Hearing the Call

What to do, what to do? You see your family, friends, loved ones, neighbors, your nation, sliding headlong to Hell. What do you do? You want to tell them, “Here is the path, walk this way.” You have the Word of God that can guide them, can you just tell them, like the prophets of old? Do you just sit by and watch the magnificent decent like Lot in Sodom? Maybe like Jonah you run the other way to escape the call. Maybe like Moses you want to argue with God, and give excuses, even suggest substitutes.

How does an ordinary person, minding his own business one moment, become a prophet the next, called by God to deliver a message? Is it in a dream, is it a lightning bolt from the sky? With Moses it was a singular event, seeing as he walked along a bush engulfed in flame but not burning. With Paul it was a literal light from the sky and a voice – everyone around saw it, though only Paul heard anything. The most amusing call was Samuel, who heard his name and rushed three times to Eli to ask why he was calling to him, but Eli denied calling, and by the third time realized it was God talking to him. (1 Sam. 3)

But the most awesome calls are like Ezekiel and Isaiah. Either in a night dream or a waking dream they see an overwhelming, powerfully awesome vision of the glory of God. This is something I’d love to experience – shouldn’t we all? In the year of King 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, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
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 foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
Is. 6:1-4

And just like almost every encounter a human has before the face of God, the reaction is supremely humbling. Isaiah’s first response is of his own sinfulness before the majestic holiness of God. Then I said, “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.” verse 5. But God doesn’t leave him there wallowing in his sin, He raises him up and cleanses the vessel for a holy purpose. Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” verses 6 and 7.

Accepting the call of God to be His spokesman is a daunting task, full of peril, since no one likes to be told they are so irredeemable in spirit and behavior. People tend to get upset when they are degraded like that, kind of like fighting words. Such is the warning God gave Jeremiah in chapter 1: “Do not be afraid of them, For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. . . . gird up your loins and arise, and speak to them all which I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will dismay you before them. “Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests and to the people of the land. “They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD. But there is something in the invitation, a direct invitation from God that is irresistible. That’s what seeing the glory of the Lord face to face will do. It will take your life’s direction and move you 180 degrees in the other direction, such as Paul, who went from persecuting the Church to becoming its greatest protagonist.

The real conundrum is in waiting for a real call and being ready and willing to hear it.

Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]

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