In Isaiah chapter 6 we read about Isaiah’s call to prophetic ministry for God. Notice that this call is crystal clear: “Go! Say to these people…” Isaiah is called to go and tell people what God is saying.
But before that call is made clear, before Isaiah even knows the job, he decides to obey. Like Abraham, Isaiah is asked if he is willing to respond even before he is told what he is responding to. “Who should I send? Who will go for us?” God doesn’t mention a destination or a reason for the sending; and yet Isaiah replies: “I’ll go! Send me!”
I wonder how many of us would respond that quickly to a blank call today? Don’t get me wrong, I know people who have packed up and moved because God directed them to do so. But there is a burning desire in us to know the details, to be able to asses and minimize the risks. In this regard, we are very much products of our culture my friends. Minimize risk, lower the potential for hurt/injury, relegate the chance for a lawsuit.
For instance, the school my girls attend has a play structure in the playground. The kids are not allowed to use it from the time the first snowflake hits the ground (even if it is in October) until the snow completely melts. All because someone might slip and might get hurt. Makes me mad! We’ve minimized childhood right out of our kids lives. Sorry, a little rant there…I’m ok now.
But no where does God promise to reduce risk and minimize the potential for hurt for those who follow him. In fact, I’ve been doing a bit of reading lately on the Biblical concept of suffering and the value it produces in our spiritual lives. For instance, C.S. Lewis writes:
The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
That thirst for security that Lewis talks about is often what holds us back from wholeheartedly submitting to God, especially in those moments when following him looks uncomfortable or potentially dangerous. Of course, Lewis’ response to such hesitancy would be that we hesitate to follow God because we do not truly believe him and rest in his ability to carry out his plans. If we truly believed that, we would have no problem following Jesus literally to hell and back.
These thoughts remind me of this scripture from Luke 9:
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
I have often thought that Jesus’ words here are kind of harsh…but the more time I spend thinking about what following Jesus means, the more I realize that Jesus is just being truthful here. There is truthfully nothing that should get in the way or come before our obedience in following Jesus. That’s the picture painted here. “Jesus I want to follow you.” “OK, but know that following me means leaving comfort behind”
“Jesus I will follow you, but first I have to…”
It is so critical for us to understand these truths as Christ-followers in today’s Canadian culture, because the time is soon coming when holding to our faith is going to be risky, unpredictable and probably dangerous. We must have the immediate response to God’s call that Isaiah displays, regardless of where that call take us.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Amos 1-5