A traditional Christian understanding of evangelism might involve the idea that one is sent to spread a message of hope to the lost. The good news of eternal life to the dying. To share of the saving mercy and grace of Jesus Christ available to all who believe, such that people will hear, and see, and understand, and be changed.
Isaiah’s conversion is astounding. In an apparent vision of unparalleled proportions, Isaiah sees the Lord Himself, exalted on His throne. Winged beasts announce the holiness of the King, and the atmosphere responds. At this, Isaiah recognizes his sinfulness. A great chasm stands between the perfection of the Holy One and the filth of the one witnessing His glory.
As Isaiah looks on in despair, he is gifted a complete and utter cleansing. No more guilt. His great sinfulness gone without so much as a plea.
The captivating narrative continues when the Lord Himself asks for an “evangelist.” Someone who will go and declare a message.
Isaiah hears himself say, “I’ll go. Send me.”
It is here that I anxiously await the message. I’m standing there with Isaiah, thinking, “Okay… Now You’re gonna tell him what to say to these people, right?”
“And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull, and their eyes heavy, and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Uh. Say what?
In a strange kind of “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” moment, Isaiah is charged with speaking so that they won’t hear or see.
Don’t tell them, Isaiah, or they might understand.
So much for a message that typical Christian evangelicalism would’ve claimed.
At least Isaiah responds the way that I would have.
“How long, O Lord?”
And this King sitting high on His throne says, in so many words, “Till I save whom I will save.”
“Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste,
and the Lord removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump.
Lessons from Isaiah on evangelism:
Go when God says go.
Say what God says to say.
And, in the end, God saves whom He will.
It’s that simple.
[image credit: wikipedia commons]