When Does Worship Happen?

Isaiah 6:1-8 – Many worship leaders have used the Scripture passage for today’s scripture reading as a call to worship.  Certainly that is fitting, especially when we get a clear picture in mind for what worship is all about.  In our culture, worship tends to be seen as a cultural event aimed at the people.  We see worship as the opening event of a new week.  We worship to get “filled” with something of the Divine for the week ahead. 

 What if we saw worship at the last event of a week – a time to reflect and revel in the blessing of God’s love and grace  at work in our lives in the day most recent.  What if worship could serve as a reminder that the Incarnate God remains with us daily?  What if the Gospel was not JUST about forgiveness – what if it were about LIFE in the here and now, cause our triune God is with us NOW, in this very moment, as we find ourselves adopted into the Divine life through our union with Jesus Christ the Son. 

 Isaiah 6:1-8 describes a vision of a young man named Isaiah who is called by Yahweh into prophetic ministry.  The setting for Isaiah’s call is the temple in Jerusalem.  It is “the year that King Uzziah died” (v 1), and Isaiah has joined the rest of the nation in mourning the death of the King.

 Uzziah, one of the most prominent leaders in the history of Israel, came to power at age 16 and reigned in Jerusalem for 52 years.  He was a good king who the Scriptures say “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.”  As he became older, however, the pride associated with his great power and success “led to his downfall.”

One day Uzziah took it upon himself to enter the temple to burn incense before the Lord.  This was a privilege reserved only for the priests.  Uzziah was stricken with leprosy and later died.  (See II Chronicles 26 for the story of Uzziah.)

 The death of a king in the ancient world was a very traumatic event.  The king was to the nation what a patriarch was to the family (Page Kelley, Broadman Bible Commentary:  Volume 5, Nashville:  Broadman Press, 1971, page 239).

 Uzziah’s presence had inspired the people with a sense of security and assurance. His death filled them with a sense of dread.  The feeling was only aggravated by the apparent weakness of Uzziah’s son at dealing with the international threats raised by Assyria.

 In the midst of this national turmoil, Yahweh makes a young man named Isaiah privy to a fantastic vision.  In the vision, Isaiah sees another king (Yahweh himself) seated upon a heavenly throne.  Uzziah may have been Israel’s king but Yahweh was Uzziah’s king.  Yahweh was Isaiah’s king.  Yahweh was Israel’s king.  Yahweh was the king of all creation.  And Yahweh was intimately connected to His creation.  God’s glory is manifest to Isaiah in the temple, but the text tells us that  His glory not only filled the temple but the whole earth (v 3). 

 Here’s the point.  The kings of Israel would come and go but the rein of Yahweh would be eternal.  The vision of Isaiah is quite compelling.  He saw Yahweh seated upon the throne of all creation.  Attending to Yahweh’s every demand were a host of amazing heavenly creatures.   With voices that caused the ground to quake, these unusual beings sang of Yahweh’s glory and holiness.

 It was an awesome experience and understandably caused young Isaiah to feel intimidated.  Standing in the very presence of the one who created and rules over the entire cosmos can make one aware of one’s shortcomings and mortality.

In response to all that was taking place about him, Isaiah interrupted the heavenly choruses with a cry of grief concerning his sinfulness and rebellion. This confession prompts an action of divine mercy.  One of the heavenly attendants flies to the prophet with a hot coal taken from the altar and touches the prophet’s lips declaring that by this act, Isaiah’s sins are forgiven.

Cleansed of his sin by this act of divine mercy, Isaiah again turns his attention toward the heavenly court.  Yahweh is in the process of seeking out  servant from his heavenly court to take his message to the people of Israel.  Overwhelmed by both the gift of grace that he has received and the continued vision of Yahweh’s power and glory, Isaiah is unable to contain himself.  Again he interrupts the heavenly court by volunteering his services.  “Here am I,” he says, “send me” (v 8).

Upon hearing Isaiah’s commitment to go, Yahweh responds to his willing servant by commissioning him to bring God’s message to the nation of Israel (vv 9-13).  Worship has that kind of effect.  It makes ministry a want to, not a have to.

About 12 years ago, when living in Charlotte, NC.  I found myself frustrated and hurting.  I had done everything I knew to do as a pastor to help the church I served to grow, but nothing seemed to work.  The church was filled with all sorts of ugly conflict and no words I was saying or deeds I was doing seemed to be making a difference.  In fact, I was probably making things worse.

 I found myself in prayer – the dark night of the soul kind of prayer.  Sitting on the floor, in a darkened office, I wept before God saying, “God, I don’t know what you want from me.  I have done everything I know to do.  Please tell me what you want from me.”

In the moments that followed, I heard God reply in the silence of my heart.  “You are my child.  I love you.  I don’t want anything from you.  I just want you.  I love you!”

These moments of worship began a time of transition in my life and ministry.  In those moments I realized that I was loved by God because it was God’s nature to love.  I realized that if I never preached another sermon, never fed another hungry person, never visited another homebound person, never said another prayer, never went to church again, never ever opened my Bible again, I was still God’s child and dearly loved.

My reaction to all this was similar to that of Isaiah.  Overwhelmed by the message of grace and my adoption into God’s family, I now had differing motivation.  I didn’t feel obligated to God.  I felt passionate about God.  I wanted to preach.  I wanted to feed the hungry.  I wanted to visit folks, care for their needs, participate in worship, read the Bible, and pray without ceasing.

 And encounter with God will do this kind of thing.

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