Yes, the Lord loves to forgive, as Post #6 emphasized. But people often don’t know they need forgiveness until they have an encounter with God. The prophet Isaiah had a dramatic encounter with God.
When Isaiah was about eighteen, he saw God high and lifted up, majestic, honored, and worshiped. “My eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty,” he said. His reaction was: “Woe is me!” (Isa.6:5a), for he was convicted of his and his nation’s sinfulness.
The angel brought a burning coal from the altar, touched Isaiah’s lips, and declared him forgiven. This coal may have been a piece of charred lamb, according to the commentator John Oswalt (p.130).* It foreshadows the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,”(John 1:29 and Hebrews 1:2).
After Isaiah’s conviction and cleansing, God commissioned him to speak to the nation of Judah, When he does so, Isaiah holds up his vision as a model. “Just as he was enabled to bear God’s message to his people, so by the same process, Israel will be enabled to bear God’s message to the world,”* (Oswalt, p.125).
After the nation of Israel was cleansed of her rebellion (through the Babylonian captivity) she could eventually achieve her purpose. Jesus Christ (God’s Word) was born of the Jews about 400 years after Isaiah’s prophesies of this coming Messiah. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” (John 1:14).
I needed cleansing by Jesus, too, before I could fit into God’s plan for my life. Just as the burning coal did not destroy Isaiah’s lips but rather cleansed them, God’s judgment is never meant to destroy, but to bring us into right relationship with him. God wants pure vessels he can use. God transformed Isaiah’s life with that vision of himself.
God gave me a vision, too, during a painful and scary incident.. I had a lot of confusion about how to deal with my second husband’s addictions and his lack of contributing to the family finances. Al-Anon said “don’t enable your spouse’s addictions,” yet I was trying to show him Christlike love and couldn’t figure out how to do that without enabling. One night about two years into the marriage, he came home at 2 a.m. stoned and drunk, as usual. He woke me up and insisted I go to the store and get him some cigarettes. I’d been a rather submissive wife, but Al-Anon said we should quit being enablers. Besides, I didn’t think I should help him do something that was bad for his health. It seemed a ridiculous request at two in the morning. I meekly said, “No.”
“I jus need some cig’rettes and my truck’s out o gas. You take your car and go get me some.”
I said “No” again, quite firmly.
He clenched both hands around my neck. When I still refused, he squeezed tighter. It hurt, but I managed to get a finger under his hands so I could breathe and talk. I said, “If you kill me, I’ll go to Heaven, but you’ll have it on your conscience all your life.” Then I silently prayed. After a few moments, he rolled over and sank into a drunken stupor.
Lying there in the darkness, with my neck aching and in the midst of heartaches and fears, I cried out to Jesus, “Do you want me to hurt like this?”
With the eyes of my heart, I saw Jesus sitting nearby weeping as if his heart would break. He shook his head and said, “No! No, I don’t want you to hurt like that. I love you!” Confused, I wondered why he didn’t take me out of this situation, but I believed him. He loves me! He doesn’t want me to hurt. Then the thought occurred to me, He looks like he’s waiting for me to do something. What is it?
Trembling, I got up quietly, hoping my husband wouldn’t wake up, and called a friend who was a social worker. I told him what had happened, and he agreed to stay at our house the rest of the night, to make sure I was safe. I went to the guest room and tried to sleep. In the morning, he tried to talk sense to my husband.
Then, I called our pastor and he sent a Christian couple over to counsel with us. When my husband saw the marks on my neck, he agreed to weekly counseling and to abstain from alcohol and marijuana. He seemed sober for the next six weeks, so I thought maybe the choking incident was turning into some good. He’d not been sober that long before.
The vision I’d had of seeing Jesus weeping over me gave me comfort. Believing Jesus loved me gave me the courage to trust him completely. I asked Christ to take back the throne of my heart, and I determined to obey him.
To be continued July 24th: