The Response to God
Tim Temple

Introduction

From the beginning of time, philosophers have asked the question, and common people have too, “What is the purpose of man? Why are we here? Why have we found ourselves on this planet at this time, and what is it all about anyway?” As simplistic as it may sound, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was the greatest philosopher who ever lived, the one who originated all philosophy in the first place, answered that question in the course of a prayer that He prayed, which is recorded in John, chapter 17. He prayed this prayer during the last few hours of His life on this earth, and in it He summarized His life and the work that He had come to accomplish. As He began the prayer, He made the statement that we want to think about in verse 3:

John 17

3And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Here is the Lord Jesus Christ talking to His own Father. At first glance this verse seems to be talking about salvation, and it is, but remember that this was spoken in the context of a conversation between the members of the Godhead—God the Father, God the Son communing with each other. So, actually what Jesus was talking about here was a quality of life. It includes Heaven and what we think of as eternal life, but what Jesus is asking the Father to reveal to us is that it is much more than just going to Heaven. It includes Heaven and what we think of as salvation. Notice what Jesus says about eternal life: “This is life eternal. Not just that they may go to Heaven, but that they may know you.”

The wonderful thing is that God has made it possible for us to know Him before we ever get to Heaven. Obviously, knowing God includes salvation and understanding of salvation, receiving salvation, but to know God in the sense that Jesus was talking about in His prayer is to have eternal life even while we are here on earth. That is entirely possible, because God has made it possible to know Him long before we ever get to Heaven. This verse tells us that the purpose of man, the purpose of life, is to know God. All other purposes that we may arrange for our lives fall into place around that. The ultimate purpose that God has for you and for me is to come to know Him, and to know Him is life eternal. The man or woman who does not know God is really living a useless life, a life that might as well be on the junk heap.

In this series of studies the last several weeks, we have been talking about some knowledge of Himself that God has made available to us. To really know someone involves more than just the knowledge that you may have about that other person. It involves interaction with that person on the basis of that knowledge. Interaction is the key to knowing another person, and in that very same sense, interaction is the key to knowing God. To really know God, we have to do something with the knowledge of Himself that He has revealed to us.

As we come to the concluding study in our series about knowing God and about being people who know their God, we want to talk about our response to God. During the past thirteen weeks we have looked at a lot of fascinating information—a lot of important information that God has revealed to us about Himself. That information will be useless to you—it might as well never been given—if we don't interact with that information, if we do not have the kind of response to God that He anticipates we have, as He gave us that information.

How are we supposed to respond to the knowledge of God? To answer that question, we want to look at some people who are recorded in Scripture who have the knowledge of God given to them in a dramatic kind of a way. The knowledge of God that we have received has not been so dramatic as these, but it still is the knowledge of God, and the response that these people had ought to be the response that we have to God.

Isaiah's Vision of God

Turn to Isaiah, chapter 6. We want to look at it in some detail, this morning. Notice in Isaiah, chapter 6, beginning with verse 1:

Isaiah 6

1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
2Above it stood the seraphims [angels] : each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
3And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
4And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
8Also 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.

The first thing that we want to notice, as we look at this passage in some detail, is the vision of God that Isaiah had in verses 1 and 2. It is important for us to notice that, first of all, this vision came at a particular time in Isaiah's life. Before he sees the vision, we had a prelude to the vision, referred to in the first part of verse 1. It says there: “In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up.” This would have been a very significant time in the life of Isaiah—in the year king Uzziah died—because Uzziah was the only king of Israel that Isaiah had ever known. He had been on the throne before Isaiah was even born. All of Isaiah's life Uzziah had been the king of Israel. Isaiah was probably a young man in his early twenties at the time he had this vision.

In that society in Israel, and in any monarchy, the king was everything. History has shown, and the Bible records not only of Israel but other nations also, that as the king goes, so goes the nation when the king has absolute authority. Naturally, Isaiah would have been concerned about what was going to happen to the country, what was going to happen to his nation, and as a young man just getting started in life, what was going to happen to him? What kind of king would replace Uzziah? What lay ahead for their nation?

A Desire to Know God

It is important to notice that it was in that context that God revealed Himself to Isaiah. It was in that context of concern and questioning that God spoke to Isaiah in this vision. That reminds us of the fact that to see God as He really is involves a desire on our part. You will never come to know God in the fullness with which He wants you to know Him if you approach it simply as an academic exercise. If you want to know more about God just because it is a subject of interest to you or to other people, you may learn the academic facts about God, but you're not going to learn God in a way in which you can interact with Him on a meaningful basis until you come to that place where you have a deep desire to know more about God.

In fact, that's why God sometimes allows us to go through times of testing and trial, so that in those times of deepest need, we will look up and will see Him. But, for whatever reason, whether it is the joy of coming to think about Him more closely as we are reminded of His greatness and His personal goodness to us or whether it is a time of testing and need, a time in our life when we realize that you must have more of Him, whatever it is, if we will turn our eyes upon Jesus, God will respond to us and give us a knowledge of Himself.

This is illustrated not only in Isaiah, chapter 6, but very forcefully in the life of Moses as is recorded in Exodus, chapter 3. That story, you will remember, involves the fact that Moses was keeping the sheep of his father-in-law. One day, in the course of his duties, he saw a bush that was burning. The thing that fascinated Moses about that bush is that although it was burning, it was not consumed. It just kept on burning. It tells us in Exodus, chapter 3, that Moses said, “I am going to stop and look at this bush that is burning and not being consumed.” Verse 4 of chapter 3 tells us that when the LORD saw that he turned to look, He spoke to him out of the burning bush.

I think the implication is very clear that if Moses had not stopped to look at that incident, God would not have spoken to him. The thing to keep in mind there is that as Moses lived on the backside of the desert, he was in that kind of condition. There were bushes somewhat like tumbleweeds that would sometimes catch on fire by spontaneous combustion, so this was not something that he had never seen before, but what he had not seen was a bush that just kept on burning. Even though it was unusual, it was not the most unusual thing that Moses had ever seen, but God was waiting to see if Moses paid attention to something a little different that God put into his life.

I believe that many times God brings things into our lives that may be just a little bit out of the ordinary. Many times we wait for some great revelation from God, some sign in the sky or some voice from Heaven. God more often speaks to us in the ordinary events of life or in those things that are just a little bit unordinary. I believe that many times we miss the opportunity to know God more fully, we miss the opportunity to see a revelation of God in our lives, because we don't stop to look at the things that He brings into our lives. Every aspect of our lives ought to be looked at as a sign of something that God might be wanting to tell us. Everything that is the least bit unusual in our lives should not be taken for granted, but should be looked at carefully.

The Person In the Vision

Coming back to Isaiah, chapter 6, we see the person in the vision. We talked about the prelude to the vision, but in the second part of verse 1, we have the person of the vision. Notice what Isaiah says in verse 1:

Isaiah 6

1…I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…

Isaiah says, “In the year that king Uzziah died, when I was in need, when I was willing to think about God, God revealed himself to me. I saw the Lord high and lifted up.” The verse goes on to describe the throne of God and its beautiful surroundings—a summary of the things that we have been talking about in this series: the majesty of God, the power of God, the holiness of God, the omniscience of God, the omnipresence of God. All of these things that God reveals to us in the Word about himself, Isaiah saw in visual form. He saw the Lord high and lifted up.

The Voices In the Vision

Moving on in the passage, in verses 3-5, we have recorded for us some voices that were a part of the vision. The first voice was the voice of the seraphim. In verse 2 he saw the seraphim and in verse 3 we read:

Isaiah 6

3And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

Think about the majesty of the holiness of the throne room of God. Again I remind you of those things that we have seen that God reveals to us about himself—how He not only put the stars in place, not only created everything that was created, but that He keeps those things going. He not only created us, but He sustains us, and that calls for a continual reminder of the holiness of God by these angels.

The second voice is the voice of Isaiah himself, and we come to the core of the passage. Look at verse 5:

Isaiah 6

5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

Think very carefully about this. You see, when Isaiah saw God as God really is, he then was able to see himself as he really was. That always ought to be the reaction to the knowledge of God that we have. The more we know of God, the more we know of ourselves. The more we see of God, the more we see of our own shortcomings of God's glory. I hope, as you reflect on these studies that we have had these past weeks, that you will have the same reaction. If you haven't had that reaction, I hope you will take the time to think back through this information.

I say that because it is not my information. I have simply presented to you the various things that the Scripture says about God, and not all of those, I am sure. Take the time to think about what God's Word reveals about Himself. If you will see God as God reveals Himself to be, you will see yourself as you really are, and you will not like what you see. Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone.”

God's Revelation to Peter

Turn to Luke, chapter 5, because in this chapter Peter had this same kind of experience. Peter had a similar experience as recorded in Luke, chapter 5, verse 8. This is the story of how Peter and some of the other disciples and some other people had been fishing all night. They were commercial fishermen, and they had not caught any fish. As the morning dawned, they were out by the seashore tending their nets, getting ready to put them away for the next night's fishing. The Lord Jesus appeared on the scene with a crowd of people following Him. Jesus, of course, having created nature, knew that the best way for people to be able to hear Him was for Him to stand in the boat a little way from shore. The acoustics of the oceanside there would make it possible for the people to hear Him better. He asked Peter to let Him stand in his boat to preach. There was such a huge crowd there that they were just backing Jesus out into the water. Peter rowed out just a few feet from the shore, letting Jesus stand in the boat to preach, and Jesus preached a great sermon there.

After the people had disbanded, Jesus said to Peter, “Launch out into the deep.” This was sort of a present that Jesus was going to give to Peter for having let Him use his boat, I suppose. You remember they launched out into the deep. Jesus said, “Let down your nets.” Peter, of course, being the expert in the boat, said, “Lord, we have fished all night and we have caught nothing.” Jesus didn't say anything, as the Scripture records, but I can just imagine the look that He may have given them. Peter said, “Nevertheless, at Thy word we will let down the nets.” Peter was being so polite. He was being so condescending. “Lord, we are the experts here and we can't catch fish here. We have just been out there all night, but if you say so, we will let down the nets.”

Of course, when they did let down the nets, the Scripture records, they drew in so many fish that they had to call the nearby boats to help them get their fish into the boats, and the boats almost sank. It was an obvious miracle, and when He did that Peter reacted in the way that we see recorded in verse 8:

Luke 5

8When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

You see what God had done in Peter's life. He had done something that was obviously the work of God. In Peter's case, it was an obvious miracle. It was an astonishing thing. These were waters that these professional fishermen had fished in all night with no catch at all. Suddenly there were so many fish the boats were about to sink. That was in the same place not many hours later, and it was not just a matter of Jesus being a better fisherman than Peter was. Peter knew that this was God Who had done that.

God's Revelation to Moses

Keep in mind that when God revealed Himself to Moses, He did it in a way that was just a little bit out of the ordinary. When He revealed Himself to Peter, it was a miraculous way. The way that He reveals Himself to you may be one or the other, or somewhere in between those, but be on the lookout for God to show Himself to you. It may be as you read the Scripture. God will speak to you through His Holy Spirit, with the power, the beauty, the majesty, and the supernaturalness of a passage of Scripture. God will reveal Himself to you. It may be in the illness of a child. It may be in the victory of a business contact. It could be in a hundred different ways, but God speaks to us in His own perfect way, in the way that He knows will best accommodate us. Be on the lookout for God to reveal Himself. When He does, be ready, because your reaction is going to be what Moses' reaction was, what Isaiah's reaction was, what Peter's reaction was: “I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Peter said, “I can't even be in your presence, You are so holy, and I am so sinful.”

The overall results of all that is down in verse 11:

Luke 5

11And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

I have heard the last part of that verse all of my life: “They forsook all, and followed him.” I have heard great sermons preached on that. I hate to admit this to you, but maybe it will make you feel a little better to know that it was not until about a week or so ago that I noticed the context from which that great statement was made. They had just seen more fish caught in a few minutes than they had seen in their entire lives. They had found a way to become billionaires in the fishing business, if they could just keep Jesus in the boat with them, but what does it say? “They forsook all and followed Him.” You see, when you see God as He really is, nothing else will matter.

In this particular case, some of these men quit fishing professionally; but, interestingly enough, some of them went back to fishing. This same thing may be true of you. When God speaks to you and when you see God as He really is, nothing else will be any more important than that, but you may go back to work the next day and keep doing the same thing that you have been doing, but the job will never be the same again.

Seeing Ourselves as We Really Are

God may speak to you in such a way that He will say to you, as He said to Peter, “From now on you will be fishers of men.” He may give you a different vocation, but the important thing is that we need to see God as He really is, because then we see ourselves as we really are, and then our lives fall into place, and we leave all, in a sense, to follow Jesus. Our priorities are different. Our motivation is different, and though we may keep on doing the same activities, the whole order of things is different if we can come to see God as He really is. The more we know of Him, the more we desire to follow Him.

Going back to Isaiah, chapter 6, another thing we want to notice is verse 5. When Isaiah saw the Lord, he saw himself as he really was. He said:

Isaiah 6

5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…

Seminary students have debated all down through the years what that phrase means. I think that it is a figurative phrase. I think that it just means that it was a way of saying that he had just seen his life. Maybe it was the way that he talked. Maybe he talked too harshly, or maybe he used too much profanity, but I don't think that it really is as important what the sin was as the fact that he saw that he was a sinful man.

There is something else here that I want you to notice. It is in the next phrase of verse 5:

Isaiah 6

5…and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

He goes on to certify that the reason that he understands this is that his eyes had seen the King, the LORD of hosts .

When you come to see God as He really is, you will be able to see yourself as you really are; but something that is almost as important is that you will also begin to see the needs of the people around you. I believe the implication of this text is, and it is borne out in other portions of the Scripture, that we really don't see the needs of others until we see our own need. We don't really have compassion, we don't really have a heart for the lost until we really understand what sinners we are and how we have fallen short of the glory of God, and we understand God's grace reaching out to us individually—to me, to you. “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among people of unclean lips.”

I think one of the reasons that we have such a hard time seeing what our own needs are is that so often they are the needs of people around us. Isaiah was a man of unclean lips—whatever that meant—but he was among people of unclean lips. Whatever his problem was, it was the same problem as theirs.

Recognizing Needs of Others

It is so easy for us, even as Christians, to get caught up in the world's mold and in the activities and the attitudes of the world. We don't want to admit that, but sometimes God brings us to the place where we see Him high and lifted up, so that we will see that. We know Him as our Savior. We are His child, but we have let the world determine how we live. If you can come to the place where you can see God high and lifted up, you will see your own needs; and therefore, you will also see the needs of the people around you.

Let me digress here for a minute to say, as we reach out to people around us, as we try to minister, as we try to witness to other people, never forget that our needs are the same as theirs. The only difference between you and that sinner that you are trying to witness to, the only difference between you and that Christian you are trying to witness to, is that your sins have been confessed, you have been delivered, you have been saved, and you are in fellowship with God. That is the only difference. You and I are sinners just as much as the people we are trying to reach out to. We are people of unclean lips, and they are people of unclean lips. The difference is that God forgives our sin when we call out to Him.

Someone said, “Being a witness to Jesus Christ is simply one beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread.” We only tend to realize that as we see the Lord high and lifted up.

Confession Brings Forgiveness

Verses 6 and 7, in Isaiah, chapter 6, tell us that as soon as Isaiah vocalized his situation, he was touched with God's forgiveness. In verse 6, after Isaiah had just said this in verse 5, we read:

Isaiah 6

6Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
7And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

When Isaiah realized that he was a man of unclean lips, when he made this statement, God sent one of the angels, symbolically. This is a vision. This is not technically speaking, what happens when we acknowledge our sins; but for the purposes of the vision, and for purposes of the demonstration, an angel immediately flew to Isaiah, touched his lips, touched him in the area of need. This is a beautiful picture of what confession of sin and forgiveness of sin really is. Confessing our sins is simply a matter of naming the sin. Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips,” and immediately God spoke to that need and met it in the area of the need. The coal was placed on his lips, because that was the area of his need.

Confession of sin gets a bad rap, I think, with a lot of people. We think that in order to confess, we have to get down on our knees and grovel before God and weep and cry, plead for forgiveness and promise not to do it again. Some people may do that when they confess, and it is sincere; but listen, confession of sin is exactly what we see Isaiah doing in Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 5—simply saying, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Confession of sin is to simply say, “God, you have said that this is sin, and I agree with you, and I am guilty of this sin,” whatever the sin may be. That is what confession is.

There is something else I want to call to your attention from this verse. Where did we see the seraphim before this verse? We saw the seraphim circling the throne room of Heaven, crying out, “Holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.” He was praising God. In this vision, the activity of Heaven was interrupted for forgiveness of Isaiah's sin. In fact, more specifically than that, not only the activity of Heaven, but the activity of praising God was interrupted for Isaiah's sin to be forgiven. Isaiah's confession was important enough to interrupt that.

Confession Comes Before Worship

There is another important lesson there, and that is that even praise of God is not as important as confession of our sins. In fact, in Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus, in the course of teaching people, said, “If you come to the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave the altar and go make it right with your brother, then come and worship.” You see, worship is not as important to God as confession of sin, as making things right. Of course, that is because worship is meaningless and hollow to God if we are worshiping Him with sin in our hearts. Without confession of sin, worship means nothing.

If you are here today because it is just the thing to do on Sunday, if you are here today and are going through the motions and you have sin in your heart, that is all it is. It is just going through the motions. God wants us to come and worship Him. God appreciates that. God says it is like sweet-smelling perfume that comes before Him when we gather to worship Him, but if you have sin in your lives that you have not dealt with, if you are a man of unclean lips and have not confessed that to God, then everything that you do regarding worship is meaningless and unimportant to God. It means nothing to God.

What you need to do, perhaps right now, is to cry out to God, confess that sin to God, so your worship will be meaningful to God. You see, nothing is more important, not even praise unto God is more important than that we confess our sins and be made right with God. I John, chapter 1, verse 9, says:

I John 1

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

These things are addressed to believers in Jesus Christ, but the same principle is true if you may be here and have not trusted Christ as your Savior. Confessing has no place until you accept the fact that Jesus Christ died in your place and that as He died on the Cross that day, He was paying for sins that we would someday commit. When you come to that place and say, “Yes, God, I realize that Christ died for me,” that is when salvation takes place. Certainly, the worship activities that we do before that are meaningless and unimportant to God. It may be that you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, and these things that I have said about confession of sin go double for you. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. You can do this right now, right where you sit. Accept the fact that Christ died in your place.

Our Call to Service

Coming back again to Isaiah, chapter 6, there is one last thing to notice. Look at verse 8. Isaiah says:

Isaiah 6

8Also 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.

Here is the third voice in the passage. We heard the voice of God, and we heard the voice of the angels, and now we hear the voice of Isaiah. Notice the wording of the first part of verse 8: “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying…” You see, God was already in the process of saying this, but Isaiah didn't hear it until his sin was confessed and things were made right with God.

There are a lot of Christians who wonder what the Lord wants them to do. They wonder what God's will is. God is saying what His will is, but those Christians can't hear it, because they are living in sin. Once Isaiah confessed his sin, he was able to hear what God was saying. With his heart right with God and a renewed vision of God, Isaiah was willing to volunteer for the ministry without even a job description. Did you notice that? In verse 8, he says, “Here am I; send me.” God hadn't even said what He wanted to send him for or where He wanted to send him. Do you know what? If your motive is to please God, if your motive is to follow Him, it doesn't matter what the job description is.

People talk about being called to the mission field or called to the ministry, and I appreciate that. I don't mean this critically of people who say that. They say it sincerely, but God calls us to Himself. God doesn't call us primarily to the pastorate or to the mission field or to anything else. He calls us to Himself. If we will come to Him, if we will focus our eyes upon Him, if we will see Him high and lifted up and honor Him as the majestic God of the universe that He is, He will take care of the job description. It won't matter if you do go to the mission field if your call is not first to Him. If your call is first to Him, then it won't matter whether you are a salesman or a plumber or a doctor or a foreign missionary; it will all be serving Him. God's call is to Himself. The day-to-day activities will take care of themselves after that.

Conclusion

I hope that during the past thirteen weeks of this study you have seen the Lord. We have presented Him in great detail. I hope that it hasn't just been academic for you. We have talked about His love on one end of the scale and about His wrath on the other end of the scale. We have tried to talk about the things in between that He reveals to us about Himself. We have seen that because of Who and what He is, He is sufficient for every need that we might have, and that He has promised to meet all of those needs. He has revealed Himself to us. What is your reaction to that? What is your action going to be?


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