I took last week off from writing to relax and reflect on Memorial Day. I hope you found time to do the same thing last week, and I also hope your Monday is off to a fantastic start already!
I don’t have TV service anymore, but when I did, I used to enjoy watching a show calledDirty Jobs. On the show, the host, Mike Rowe traveled around the country and even the world discovering strange, dirty, disgusting and messy vocations. As disgusting as each of these vocational duties were, they were all necessary jobs - jobs that not many people would want to do, but needed to be done, nonetheless.
In the book of Isaiah we find God giving his prophet a commission to go to the king and people of Israel with some very bad news. We might describe the task God gave Isaiah as a sort of “dirty job.” Not many people would have been willing to deliver this kind of message - but it had to be done. God chose to use Isaiah because he was humble enough to take on the task with a posture of obedience.
By the time we get to chapter 6, God’s great displeasure with the state of Israel is very clear. God is angry because Israel has walked out on him, turning their backs on the covenant he had established with them. The Israeli people were deep in sin. They’d even reduced the sacred practices of sacrifice and worship to empty gestures - just going through the motions. God was furious and in chapter 6 he sends Isaiah forth with this message to Israel:
He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “For how long, Lord?” And he answered: “Until the cities lie ruined 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. And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
If I were in Isaiah’s shoes I would have felt as if God was sending me to do a dirty job! We have to know that Isaiah wasn’t exactly excited about going to the people and leaders of Israel to tell them “God says he’s going bring pain, hunger, exile and misery on our people.” The orders he received were very uncomfortable. Still, he obeyed.
The truth is that doing God’s will is not about our comfort at all. It is about his design and his purposes. This often gets lost in our self-help, new-age oriented theology. When we listen for God’s instruction we must keep in mind that we exist for him; not the other way around. Any comforts we receive are gifts; not entitlements. Above all comforts, God’s purposes must be our objective. We must get our hearts to a place where they are ever-ready to do God’s instructions, whatever those instructions might be.
Isaiah’s example here is striking, and his response to the commission God has given him shows exactly why God chose him to do this assignment. The only question he asks is:“For how long, Lord?” He doesn’t haggle. He doesn’t ask God for a deal: “If I do this, can you do ____________ for me?” He doesn’t plead. He doesn’t remind God how uncomfortable the assignment will be. He doesn’t run from it. He simply asks God how long his judgement would last, and goes forth to do what he’s been told to do.
Oh, to be like Isaiah! How awesome is his example of humble submission to God! As we set out into the first week in the month of June, I’m asking God to give us spirits that are as humble and obedient as Isaiah was. I’m asking God to break those things in us that are prone to rebel and seek comfort and seek pathways of least resistance. I’m praying for increased faith that will allow us to bear up under uncomfortable assignments and uncomfortable positions.
I hope you’ll join me in praying for these things this week. I hope you’ll pray with me that God will give us every spiritual resource we need to faithfully and obediently answer his call - even when that call is to do dirty jobs!
Questions for this week…
- What is my perception of God’s purposes in my life? Are those purposes for me or are they for him?
- How do I respond when God directs me to do things that are uncomfortable?
- What is my definition of obedience? Is obedience simply about doing what I’ve been instructed to do or does my attitude about what I’m doing have any relevance to my definition?
- What kinds of dirty jobs has called me to do?