I recently got spectacularly sunburnt…in the English sun. I didn’t think it was that hot at the time (so didn’t wear sunscreen, naturally), but then spent the next week with a bright red, itchy chest, applying as much moisturiser as I could steal from my wife. I was exposed to the sun and it had a changing effect on me.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet finds himself caught up in an atmosphere of worship where he is exposed to the glory of God, and his life is radically changed. However, like my itchy chest (though perhaps a little more dramatically), the experience was uncomfortable. Not only does Isaiah catch a revelation of God (‘high and exalted’) but consequently, he is confronted with his own brokenness (‘I am a man of unclean lips’) and the great need of the world (‘live among a people of unclean lips’).
Worshipping God turns the attention of our minds and the affection of our hearts towards the One who sees things as they really are, and yet unconditionally loves. Something spiritually significant takes place when we open our hearts and offer our lives before God afresh in worship; we are exposed to the presence of our compassionate God in ways that often both amaze and sober us with the true reality.
I wonder when was the last time the reality of our world’s brokenness really dawned on us, and we caught something of God’s compassionate heart.
If the sociological idea that we become most like those that we spend most time with is true, then our worshipping of God should shape who we are and what we do; we should start to see, think, feel and live a bit more like He does. Like sunburn, sometimes this can happen in dramatic ‘Isaiah 6’ ways. Other times, it can appear more subtly, over longer periods of time – and yet the effect is just as profound.
Scripture is unwaveringly clear; the God that we worship is a missionary God whose heart beats with love for the world.
What if the worshipful journey that we see Isaiah go on – from revelation to commission – might be a journey that our worship of God should take us along too. It might not happen quite so dramatically in one encounter – but over time, being exposed to God’s glory, we should be increasingly led to live out God’s compassionate, missionary heart in the world. Our passionate evangelistic and missional activities are meant to be a natural overflow of the worshipful encounters we have with God.
It was in this place of worship that Isaiah heard the missionary cry of God’s heart,
‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
And it was in this place of worship that, having experienced the grace of God’s forgiveness for himself, Isaiah overflowed with the response,
‘Here am I. Send me!’
It might be that we often don’t get to this point of catching and living out God’s missionary heart because we move on too quickly from the uncomfortable revelation of humanity’s bankruptcy before God. Our hearts require regular space to recognise and absorb the true reality of the great need in the world. I’m pretty quick to pile on moisturiser and soothe the discomfort of my sunburn, and all too often I can be too quick to move on from the discomfort of recognising the great need in the world. Yet worship draws us near to Jesus who wept over Jerusalem before giving His life for the world’s salvation.
Like Isaiah, our worship draws us near to God where we can catch His heart of love for the world. The natural overflow of this is to respond to God’s call with ‘Here I am. Send me!’. When we recognise that God’s love extends both to us and beyond us, and that our experience of His grace commissions us to share this love with others, we are catching the heart of God, and, like Isaiah, truly living out our worship.