Crisis of Leadership
Introduction: Do you like change? Most people fear change because it brings uncertainty. When it comes to the basics, there has been little change in my life. I've lived in the same house for over 20 years, been married to the same wife for almost 30 years, had the same job for almost 30 years, and have been a member of the same local church for about 25 years. That is a lot of "sameness." But in the last three years my two immediate bosses have changed. While that change was taking place, I had some anxiety about the leadership at work.
Outside of the basics, my life is one of constant change. I litigate cases for a living. The judge is "the boss" in the case, and since I have cases all over the country, I'm always before a different judge in a different court. That can create some real anxiety. This week our lesson starts out with changing leadership, let's dive into our study of Isaiah!
- King Uzziah Dies
- Read Isaiah 6:1-3. Uzziah had been king for more than 50 years. How do you think it made the people feel to have him die?
- Since Uzziah was generally a good king, how would you guess Isaiah felt about it?
- Why do you think God showed Isaiah this vision at the time when King Uzziah died? (We want someone in charge who has our best interests in mind. We want rulers who like us. God shows Isaiah that although Uzziah may have died, God is still on His throne and is in charge.)
- What does this vision show us about the nature of our God? (He wants to reassure His followers.)
- Woeful Man!
- Read Isaiah 6:2 again. Let's notice these angels for a minute. By the way, this is the only time "seraphs" are mentioned in the Bible.
- The word "seraph" means "to burn." How do you think these angels looked?
- How do these seraphs use their wings? (Two to cover the face, two to cover the feet (or the lower part of the body) and two to fly.)
- Why do you think these angels used their wings in such a way? (They are in the presence of God. They veiled their faces because of a holy God. They covered their feet as a suggestion of respect. The common was kept from God's view. They needed two to keep flying!)
- Is what we wear to church a cultural issue? (I've struggled with this because I do not want anyone to be discouraged from coming to church because they have "inadequate" clothes. Texts like these about the seraphs suggest that we need to wear the "best" clothes that we own when we go to church. It is a matter of respect to God.)
- Read Isaiah 6:3-4. If you are worried about "second-hand smoke," you need to stay away from the presence of God! Seriously, why is there such physical force connected with the message of these angels?
- Why should the temple be filled with smoke? (Read Exodus 19:18. This tells us that the smoke that surrounds God is the result of God traveling in fire. This is called the "Shekinah cloud" and is often associated with God. See, e.g. 1 Kings 8:10 and Ezra 10:4.)
- Why do you think that God and the angels appear to be burning? This sounds more like a picture of hell! (If you look at Numbers 31:21-24 we see that burning and water are God's means for purifying an item. Based on that, God's fiery appearance symbolizes the source of purity.)
- Why, then, do we have a picture in Revelation 20:9-10 of the devil burning? (Absolute impurity meets absolute purity. The fire of God consumes the impurity of sin.)
- Those of you that are more scientifically oriented can tell me - isn't smoke evidence of the conversion of energy from one form to another? If so, this may be some evidence of the energy that surrounds God. Energy, purity, power: that is our God! In times of change, God remains the power of the universe.
- Are the words of the angels in Isaiah 6:3 less powerful than the delivery of the words in Isaiah 6:4? (The entire picture in Isaiah 6 conveys a sense of power. The dazzling angels (remember they looked like fire) cover their faces, they continually praise God, and you can feel the power of the presence of God and these angels. What they say is that God is holy and His influence fills the whole earth.)
- Read Isaiah 6:5. What is Isaiah's reaction to being in the presence of God?
- How is this a reassurance in a time of change?
- Why does Isaiah speak of his lips? If you find yourself in the presence of someone important, aren't you more concerned about whether your hair is combed and your clothes are clean and neat? (Isaiah, the prophet, has a message for God's people. His point is that he is unworthy to bring this message. His first need is to have his sins forgiven.)
- Read Isaiah 6:6-7. What does the live coal represent? (Remember that Isaiah 6:1&4 tell us that God, the seraphs and Isaiah are in the temple. This coal is taken from the altar - the place of the atonement for sin. The coal is applied to the place in which Isaiah says he has the greatest need.)
- Read Acts 2:3-4. Isaiah has a burning coal touched to his lips. The apostles have tongues of fire rest on them. What pattern do you see?
- What lesson do you find?
- What message do you see in Isaiah confessing his unworthiness and seeking cleansing for his words before he begins his mission? (Another matter of change is Isaiah's new mission which we will read about shortly. God's leaders need to be first to confess their sins and seek God's blessings. How can they teach others to repent if they have not themselves repented?)
- Many of your read my little article about The Passion of The Christ and how it caused me to fall on my knees and confess my sins. One reader wrote that he could never trust me as a Bible teacher because my of response. Isaiah shows us this is the correct response when we contemplate our holy, perfect, powerful and loving God.
- The Volunteer
- Read Isaiah 6:8. Why does God call for a volunteer when He is there with Isaiah? (This reinforces the idea that God does not force us to do His will. He asks us to volunteer for His work.)
- Who is the "us" in verse 8? (Notice that the seraphs say "Holy" three times. Both the reference to "us" and the repetition of the word "Holy" imply the Trinity.)
- How many does volunteers does God call for? (He seems to be calling for one. "Whom" shall I send?)
- The Message
- Read Isaiah 6:9-10. Isaiah now has a new mission from God. What does God see is the major problem?
- Is Isaiah the first one to mention the problem to the people? Is the issue that they have not heard God's message before? (The message is that they need to clean their ears, open their eyes and soften their hearts.)
- We have a great concern to fulfill the "Gospel Commission" that the whole world hear the message of Jesus. What complication to our task do verses 9 and 10 suggest? (It is not simply hearing the word, it is understanding it. We have a mission field among those who "know" as well as for those who have not heard.)
- Read Isaiah 6:11-12. How long for what?
- Isaiah seems to be asking, "What will it take for the people to both hear and understand?"
- What is the answer?
- Read Isaiah 6:13. This verse contains both bad and good news. What is the bad news? (That even though 10% of the people survive at first, what remains will be attacked a second time. Things are going to get much worse.)
- What is the good news? (That out of the "stumps" which are left, the "holy seed" will arise.)
- What encouragement do you find here when bad things are happening in your life, when change is taking place? (Our whole lesson this week, from a fiery God, to the burning coal on the lips, to the destruction of those who will not pay attention, builds a picture. Our God is in charge and He will cleanse us from our sins. Heat, pressure, burn away the impurities and bring forth the holy. God uses change to make us better people.)
- Friend, how about you? Are you willing to be purified? Are you willing to respond to the call of God to share His word?
- Next week: When Your World Is Falling Apart.