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HOLY STUMP

February 21, 2016

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In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.
— Isaiah 6:1 NIV

Read Isaiah 6

Isaiah 6 is full of words we love to put on worship slides and Facebook. "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!" and "Here am I, send me!" 

The reason I'm asking you to read all of Isaiah 6 today is because this huge moment between Isaiah and Yahweh is not simply God exalted, which it is, nor simply Isaiah saying, "Here am I, send me," which it is, nor is it simply a moment where Isaiah realizes his sinfulness, which it is; but it is also a moment where Isaiah realizes the task Yahweh has for him is going to be hard.

How do I know this? The moment Isaiah says, "Here am I, send me!" Yahweh replies, "OK, go out and preach but people are not going to listen. They will act like they are listening but they'll be on their cell phones texting, and you know darn well they aren't really hearing you. They will give lip service to what you are saying about getting out of debt, but on the way home they'll charge one more impulse buy on their credit cards. 

So Isaiah wants to know how long people will have calloused hearts. He had already asked this in Isaiah 1. And in Yahweh's reply is a realization of Isaiah that he's in for a 50 year career of preaching to stubborn, stiff-necked people in times of prosperity in Judah, and something drastic is going to have to happen for them to truly come to terms with what he's preaching. 

"How long, O Lord?"

"Until the cities lie in ruin and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken."

But the end of chapter 6 strikes a hopeful note that is explained further in chapter 11. Over and over in Isaiah Yahweh pronounces doom on Judah; the same outcome as Israel to the North. Exile, ruin, punishment for their sins. But over and over Yahweh also jumps to the future; not the far future but the near future after exile, and from the looks of some passages and the way New Testament writers viewed Isaiah 9, Isaiah 53, a messianic future where Yahweh will send a Redeemer who will do a new thing. 

Prayers

The way Isaiah 6 ends is to say this. Just as an oak tree or a terebinth tree tends to come back from a seed within the stump, so a new shoot will come out of the stump. There is a holy seed within the stump that will be cut off and sent into exile. God, you know exactly what you are doing in punishment. When we see people in the story punished, you also give them a future. And therefore, we believe we can have a future, too.

Fasting

Begin looking for signs of new sprouts in the ground, on the trees. Fast from your phone, the radio, TV, or anything that distracts you from noticing the signs of life around you.

Giving

Plant something in the ground in the next few weeks and watch it come up.