Isaiah Volunteers for Service
“I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (v. 8).- Isaiah 6:8–13
During the second half of the twentieth century, the rise of the evangelical megachurch was a big story in American religion. Of course, the mere existence of large churches was nothing new in Christian history; many ministers and churches have had a great impact numerically. So, there is nothing wrong with a large church in itself.
However, many of the evangelical megachurches during that period drove increased attendance by tailoring their worship services to unbelievers. Pastors preached sermons that often had more in common with self-help books than the gospel. Downplaying or ignoring the reality of sin altogether, many churches filled pews because there was little in their services to make unregenerate people feel legitimately uncomfortable.
No doubt, much of this approach to ministry was driven by good intentions. Nevertheless, it reflected a mindset that sees the eager reception of the church’s message by a large number of people as the measure of ministerial success. Yet before we are too hard on such churches and their efforts, let us remember that we are all tempted to evaluate our ministries similarly. The answer to this temptation is to pay attention to the prophets, who tell us that true success in the Lord’s eyes is faithfulness, not numbers.
This truth is particularly clear in today’s passage, which records how Isaiah volunteered to go to Judah and preach a message on behalf of the Lord. The prophet almost certainly did not expect to hear what God told him would be the outcome of his ministry. Instead of bringing vast numbers of Judahites to repentance, the Lord was sending Isaiah to preach so that the people’s hearts would be hardened even further (Isa. 6:8–10).
If our vision of God is not big enough, this truth will be hard for us to accept. In His sovereign purposes, the Lord has chosen to withhold His salvation from some people. One way He does this is by working through the preaching of His Word so that the reprobate choose to deny Him. This is not unjust—no sinner deserves God’s redemption (Rom. 9:1–29). While we preach the gospel and hope for all who hear it to respond in faith, the fact is that the Lord has ultimately ordained for some to reject it. When the gospel falls on deaf ears due to the offense of the gospel itself and not our offensive actions, let us not think that we are failing and change our methods. Rather, we must continue serving God faithfully no matter the outcome He brings (Matt. 24:45–51).
Matthew Henry writes, “Even the word of God oftentimes proves a means of hardening sinners.” This is seen most clearly in the ministry of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God Himself, whose parables were given to harden the hearts of some and create faith in the hearts of others. Let us not be ashamed of the teaching of Scripture, for as it is accurately proclaimed, it always accomplishes God’s intent for it (Isa. 55:10–11), which is not always an individual’s salvation.
Passages for Further Study
2 Corinthians 3:12–16