Zero Prophetic Experience

Read Isaiah 6.1-8

The prophet Isaiah has “Zero Prophetic Experience” when he hears the call of God. Like many other prophets, he is outside of the religious establishment, though some claim he was a priest. Nothing in the text would indicate this. Like other prophets, he is not a leader in the religious community.

Unlike many of the other prophets, Isaiah came from an upper class family. He was part of the court that ruled in Judah. Much of his prophetic message, however, was directed against the nobility — against the injustices he was close to, maybe even had a hand in. 

Notice that in the call of the prophet in chapter 6, God does not first target Isaiah. In verse 8, after the powerful vision of the winged seraphs, Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for me?”

Unlike the call of Jeremiah, where God has targeted someone even “before forming him in the womb,” there is an open-endedness to this call. You get the sense that God is saying, “There is a job that needs to be done, a message that needs to be delivered, who’s going to do it?”

Isaiah is the one who is listening. With much eagerness he responds, “Here am I, send me!” This eagerness is a stark contrast to the reluctance of other prophets. Remember how Jeremiah says, “O, Lord, but I am only a youth.” “Can’t you find someone else?” The prophet Jonah tires to run away from the call of God, not wanting to give Nineveh the chance to repent. There are many models for reluctant prophets, but Isaiah is one who willingly steps forward, who hears the call of God and says “Here am I, send me!”

Sometimes the call of God targets individuals. At other times, the call goes out and it’s up to us to respond. God leaves the question open, “Whom shall I send?” and waits to see who might step forward. Sometimes the call of God is quite clear and God gives us both the desire and the skills to follow through. The decisions we make, whether about our career or family life flow out of this natural sense of what’s best for us, what God would have us do.

Isaiah provides us with another model. God asks, “Whom shall I send?” It is Isaiah’s eagerness to serve that makes him the best candidate. There is no indication that God has been preparing him or that he’s known from day one what would be in store. Instead, quite suddenly he is caught up in a great, but terrifying vision, hears the call of God and responds.

Isaiah responds “Here I Am, Lord, send me.” Even before he knows what he’s getting into. He doesn’t know where this call will lead him. There is a great element of risk involved in this decision, this commitment to step forward.  Faith always involves risk. To keep moving forward, following in the step of Christ, the only guarantee we have is that God goes with us. Though Isaiah began with “zero prophetic experience,” his willingness to serve and his faith and trust in God made all the difference.

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