Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Here I Am! Send Me.

Today is the third day in our 33rd week, reading the Bible through together in a year.  Our scriptures* today are:  Isaiah 4-6; Matthew 23.

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem
In Matthew 23, Jesus expresses how dangerous it is to be a prophet of God.

29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Yet, in Isaiah 6, we read about the call of a prophet who says "yes" to God.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
"Here I Am!  Send me."
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost;for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 

Today, I want to ask you a simple question.  Would you do it?  It's interesting to note that God didn't tell Isaiah that the people wouldn't listen to him until after Isaiah said "yes."  Most preachers wouldn't accept a call to share God's message with people if they knew in advance that their message wouldn't be received.  Prophets who knew they were going to be rejected would say, "What's the point?"  Certainly, Jesus didn't say that Jerusalem stoned ALL the prophets, but those who declare God's message must be aware that rejection, persecution, and even physical threat could be involved.  One tradition says that Isaiah was martyred under the reign of Manasseh.  Would he have agreed to serve, had he known his eventual fate?  Would you?  Or would you say, "Here I am!  Don't Send Me?"

Some time ago, I visited the Southern Baptist Convention's missionary training center.  Here, thousands of missionaries have been trained for service in countries around the globe.  Each one who attends the training is eager to work for God.  Yet every day in the center the students pass by a wall that is covered with the names Southern Baptist missionaries who has died in the field, having given their lives for the cause of Christ.  Each student knows that while nobody plans on martyrdom, it may be a reality for those who proclaim God's Word.

In Luke 9:23-26, Jesus says:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Even if you forget my question of whether or not you'd accept a call to become a prophet or preacher or missionary--would you become a Christian, if you knew that you might suffer because of it?  Just take a look at the current situation in Egypt, and you can see Christians under attack for their faith.  Since August 14, over 60 churches and institutions have been attacked by Muslims.  Click here to see a slide show and read more from the Washington Post.  Egypt is not alone in being a dangerous place for Christians to live.  Jesus' followers around the world continue to suffer persecution at the hands of those who oppose His truth.

So--if you seriously believed that being a Christian was dangerous, would you still give your heart to Christ?  If you thought it might cause you real suffering, danger, or even death, would you say "yes" to His call?  Would you take up your cross and follow Him?  Or, would you do the easier, more convenient, and safer thing?

This morning, I think I'll end this post with a ?

*All scriptures taken from the ESV.

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