I have a special place in my heart for Isaiah. When Greg Stier, president and founder of Dare2Share ministries told me and three thousand other people about Isaiah’s radical encounter with God in chapter 6, it won me to Christ. So I come back to this narrative all the time to remind myself “I’m ruined for Christ.”
But as I was reading it today something else occurred to me. Before now, I have always read Isaiah 6 as the prophet’s FIRST encounter with the living Spirit of God but that can’t be true. In ancient Israel, a prophet did not speak, he did not get up and address the crowd saying “thus saith the LORD thy God” without being anointed and already having an encounter. You see, according to the Law, a prophet MUST be tested and every prophecy weighed. If it is found lacking then the person who claims to have heard from the Lord is in all kinds of trouble. Which means no prophet would speak out unless he or she actually heard from the Lord and had at least some kind of encounter with him.
My guess (and this is just a guess) is that Isaiah encountered the Lord for the first time when studying the scriptures. I suppose this because most of Isaiah’s early prophecies have to do with the sins of Israel and the conflict that creates between God and his chosen people. He brings it to a close in chapter five with his “woes”
“Woe to those who add house to house and field to field….Woe to those who rise early in pursuit of beer…Woe to those who drag wickedness with chords of deceit and pull sin along with cart ropes…Woe to those who call evil good….”
And then in chapter 6, Isaiah stumbles upon the Throne and is always the case, his overwhelming kindness brings us to our knees in repentance. “Woe to me” cries the prophet, “for I am a man of unclean lips.” I don’t think Isaiah was talking about using bad words. I think he’s talking about how he allowed his interpretation of Scriptures determine what needed to be said, instead of listening to the Father for what needed to be heard. This is the really the key difference between finding knowledge and understanding in the printed words of the bible, as opposed to finding wisdom revealed through an impartation of the living spirit.
I ask myself – do I say what needs saying or do I say what needs to be heard?