Here I Am: Isaiah

Here I Am: Isaiah

Here I Am: Isaiah. 

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!'”  (Isaiah 6:8).

Hineni (Hebrew word, literal meaning, “Behold, I am!” but is generally translated in Bible as “Here I am.”) In Scripture it is a response of someone to someone else asking for attention. It could be a response to God, to an angel, a response of a child to a parent, or a servant to a master. Sometimes it is even a loving response of a parent to a child. The Biblical Here I am means you have my full attention; I am at your service; I am completely available to you; whatever you want, I am all in; I am in total readiness to hear and obey you; I have no hesitation in responding to you. Most of the time in Scripture the person saying Here I am doesn’t yet know what the caller wants from him. So hineni can essentially be a statement of faith. When someone in authority initiates Here I am, such as God, it is a declaration of presence and readiness to speak or act. Generally, hineni is often stated in a pivotal moment of that person’s life. Here I am can just be a casual response to a caller, but it often is an important moment in the life of the person responding.

Isaiah was a highly literate, well-educated scribe in the royal palace of Jerusalem around 750 BC. His life would take an unexpected turn that would change his life, one of the most dramatic calls in Scripture. In a vision, he witnessed Yahweh God, high and lifted up on His throne, attended by flaming angels shouting out their praises, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of the Angel Armies! The whole earth is full of His glory!”  These angelic voices were so loud that the temple in his vision shook to its foundations and the sanctuary was completely filled with smoke, the traditional sign of God’s presence. This unforgettable scene brought Isaiah to his knees as he was overwhelmed with the Lord’s holiness. In his book, one of Isaiah’s favorite names for God was “Holy One of Israel,” in honor of this vision of God’s holiness. Isaiah was shaken to his core as he witnessed God’s power and purity and glory. He could only recognize his own sinfulness and impurity in the presence of God and His angels. One of the fiery angels took a pair of tongs, flew to the altar, and brought a live coal to Isaiah. The angel proceeded to touch Isaiah’s lips with this hot coal, and declared Isaiah to be cleansed and forgiven. Fire is a biblical symbol of purification, and this was even more so since the coal was taken directly from the priestly altar.

After cleansing Isaiah, Yahweh said something very interesting, seemingly to no one in particular but actually perhaps meant for everyone to hear… “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” That was quite the challenge. And what did the Lord mean by “us?” Was He referring to the Holy Trinity? Isaiah, cleansed and prepared, immediately responded to the Lord’s call. “Here I am! Send me!” This readiness to minister for God was quite the statement of faith, because at this point Isaiah didn’t know what the Lord was calling him to do. God only gave instructions to Isaiah after he accepted the call. It seemed the Lord had a heavenly Want Ad in mind that only Isaiah could answer, and it might have looked something like this:

WANTED: An imaginative scribe who can write exquisite poetry. A faithful, articulate believer in Yahweh who can switch from one extreme to another at the Lord’s command… from a sublime vision of God’s glory to a ridiculous demonstration of shameful nakedness; from confronting the people over their sinfulness to comforting people with hopefulness; from being an outspoken messenger one minute to a living object lesson the next. Must be adaptable, thick-skinned, and extraordinarily brave. Person who answers “Here I am. send me!” will be especially considered. 

Isaiah’s prophetic ministry lasted about forty-fifty years, staying close to home in Jerusalem for all that time. He started his ministry during times of relative peace and prosperity, and so because there wasn’t as much of a hard edge to his messages, he was well-liked and generally popular with the people. But soon Isaiah spoke words of the Lord’s judgment and coming punishment for their sins. He was very active in addressing the shortcomings of the five different kings of Judah during his ministry, and continued to call them to repentance. Because his messages from the Lord became very difficult to hear, the people, and the kings, often rejected what he had to say. Isaiah grew to be quite unpopular during much of his ministry. He was considered by most Biblical scholars to be the greatest of all the prophets, and his book is the first of the writings of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah was by far the most quoted prophet in the New Testament, over 50 times. He was highly gifted as a poet, and his writings are considered literary masterpieces. He combined the simple and the complex into what has been called a “Salvation Symphony.” His writings are still accepted as unsurpassed works of art, and they poetically, prophetically point to events that would happen soon, and events that would happen in the distant future. Isaiah discussed Messiah more than any other book of the Hebrew Bible, referring to the Messian in many ways, from the Suffering Servant to the Sovereign Lord to the Everlasting Savior. As Eugene Peterson once wrote, “Isaiah is the supreme poet-prophet to come out of the Hebrew people.” Jewish tradition has Isaiah dying a martyr’s death, executed under the reign of the wicked king Mannaseh. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the last thing Isaiah saw in this life was the very first thing he witnessed all those years before? Yahweh in all His glory, high and lifted up. fiery angels attending Him shouting praises to the King on His throne. That would truly be a sight for sore eyes.