Donald Raub tells an interesting parable worship and human nature. "Natives of a Third World country were given a sundial. They were thrilled as they learned how to tell time by observing the shadow of the sun on the face of the sundial. As days passed this amazing instrument attracted such interest that the leaders of the tribe decided that it deserved some sort of worship.
"To the delight of the leaders, large crowds gathered to worship. However, this created a problem. They now feared for the safety of this remarkable device. It was decided that a beautiful building be erected to house it. This, they thought, would protect it from any would-be thief. The project was completed and a formal celebration was announced. As thousands gathered, the leaders stood before the sundial at which time they made a startling discovery. The sundial, the center of attraction, was now useless. Rather than admit error, the leaders decided to preserve it as a shrine for future generations, thus preserving their dignity. "
Two thousand years ago the church was given the gift of the Gospel to share with the world. But for the most part today, we have confined the gift to the church house. We should consider this in relation to worship: How can we truly worship God while hoarding the Gospel within our walls?
As we look at today's text it is important to remember the flow of the passage. Isaiah had an incredible vision of God which led to an honest examination of his life. That examination resulted in a heartfelt confession and the subsequent forgiveness of God. What should happen next? Today we will discuss the "Out Side of Worship." Simply put, those that see God will sense a need to tell others about Him. This is Isaiah's story. Notice that:
I. God calls the worshipper to witness - 6:8
Who will go for us? "Here am I"
God asked this question to give Isaiah an opportunity to volunteer for service. The people needed to see what Isaiah had seen. In this question we see:
A. Divine opportunity
We can join God in His work.
He asked, "Who will go for us?" Most will remember the old Army recruiting poster that read, "Uncle Sam wants you!" We know that God wants you.
B. Individual availability
We must see ourselves in God's work.
Isaiah replied, "Here am I." Have you ever thought that God can use you to make a difference in someone's eternity?
"Three men died and were waiting to receive entrance through the pearly gates. The first man said to St. Peter, 'I was a preacher of the gospel, serving faithfully for fifty years.' Peter told him to step aside for further consideration. The second man said 'I was also a preacher of the gospel; I served my church faithfully for forty years.' Peter told him to step aside for further consideration. The third man stepped up. 'I was not a minister, just a government worker with the Internal Revenue Service for six months.' Peter told him to step right in. The first minister objected, 'Why does he get to go in before two ministers?' Peter said, 'The truth is, in six months the IRS agent scared the devil out of more people than either of you did in a long lifetime!'"
You might not be as effective as an IRS agent - but He can use you. But you must make yourself available to God.
C. Personal willingness
We must volunteer.
"Many of us are familiar with the Miranda Act which instructs all peace officers to give the arrested party a review of their rights as a United States citizen. Often we hear these famous lines on television or portrayed over the radio. The one most of us can remember the best is "You have the right to remain silent; anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law . . ." [CD]
But this is just the opposite of our calling to be God's witnesses. We do not have the right to remain silent. Nor should we want to. A professor that teaches advertising says, "It's human nature to talk about things that excite us." When we clearly see God, we should naturally want to tell others.
II. God commands the worshipper to declare His truth - 6:9-10
What shall we say to them? "Say to them"
The text is an ancient Hebrew Chiasm - a pyramidal structure of words. Notice the order of the terms: heart - hands - eyes - eyes - hands - hearts. This poetic structure was used to draw attention to the middle element. Here the center element is the word "eyes." God was telling Isaiah that the people would not see what the prophet had seen [the vision of God]. But he was to tell them nonetheless. The hard part is to tell the truth and nothing but the truth - even if is unpleasant or unwelcome.
In fact, this passage reminds us that most people will not receive the truth. We can summarize the content of God's message in three phrases:
A. The Lord is calling, but will not forever
God wants to save those that will hear and respond to His invitation. But He does not obligate Himself to ask forever.
B. The choice is yours, so choose life or death
In the end, every person must make their own decision. But know this, the decision has eternal consequences. Sadly, most will reject God out of a hard heart. Here are the two choices.
1. Many will reject the offer of God
The Lord indicates that many will hardened their hearts. J.V. McGee wrote, "God never hardens hearts that would otherwise be soft. God simply brings the hardness to the surface." [v.3, 210]
2. Some will receive the offer of God
[See the "remnant" of verse 13]
C. The time is now, so prepare to meet your God
Contrary to popular thought, we are not guaranteed another opportunity to receive the gospel beyond today. Should one reject the Lord then he or she shall get ready to face God in judgment.
III. God challenges the worshipper to persist in the task - 6:11-13
How long shall I speak to them? "Until the houses are without people"
It is easy to grow weary when we fail to see much fruit from our labor. We are, in fact, tempted to concluded, "What's the use?" Perhaps our focus is wrong. Our call is to declare God to all regardless of the response. When Isaiah asked how long he should go to an unresponsive nation, God told him:
A. Until every house is empty - 6:11
As long as one soul is left we must declare the gospel that all may hear it. If we believe that all are lost then we must share the message with all. An understanding of the need compels us to tell the truth.
B. Until every hope is gone - 6:12
This message is couched in the terms of ultimate judgment. But until that day comes - there is hope for any who respond.
C. Until every heart has responded - 6:13
We can be free from this responsibility when everyone has had the opportunity to respond to the gospel - despite their choice. He tells us of a remnant that will believe. Since we don't know who will believe we must declare the message to all. Paul said of his ministry at Ephesus, "I am free from the blood of all men." I call this a "clean hands ministry."
D. Until you hear God release you - 6:11-13
Essentially, God told Isaiah to fulfill this calling until God told him to do something different. This is our calling as well.
"There is a story of an Atlantic passenger lying in his bunk in a storm, deathly sick - seasick. A cry of 'Man overboard!' was heard. The passenger thought, 'God help the poor fellow. There is nothing I can do.' Then he thought at least he could put his lantern in the porthole, which he did. The man was rescued, and recounting the story the next day, he said, 'I was going down in the darkness for the last time when someone put a light in a porthole. It shone on my hand, and a sailor in a lifeboat grabbed my hand and pulled me in.' Weakness is no excuse for our not putting forth all the little strength we have, and who can tell how God will use it?"
Those who truly worship God must do all they can to declare His name to the nations.