The Seven Pillars of Ministry – Wayne Barber/Part 2
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|Today, we are on Pillar number 2, and that is simply God’s Power in Ministry. What God initiates in His power, God anoints with His power. That’s what we want to be looking at today, particularly from Isaiah 6.|
Isaiah 6: 1-8
Pillar 2 – God’s Power in Ministry
Turn with me to Isaiah 6. We’re talking about the Pillars of Ministry. Seven of them. Today, we are on Pillar number 2, and that is simply God’s Power in Ministry. What God initiates in His power, God anoints with His power. That’s what we want to be looking at today, particularly from Isaiah 6. Studying these seven Pillars of Ministry, I don’t know about you, but they kind of bring us back to square one. It’s kind of like a refreshing breath of air when we begin to realize what ministry really is all about. These seven messages on the seven pillars represent the philosophy of ministry that we have in this church.
Last time we saw that all the gifts, all the ministries, all the effects totally come from God. They originate only from Him. They are God-given. I asked last week how many of you grew up, like I did, in that work mentality; that performance mentality; that “we needed to work harder because it is all up to us; if it doesn’t get done, then poor old God, He can’t do anything”. Three fourths of the congregation raised their hands. That’s exactly the way we grew up. I just want to help you understand what we are going through is like deprogramming the mind. It’s doing what Romans 12 says we have to do. It is renewing our minds so that the Spirit might transform our life.
Well, in our pillar today, number 2, what God initiates—the gift, the ministry, the effect—God anoints. We’re going to talk about this, the power that God has in ministry. Now that word “anoint” needs to be understood. You need to know where I’m coming from, when I use the word anoint. It’s been made a mystical word in many circles—“he has the anointing” —and, of course, sometimes people act as if it is something way out there somewhere. But it is not that way at all if you understand the word.
Actually in the New Testament, there are two words for anoint. There is the word that was used for massaging someone. It was a physical thing. For instance, they did not have a lot of doctors in the New Testament. How many can you name? “Well, Luke.” That’s good, now who else? They did not have a lot of doctors, elders, in the day that the scriptures were put together. They ministered physically, as well as, spiritually to the people they would come to. So the word, as used in James 5:16, “the elders anoint” is the word for massage. It was a therapy they would use. Today we would call it Christian doctor.
But there is another word for anoint. It always has a spiritual connotation; that’s the word we are looking at as we talk about “He anoints;” that’s what I’m talking about. The word has to do with enablement; God’s empowering us to do what He has gifted us to do. See, God initiates ministry. He sets apart a man or a woman, and He has a gift there, He has a ministry he wants to effect. But he also empowers. He anoints, He enables, that person to do what he’s called to do. It has to do with, first, setting apart, and then through the giftedness, and then the empowering.
Now it is spoken of Jesus. The word anoint is used of Jesus in His humanity. Obviously we know He was God, the God-Man. He said Himself in Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” quoting out of Isaiah 61. He says, “Because he anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” He “anointed me.” In other words, He was not just man, He was the God-man, and within Him was the power to do what He came to do. “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed.” And then it is even clearer in Acts 10:38. He says, “You know of Jesus of Nazareth how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. And how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, for God was with him.”
It’s not only spoken of Jesus, having that anointing upon Him, being the God-Man to accomplish that which He came to do, but it is also spoken of believers. In 2 Corinthians 1:21, the apostle Paul says, “Now he who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God.” The “establishes with” and “anointed” have to, in the Greek construction, have to be put together. So what he is saying is that we don’t just have the anointing to do what God’s called us to do, you also have that anointing if you are a believer.
The apostle John is even clearer in his epistle. In 1 John 2:20, “But you have an anointing from the holy one, and you all know.” In verse 27 he says, “As for you, the anointing which you received from him abides in you and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as his anointing teaches you about all things and is true and is not a lie and just as it has taught you, you abide in him.” The anointing that John is talking about there is the Holy Spirit that has come to live with us.
It says in verse 20, “your anointing from the Holy One” the “Holy One” is the Lord Jesus Christ. You find that Jesus is the Holy One. In Mark 1:24, Luke 4:34, John 6:69, Acts 2:27, Acts 13:35, 1 Peter 1:15. Everyone of those identifies Jesus as being the Holy One. So, Jesus, in the person of the Spirit, sets us apart to Himself; He anoints us with His power, the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish what He has assigned for us to be about on this earth.
So the Holy Spirit who gives the gifts is the anointing. You see, this is where people mess up. They pray that God will give them the anointing. No, if you are a believer, you already have the anointing. The Anointed One lives within you. The key is not getting Him; the key is learning to release Him in your life, by surrender to Him.
Now as 1 John tells us, “He teaches us.” That’s who reveals scripture to us, the Holy Spirit, the anointing that the Holy One gave to us. The Spirit of Christ that lives within us. We also know from Ephesians 5:18, “He empowers us as he fills us.” He must fill us daily, as we yield to Him. We know from Galatians 5:22 that He “produces the character of Christ in us.”
So the anointing from the Holy One is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. He is the anointing. He is the enabling. God initiates, and God anoints. He not only sets a man aside, He not only gives him the gift and the ministry and the effect, but He gives him the enablement, the power to be about the things He’s told him to do. As the priests of old were set apart unto God and anointed with the power of God, we have to remember that we are priests in the Kingdom of God. Now, that may go against some people’s religious understanding, but that’s the word of God.
Peter says in 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous life.” So it is God who initiates ministry. That is one of the pillars we are going to stand on. It is not something that we achieve for Him out of our own ability and desire and creativity, it is something that we receive from Him. He initiates, but He also anoints that which He has initiated.
Today, we want to look at an example of this initiation and anointing in scripture. There is not a clearer example of it than what we are going to look at in Isaiah 6. The first five chapters, if you have ever studied Isaiah, he pronounces, particularly in chapter 5, the woes of God’s judgment among the people. Judah has gone the route of her big sister, Israel and the Ten Northern tribes, and they have just desecrated everything that God has given to them. So therefore, he pronounces some woes, “woe be unto you; woe be unto you” in chapter five.
In chapter 6, however, he goes back—it’s not chronological—he jumps back and he wants the people to understand “the only reason I’m able to stand here” he says “and pronounce judgment on you is because those woes fell on me first.” Chapter 6 is the calling of Isaiah as the prophet of God. He wants them to understand that he’s already been broken, and he does what he does out of a tender heart. He pronounces the woes out of a heart that’s already been broken in the presence of God. God initiated the call on Isaiah’s life. It was at a very low time for Judah with the call came, the anointing to be His prophet, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament.
Well, the picture of God’s initiating and God’s anointing, as I said, could not be clearer than what we are going to look at today. Isaiah 6. The four things that I want you to see in this are how God raised up a man, set him apart, initiated this ministry and how God anoints this man by even giving him the ability to say yes back to Him.
Isaiah 6 begins with, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord.” King Uzziah reigned over Israel for 52 years. His name indicates that he really started well. He started off trusting God in everything that he did. Uzziah is the name mentioned in Chronicles, but in Kings he’s called Azariah. It’s the same person. Both names show his spiritual character at the very beginning. Azariah means “the Lord has helped;” Uzziah means “my strength is in the Lord.” So we see that both names characterize this man as being a man who depended upon God when he began his reign as king over Judah. He’s the tenth king over Judah.
Well, in both Chronicles and in Kings it says he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The best way that most people figure this out is that Azariah was probably his given name and Uzziah was his throne name. He came to the throne at the age of 16, in very difficult circumstances. His daddy had committed apostasy; therefore, was put to death by rebellion so he had to come immediately and take the throne. Under Uzziah, Judah had prospered; in fact, more so than they had known before.
He was a military genius. Matter of fact, we think we started the draft system, in the Army; no, he used the draft system back in that day. There’s nothing new under the sun. Got an army of over 370,000 fighting men, broke down the walls. The biggest thing he did was to defeat the Philistines. He broke down the walls of Gath, Ashdod and Jabneh. He even built his own cities in Philistia. The Philistines were the fiercest enemies that Israel had. He also loved to work the land. Some of the historians say that he loved to pick up the dirt and say, “Ah, how I love the dirt.” He loved to work the land. Therefore, he taught them cultivation, farming. Judah prospered greatly under his leadership: militarily, economically, every way you can think of.
But here is the problem: all of that prosperity went to his head, and he became proud and arrogant. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before… a fall.” And boy, did he ever fall. Uzziah was so audacious that he went into the temple and said, “I’m going to offer incense to the Lord.” What? You can’t offer incense to the Lord. That’s a priest responsibility. The High Priest stood in his face and rebuked him in front of everybody, and God struck him with leprosy. He had to move into exile and shame. He died in exile because of having sinned before the Lord.
Jotham, the next King, actually had to step in. Just like Uzziah had to do with his daddy, he had to step in and take over the throne until the time that he could actually be King. You know, some interesting things happen. God was taking His hand of blessing off of Judah. He’d already taken it off Israel and the ten Northern Tribes. And now He’s taking His hand of blessing off of Judah.
In fact, only a short time after Uzziah was born, there was another man born, and his name was Romulus. And Romulus was the legendary founder of Rome. Just after Uzziah died, the Roman Empire came into being. Remember, if you study history, the Romans were the ones who caused the greatest affliction upon the Israelites. It was a bad time for Israel politically, nationally, every way you can think of. It was a bad time. It seemed God was taking His hand of blessing off of His people.
But in the midst of that very bad time God, being rich in mercy, was raising up a prophet. He was initiating a man, setting him aside. He was going to give him a ministry and anoint him with that ministry. He was going to be one of the greatest prophets that Israel had ever known. What happened when King Uzziah died? Very bad time for Israel. God lifted the fog from Isaiah’s eyes. Why did He do that?
You see, when God moves in our lives, folks, when ministry becomes what it really ought to be and not something that we have fabricated and asked God to bless; when God lifts the fog right off our eyes. Back in Romans 12 when he says, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you will present your bodies a living sacrifice,” and he goes on. Then he says on down just a few verses later, now let me show you what the church is really all about, it is not an organization it is an organism. It is made up of gifts that must function together.” God has to lift the fog from our eyes. He did the same thing with Isaiah. You see, God wants to show Isaiah who is really in control.
Several years ago, I spoke on the International Congress on Revival Team for about ten years. My wife got to go with me quite a bit, and we were able to go to Slovenia. When we landed in Slovenia, the only way I knew we were in Slovenia, was because they said we were in Slovenia. And I took their word for it. It was foggy, it didn’t look very good to me. We went to the hotel where we were having the conference. I could tell there was a lake out back with ice on it, because every now and then I could see somebody go across it, walking across that lake. But I thought, “What does this place look like?” For a whole three days we were in the fog; I mean, in the fog. We could not see what was really there. Oh, my goodness, on that fourth day, when that fog lifted, it took everybody’ breath. Oh, my goodness, there’s the Alps, right there right on the flip side is Austria, Switzerland. I mean it was the most beautiful country I had ever seen in my entire life. That lake that was frozen over looked like a Christmas card. There was a foot and a half of snow everywhere and people right on the lake skating, ice skating across, and holding hands. It was just like one of those Christmas cards that you get. What a beautiful place, but we couldn’t see what was already there because we were in the fog.
Understand what I am saying. If you are not walking, yielded to the Anointed One who lives within you, you are living in the fog. You can’t see what reality is all about. You hear what we say from the pulpit, and it sounds like a foreign language until God lifts the fog. And then, then, you see what ministry is all about. God had to lift the fog for Isaiah; and when He did, it changed his life forever. God lifted Isaiah’s eyes from the fog of uncertainty of what was going on in that country in that day. He lifted the fog to see the One, the reality of sovereignty of who was really in control of what was going on. Isaiah needed to see that because down on this earth it was foggy and looked pretty chaotic. But when God lifted the fog, then Isaiah was able to see what he couldn’t see before.
Verse 1: “In the year of Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted with the train of his robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.”
Do you realize what God did? God took Isaiah into the throne room of heaven. In order to do what God had set Isaiah apart to do, Isaiah had to have this understanding. He had to lift the fog. He had to show him the majesty, the sovereignty and the holiness of God, so that everything that Isaiah would do from that point on would be based on what realness really was.
He “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of his robe filling the temple.” Only a few in scripture have been able to see that. The apostle Paul was able to see it, but couldn’t speak about it for 14 years. John was able to see it and even to pen what he saw; and therefore, we have as the last book of our Bible the book of the Revelation, not the book of Revelations; no, sir, the book of The Revelation of the Apostle John.
When he saw the Lord sitting on the throne, the word “sitting” indicates total rest and total control. God was not standing up, wringing His hands and saying, “Oh, my goodness, look what’s happening to Judah. I don’t know what I am going to do.” Even though the times were chaotic and bad on earth, God was at rest in Heaven, because He was totally in control of what was going on.
He was sitting on the throne; it says “high and lifted up.” The throne was evidently elevated. A better translation would be “a lofty and an exalted throne.” He’s looking up at the one sitting on the throne. It’s as if he was standing there in amazement. It had to be a ways back, because the scripture tells us in the New Testament that God dwells in unapproachable light. The brightness of His being on that lofty and exalted throne must have been something he had to contend with as he tried to get a grasp of what he had been allowed to see.
The temple in which God was seated was the original of the copy that was made and dedicated down here in the Old Testament. The actual word for temple in verse 1 is the word palace. It is the word that signifies this is where God rules in the Holy of Holies of the heavenly tabernacle.
My first trip to Albuquerque, NM, was when I was 15 years old. I was with the Boy Scouts, and I was going to Philmont Scout Ranch. We stopped in Albuquerque and stayed at Kirkland Air Force Base. They were so nice to us, back in those days and the let two of us at a time—listen to this—we got to go up into the Control Tower. I never realized how chaotic that looked when you were up there. Here is a big screen, and planes everywhere with little numbers or something on them, little boxes indicating the plane. I looked at that and said, “Man, that is the biggest mess I’ve ever seen in my life; this is chaotic. Somebody is going to fly into somebody.” I mean, every little space there represented an altitude. The guy, who was in control, was just sitting there talking to each one as if he knew them personally. And he says, “Okay, number such and such, yeah that’s good; and number such and such, down a little bit. Yeah, okay.” And he would bring them in right on time. It was as if in all that chaotic mess somebody was sitting there absolutely in control.
And that’s what God allowed Isaiah to see. “Isaiah, it’s a big mess down there, isn’t it?” I might say that you and I, we’re coming into an election year, “big mess down here, isn’t it?” I don’t know what party you have, that’s between you and God. But I’ll tell you one thing, when you look around, it’s not good. Lines are clearly drawn. Oh, my goodness, God, do you know what’s going on down here? And God just leans over and says, “What are you wringing your hands for? I’m the one who is in control. I raise up kings, I establish kingdoms. I’m in control. Isaiah had to see that or he’d never be the prophet God wanted him to be.
God’s robe was so magnificent that the train of it filled the whole temple. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a robe that filled this whole auditorium?
In verse two it says “seraphim, stood above him, having six wings: and with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” The word “flew” there has more the idea, yes, he could fly, but it was more like hovering. They hovered. They hovered above the throne.
Actually, they would not have hovered above Him on the throne. As you will see in a moment, there was much more reverence for Him than we’ve ever had down here on earth. They would have hovered over His train of His robe. Their humility before God is breathtaking. They hovered there, but with their other two wings, their upper two wings, they covered their face, because they did not feel worthy to look upon the one who sat upon the throne.
And with two wings they covered their feet. These angels who hovered around the throne were so in respect of who God is. Don’t you wish, just for one day that we could have a church full of people with this kind of respect for who God is? That they wouldn’t even dare to look upon Him because of who He is and the holiness that He is?
Well, the angels were mentioned as Seraphim and that’s the only place in Scripture they are mentioned, Seraphim. Not the Cherubim, but the Seraphim. The word Seraph is the word in Hebrew that comes from flame or fire. There are many who suggest that their wings were flames of fire, as they would hover; and the flames cover their eyes and the flames cover their feet.
Well, Isaiah is being set apart. But to be set apart, he had to see the holiness of the God who gives him the gifts, and gives him the ministry and gives him the effect. The absolute purity of God. Before Isaiah could ever begin to be a prophet, he had to understand who was in control every moment of every day. God was raising up a man who would be one of the greatest prophets in scripture. To do so, God had to set him apart. He was set apart as a man who had seen and been in the presence of God. God was initiating a ministry.
Ministry will only occur in your life and in my life—and you think about it for a second—think about how we play games with ministry: I want it this way, and I want it that way, and if you don’t do it the way I want it, I’ll go someplace else; and all of the stuff that comes out of the people who are supposed to have a respect for God. And I want you to know that when you get in His presence you’ll never again try to hold on to a ministry with your hands. You’ll understand the purity of the one it flowed from, who initiated it, who anoints that ministry.
My prayer is today, “Oh, God, lift the fog; oh, God, lift the fog. People can’t see for looking. God lift the fog.
Second thing, not only did he lift his eyes so that he could see, he opened his ears so that he could sense. Now you say, you don’t sense with your ears, even though it’s one of the senses; you hear with your ears. Oh, no, I haven’t finished yet. He wanted him to hear something, but by hearing something, and seeing something, there was going to be a sense of the holiness and the humility and the respect that the heavenly creatures had for God. He had to get that down, he had to understand that. God was initiating a ministry in his life. He had to understand the respect God would desire from him and command from him, because in Heaven it was there; but on earth it was rare to be seen, especially in Judah, who had completely walked away from who God is. Ministry will only occur in your and my life when God has opened our eyes to realize how holy and how pure He is. He wants him to hear something.
What Isaiah was allowed to hear was respect of all the beautiful creatures in Heaven and what they were singing. It says in verse 3, “and one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundation of the threshold trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.” Theologians tell us that this an antiphonal response here. Antiphonal simply means that one group is saying one thing, and another group is saying back, they responded back.
When it’s written it looks as if there is only one angel, but actually what’s happening here is there is a whole chorus of angels, sounding as if it is one. As they are hovering there above the train of His robe, they are singing back and forth, one to the other. One group sings “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.” Then the other one sang out, “The whole earth will be filled with His glory.” “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts,” “and the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.” In one study on angels I came across when I was studying this, says there are nine choruses of angels. They say the first rank was the Seraphim, that we’re looking at, and the cherubim and throni. I’m not sure how all that works out, but one group, in reverence and humility, were singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.” The other one would sing out, “And the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.”
You know what they were doing? It’s a different song when John went into heaven, because it was a different day. What they were doing was giving a prophecy to Isaiah. Isaiah needed to hear this prophecy. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts.” He’d seen and witnessed that. But the second part of that, “The whole earth shall be full of His glory.” At the time he was taken into Heaven, this earth was surely not full of the glory of God, with all the chaotic things that were going on in Judah, and all the things that were going on in the world; Rome coming to exist as a powerful, pagan nation. But God would bring it to pass. This is the piece of prophecy that Isaiah had to understand.
You see, Isaiah was going to be given a message that nobody would ever listen to, and he needed to know that some time in God’s divine prophetic future there would be a time when the whole earth would be full His glory. The design of the perfect one, the whole earth would be filled with His glory.
And, by the way, His glory is His manifested presence. And what the angels were singing was a prophecy they already knew from being in Heaven. They were saying to Isaiah, “Isaiah, one day, the one you see on the throne will be down here on this earth and the whole earth will be full of His glory. So when you are giving your judgment and you are pronouncing your woes, understand that it’s going to be bad for a long period of time. But there is going to come a day that the whole earth will be filled with His glory.”
Well, “holy, holy, holy” is a Hebrew way of making a point, singing it three times. Some theologians also say it represents God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; the whole Trinity is being heralded as a reverenced the one sitting on the throne. The words of the chorus of angels, think about it for a second. I love to hear our music and I’m so grateful for it ,but the words of the chorus of the angels was so profound, it shook the very temple where he stood. It was so awesome to hear this myriad’s of angels singing and reverencing God and prophesying about the future that would come.
Verse 4 says, “And the foundations of the threshold tremble at the voice of Him who called out.” And then it says, “while the Temple was filling with smoke.” Have you ever studied Revelation? Right before the last judgment, how the holy of holy fills with smoke. It’s almost as if he is saying the day will come when the whole earth can be filled with His glory. The Temple will be filled with smoke.
When I was studying Revelation, I had a thought, I can never prove it, but you know why I think it’s filled with smoke? I think the Father is weeping because He desires that none should perish, none should not come to know His Son. There’s going to come a day when the Temple fills with smoke and the judgment will fall upon this earth but after that, it says the whole earth will be filled with His glory.
Well, Isaiah had a vision. God let him see, opened his eyes, lifted the fog, and he saw the holiness and the majesty and the sovereignty of God who is absolutely in control. He heard the reverence and the humility of the angels as they sung about the one who set on the throne and what He was going to do in the future.
Well, Isaiah would never be the same again. And, again, my prayer for us, “Oh, God, lift the fog. Help us to see you and in seeing you, Father, help us to see the wickedness of our flesh. Help us to understand why the confession of sin is important. Help us to understand the way we talk about each other and the things that we say callously as if you are not there, as if you don’t even exist. Oh, God, lift the fog.”
He opened his eyes that he might see, he opened his ears so he could sense. But the third thing I want you to see is that God opened his lips so that he could speak. God had to cleanse him. Once he saw the Lord, he saw himself. Isaiah was to be a prophet. Prophets proclaimed a pure message from God, but God had to purify his lips.
Look what happens, when Isaiah saw the holiness of God, when he witnessed the reverence of the holy creatures, look what he said: Verse 5, “Then I said”—he wouldn’t have said this before then; he didn’t even see it, didn’t even recognize it before then—“ ‘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.’”
In that moment of having seen God for who He is, in that moment he saw the sickness of what he was apart from God. I wonder, when he said “I’m a man of unclean lips,” I wonder if he had been criticizing God for the chaotic experience that he’s having to go through down here on earth. You remember another prophet did that, Habakkuk. “Lord, what do you make me see these things for?” I wonder if he’d been criticized. I wonder if he’d been bemoaning the political situation. I wonder if he’d been bemoaning the economic downfall that was going on in his country.
I wonder if he had been a man who suddenly, when he suddenly saw the purity of the praise that flowed out of the heavenly creatures for the one who set upon the throne, I just wonder, I wonder if he didn’t then see what came out of his mouth that revealed the sickness of his life. He says, ‘Woe is me, I’m a man of unclean lips.” Boy, that would be a tough situation, wouldn’t it? To be in heaven and suddenly realize what you’re not and the fact that you don’t even belong there.
But look at the mercy of God, verse 6: “Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs, touched my mouth with it, and said ‘Behold, this has touched your lips and your iniquity has been taken away and your sin is forgiven.’” The angel in that act was purifying his mouth, his lips. The angel was enabling him now to be the prophet of God. It was the enabling through cleansing.
Do you realize when God lifts the fog, every one of us is going to be on the floor? Every one of us is suddenly not going to be pointing fingers at everybody else. Suddenly we’re going to realize the overwhelming message of grace; we’re going to understand what sin really is. Before we can ever be usable to God, it’s going to have to be through an act of cleansing through the blood of Christ. For us to be what God wants us to be, there has to be a cleansing; God has to purify our lives if ministry is ever going to take place. So many people are seeking to do for God, with unclean lips, which reveal nothing more than unclean lives. That’s what religion propagates. God opened his eyes to see, his ears to sense and he opened his lips to speak.
But there is one more. Finally, God opened his heart to serve. When Isaiah had been cleansed, humbled and changed, that’s the first time he could hear God’s call. You know, there is a scripture in the New Testament that says, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” To me that means the gifts are free to operate, the service gifts in the body. Why? Because people are finally hearing the call. They are understanding what it is God’s put them on this earth for; they are beginning to understand they were gifted in the body of Christ and there is a function for them and they begin to hear his call.
When God intervenes in a believer’s life, perhaps in the study of God’s word, perhaps in a service where God’s word is being preached, perhaps in a difficult circumstance, like in the days of Uzziah’s death, He humbles that believer with the understanding that it’s not about you. I imagine that when Isaiah stood in Heaven, in the presence of God and the holy angels, I imagine that when he stood there, he felt about as insignificant as he had ever felt in his entire life. Until a man has that kind of attitude toward God—as a matter of fact, there’s a word tapeinophrosune in the New Testament means, the attitude a person has. It is a man who has been in the presence of God and now has seen himself for what he really is.
And the word tapeinos means that he gets down on the floor and he gets down as far as he can get and if he can find another hole, he’ll dig it a little deeper, because he knows that there is not one single thing about himself that is impressive to God. Not one single thing; not his business experience and how well he built his company, not the money he has in his bank or his retirement portfolio. That is not at all impressive to God. When he is in the presence of God, he understands ministry is in the hands of God and whatever he does must be handled carefully, because God initiates ministry and God anoints ministry.
Verse 8 says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord say, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’” And then Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me.” Boy, the marvelous anointing that happening right now. God even gave him the ability to say yes to Him.
Now, here is a man of unclean lips who had to go through the cleansing in Heaven, and now he is able to stand up on his own two feet and say, “Here am I, Lord. Send me,” when He says “Who will go for us.” Certainly the Trinity, but also the heavenly host: They couldn’t come down; it had to be a man down here on earth that God was looking to raise up. The message that Isaiah would proclaim would never be heard. If you read on in the chapter, he says, “For how long, Lord, do I have to preach a message that people will not listen to?” And God says, “Till the end, son; till the end.” Tradition is that he was sawn in half as he was martyred for his stand for God. But God would enable him. What God initiates, God anoints. Don’t ever, ever miss this.
We’re in a different covenant than Isaiah. You see, God anointed us with His power by sending the Holy One, the anointed one to come and live in us. You realize the better covenant that we’re in? Built on better promises. And do we all understand this morning that all we have to do is bow before Him and He will overwhelm us with who He is. And then He begins to raise ministry up in our life. He lives in us to enable everything He commands us to do. He sets us apart in the uniqueness of our gifts, and the uniqueness of ministries and effects. And we can actually be usable to Him in our day. All the ingredients are there. All that God is looking for is our willingness to yield to Him and He will divinely use us for His purposes. What God initiates, God anoints.
Can I ask you a question this morning, what’s God doing in your life? Is the fog still setting in there? Everything is chaotic? Nobody is right in the body of Christ, but you; and if people would just listen to you, things would be better? Or have you finally come to the place that God has lifted the fog. There is not one single thing He’s impressed with about us, except when He looks at us and sees Himself. I want you to capture this moment this morning. I want you to capture this message:
- In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
- “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
- the whole earth is full of his glory.”
- At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
- “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
- Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
- Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
- And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
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