later applauded and cheered and shouted. They brought tears to Linda's eyes and
helped her to keep going.”
“Ten hours later Linda was still running in the dark ... Some admiring
spectators walked with her for safety. Then an ABC-TV camera crew showed up and
followed the story of her courage. She continued to run. She wore a hole in one
sneaker from dragging it across the ground; her hands ached and throbbed; her
arms became black and blue and swollen; she couldn't speak to anyone because of
fatigue, but she continued to run because she prayed: "I can do all things
through Christ who strengthens me...I can do all things."
“Then two parks and recreation trucks in Central Park came by and stayed
with her to light the way. After 11 hours of struggle and over 27 miles, Linda
crossed the finish line. People were crying -- even the TV crew was crying
--and Linda was crying at the response and support that she had received from
God and these people. She thanked God for the power to do such a miraculous
thing. Later she was invited to the White House and was pictured on the front
page of the New York Times. Her story was not just a story of a noble effort,
it was the story of the power of God at work.”
God overcame her weakness, her inability, and gave her the strength. Just
as God overcame Isaiah’s weakness and inability and gave him the words to
God is loving and awe-inspiring, like a nurturing parent and thunderstorm
over crashing surf. And God calls us in times of peace and in times of turmoil
to be faithful in serving and leading. When God calls us, God also prepares us
to be partners in that work, helping us to overcome our shortcomings, and
strengthening us to the task!
Do not forget that the one we worship is not just the one holding the lamb,
but it also the one that made the blue whale, Mt. Everest, the earth, the sun,
the galaxy, and the universe. God’s strength is beyond imagination, and there
for you to take hold of.
Ritner at Hillcrest UMC on April 17, 1994, Adapted by Brett Blair,