The Challenge of Service
Isaiah 6:8
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.

I. THE CHALLENGE. "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" The Lord's ordinary manner of appointing His messengers is to select them Himself, and without consulting them send them to do their work. He commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh with every consideration for Jonah's fitness, and no consideration for Jonah's tastes. The work is always more important than the man, for the man has a brief life, and the work is immortal. It ought not, therefore, to be expected that the Lord should regard anything in choosing a servant for duty but that servant's qualifications for the duty. But there are exceptions to this rule of selection for work. When the task is a peculiarly hazardous one; when the performance of it demands the highest attributes of the intellect, the rarest qualities of the heart, and an extraordinary stimulus of inspiration, it is better that these gifts should go to the work under the impulse of a self-moving passion rather than under the enforcement of command. The General of an army wisely relaxes the routine discipline of duty when in the fortunes of the campaign the troops have to face the desperate service of some forlorn hope. "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" is the proclamation from the Commander's tent, and a storming party of volunteers is told off, to mount the breach and take the van of danger.

1. In the year that King Uzziah died it seemed as if the last hope of the people of God had expired with him.

2. The nature of the work may be inferred from the condition of the people. They were an old and not a young nation: they were wicked and not ignorant: the two fountains of power, the Church and the State, were corrupt at their sources, authority of every kind was on the side of licentiousness; and since, with all this, the outward forms of order and of piety were preserved, the people grew up to be as remarkable for their hypocrisy as for their immorality. It has always been supposed that, whether in the case of a nation, or an individual, suffering is a powerful moralist; and that a mind which is proof against the humbling and cleansing effects of pain is reprobate and beyond redemption. The people of Israel and Judah had been punished by every species of chastisement; invasion, captivity, pestilence, famine, and sword, nothing that a people loves or a man cherishes had been left untouched; from the sole of the nation's foot to the crown of her head, the lash of retribution had been laid on so heavily that nothing was to be seen but "wounds and bruises and putrifying sores." Yet they continued to revolt more and more. This was the state of things for which the Lord demanded a voluntary workman. Who will be a bearer of evil tidings? who will reprove kings for My sake? Who will expose and denounce wickedness in high places? Who will proclaim the insincerity of the priests, their robbery of the flock, and the fiction of their ceremonial? Who will go to the market places and declare the dishonesty of their traffic? Who will beard the army and charge the soldiers with cowardice and treason? Who will be hated of all men, and be the victim of the conspiracies of the crafty, of the insults of the street rabble, and of the desertion of false and incompetent friends? Who will endure to fail; to be simply a witness; to speak without convincing; to sow without a harvest?

3. The voice of the Lord cries loudly in the midst of the Churches of today, inviting voluntary service for difficult work; missionary work abroad and missionary work at home.

II. THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE CHALLENGE, "Here am I; send me." Looking at this acceptance by itself, it seems an extraordinary sacrifice on the part of Isaiah. He was a youth, probably not more than eighteen or nineteen, when he answered the Lord's challenge; he was a member of the first circle of the Jewish aristocracy, and, according to some authorities, a prince of the royal blood. He was nurtured in the soft and sumptuous luxuriance of palaces. There had been in his training everything to satisfy sense and to kindle ambition. Having great natural parts and a fine genius, and commanding both means and leisure, the career of a great State ruler, or a Church dignitary, or the easy splendour of an intellectual voluptuary, any or all of these distinctions were within reach of the gifted kinsman of Uzziah. Youth as he was, his social position and quick observation enabled him to appreciate the service demanded in the challenge. He knew the people to whom the message would be sent; he conjectured what the character of that message would be; and what kind of service awaited the man who should deliver it; that it would be hard, unthankful, and dangerous; and yet this youth, born to be a fine gentleman, accepted a task which might well have made the strongest and most experienced natures shrink, "Here am I; send me!" Let us seek the explanation of this simplicity, devotion, and courage in that which went before the acceptance of the challenge.

(E. Jenkins, LL. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: I heard the Lord's voice, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here I am. Send me!"

The Call of God
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