How did God call Isaiah to be a prophet?

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The Lord gave Isaiah a vision calling him to the prophetic office in the year that king Uzziah ended his long reign of 52 years around 740/739 B.C. God furnished Isaiah with a message of rebuke to Israel. It was a time of crisis. The Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III reigned in 745 and started a conquest of Western Asia. During these campaigns Uzziah the opposer of Assyria died. Thus, Assyria seemed invincible. It was a matter of time before Judah would be overcome and Assyria would control of the world.

Isaiah’s vision

Isaiah wrote of the vision God showed him at his initial calling.  “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3).

The Lord gave Isaiah this vision to help him realize that in spite of all the might of Assyria, He was still supreme upon His throne and in control of the world. Other prophets received similar visions like Moses (Exodus 24:10), Micaiah (1 Kings 22:19), Amos (ch 9:1), Daniel (ch. 7:9) Ezekiel (ch. 1:1; 10:1–5) and the apostle John (Revelation 4:1–6). When dangers surround God’s people and evil seems about to triumph, God gives His faithful servants visions of Him seated upon His throne. God alone directs the affairs of the world and encourages His prophets with hope.

The prophet’s dismay

When Isaiah found himself in the awesome presence of a holy God, he became profoundly aware of his own imperfection of character. Thus, he declared “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips… Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:5-7). Also, the coal from the altar represented the cleansing and purifying power of God’s forgiveness of sin. Just as when something is refined by fire, so can we be assured that our sin is completely removed when God takes is away (Psalm 103:12, 1 John 1:9).

God’s call

After being purified, Isaiah heard a voice saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” And He said, “Go, and tell this people… (Isaiah 6:8-10). Isaiah’s answer was immediate and without hesitation. Like Paul, Isaiah had a great burden to free Israel from the bondage of sin (Romans 10:1). Isaiah realized that God’s judgement would fall upon His people and he wanted to warn them before it was too late.  So, the Lord gave him a message of warning and also of hope.  He desired Israel to have a vision of the love and sacredness of God that they may repent.

Like many other prophets, Isaiah had a hard mission ahead of him. The Lord revealed to him that his message would be largely rejected, much like the ministry of Jesus (Matthew 13:14, 15; John 12:37–41) and that of Paul (Acts 28:26, 27). However, the prophet was given the confirmation that his work would not be completely fruitless. There would be a remnant who would return to God (Isaiah 1:9; 6:13; 10:21).

Just as in Isaiah’s time, God calls us His people today to “go for Him.” Jesus declares that a remnant will remain faithful to Him amidst the most perilous of times, “…and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14). May we respond to this call as did Isaiah, “Here am I, send me.”

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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