In his Lockdown Homily 112, Rev John Aitchison writes: “One of the dangers of our reverence for the Bible scriptures is that we often hear single verses told to us or used out of their original context. This is not to say that very short passages cannot move our hearts, comfort us, and be God’s word to us. They can, but we still have to be wary of not actually fully hearing the original divine message.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then said I, “Here am I; send me.”
An inspiring call to us to dedicate ourselves to God’s work! Yes. It does that task brilliantly. It was also used, and I think appropriately, by the State President some time ago as a call to encourage citizens to work for the good of South Africa – “Thuma mina. Send me.”
But there is a sting in the tail. That verse is the prophet Isaiah’s response to an awesome vision of the divine in the temple in Jerusalem and some kind of cleansing of Isaiah’s sinfulness. But the next verses are devastating:
The Lord said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate; until the Lord sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land. Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.
In other words Isaiah’s prophetic ministry is going to be an utter failure because the people are not going to listen to the warnings from the Lord and the disaster is going to come. They are not going to hear and change. We really need to read the whole chapter to get the whole story (and Yes, there is a slight promise in the last sentence).
[And incidentally, this same passage was quoted by Jesus, in his explaining the parable of the sower, as an indication that many would not listen to his parables and teaching (Matthew 13:14-15).]
The prophets are a tough lot. They were given an almost unbearable message and they spoke it bravely with no hope of reward or success. But they can be with us in our own situations if we are to look unflinchingly into dark days ahead. And then we too can, knowing the truth and the difficulty, and with open eyes, say, “Thuma mina.””
On Sunday I preached of how we are the “SEED” that God scatters lavishly upon the world. Like the Prophets much of what we do and say, falls on deaf ears, meets with criticism, is ignored, and while we know we have the way the truth and the life, bearing this truth does not always seen to have the desired results. The life of the Prophets reminds us that God knows the stubbornness of our hearts. God is not surprised that we are all arguing over how to deal with life in these adverse conditions, and he is not surprised that instead of turning to God, we want out beer and cigarettes and our individual rights.
The Prophets were sent out, the seed was scattered, and God warns that in our eyes, success may not be achieved. The things we measure might paint a grim picture. But God assures us that in our own lives and in the world, God’s message will always find some fertile ground and take root. In a Roman world that tried its best to destroy Christianity, the “way” took root and bore fruit! When the Vandals came and carried Christians off into Europe as slaves, they were like seed and Europe heard the word, through the lives of God’s people. Wars and Warlords and evil ideologies have challenged the people of God in every generation, driving the church underground, persecuting Christians and providing a rocky thorny and trampled on environment for Christians to live in – but in every generation people have heard the call and said – Here I am Lord send me – like seed among the thorns and thistles and adversities of life. I seek not success, but faithfulness.
Elijah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Solomon, St Paul, they all reached a point where they worried that their life was meaningless. Where success seemed to elude them. But they kept on trusting and they held onto faith. through their faithfulness, though they never saw the reward ( as we are reminded in Hebrews 11:13 ) we have inherited faith. So let us strive to continue to live as God has called us to and hold onto the promises of God.
We are prophets to the world, the testing of our faith in these troubled times is a witness to the world. How we behave, endure, hope, live with joy and face reality, this si the prophetic world to the world that God is with us.
Here I am Lord Send me!