On 10/21/07, Aaron wrote:
I have been reading and praying through one of Art’s articles on Isaiah 6. I think that I heard you make reference to it on one of the tapes of last year’s school. I just wanted to ask you some questions about it.
First, the issue of it being in the year King Uzziah died. I think that it is no coincidence that it happened particularly in that year. But do you think that there must be a death of those who we might see as kings or leaders or people above us so to speak, even brothers in the Lord, that we might defer to that which paves the way for the sending event? Oswald Chambers made mention of this somewhere in My Utmost for His Highest, I believe. I am just trying to make this practical, and so I am wondering if it could be a man like Art who died and in turn, it made possible this sending phenomenon? Could it be an organization or community like Ben Israel that had a similar result? I kind of ask, because I think the Lord has quickened me to pray through this chapter, not for me personally, but I am not sure why. I know Art touches on some of this further on in the paper. Also I am wondering if Uzziah could be our own ability. For instance I learn and gain knowledge easily; I love to read the Word and the books of men and women who have gone before me. I think sometimes my pursuit of truth takes me away from the source of it. Is it possible for someone’s own ability or gift (even if it is God given) to become an Uzziah? Which makes sense.
I think what we’re reaching for here is to try to find something of the pattern or dynamic in Isaiah’s transforming vision from which all else followed. Is there a key? What manner of preliminary grace or deep dealings prepares the soil for such a divine in-breaking?
In traveling with Art and interacting with him over the Isa 6 message, I pointed out the significant analogy of Isaiah’s experience with Israel’s apocalyptic revelation when “they shall LOOK upon Me whom they have pierced” (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39). This is, of course, the great day of the Lord when the Deliverer comes out of Zion to accomplish Israel’s final redemption. But there is more to this than the mere visible return of Christ. We must not neglect why this event has such a different effect on the beleaguered remnant than the same event will have on the demonically driven nations. It is the element of gracious revelation; “the Spirit of grace and supplication.” Otherwise, the vision of the returning Lamb would be unbearable, as in the case of the mark-bearing ‘earth dwellers’.
This is the transforming vision for Israel that NOT INCIDENTALLY coincides with the pouring out of the Spirit, and this in significant conjunction with the end of the age-long hiding of God’s face from the nation as a whole (Isa 8:14-17; Ezek 39:22-29). This is the time that the new heart of eschatological promise is imparted to the penitent remnant that survives Jacob’s trouble; but all in conjunction with the apocalyptic unveiling and UNSEALING of the sealed vision (Isa 8:16; Dan 9:24; 12:4, 9; i.e., the ‘mystery of the gospel’, the one ground of the sinner’s ‘eternal’ justification, the coming in of the “everlasting righteousness” by which the tension of the conditional covenant is eternally resolved and satisfied, providing the ground for the fulfillment of the superior ‘everlasting covenant’).
This revelation, of course, fits the surviving remnant to become apostolic in their mission as mediating heralds and witnesses of the salvation of God out from a restored Zion (Isa 2:3; 60:3-5; 61:6-9; 66:19; Zech 8:23 with Ps 51:13). And, of course, Paul is the premier prototype of the coming apprehension of the nation by the same ‘Spirit of revelation’, (“a nation born in one day; Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 3:9).
I think we’d have to acknowledge that in all of these cases, there is a preliminary preparation of a profound kind, a ‘breaking up of the fallow ground’. We see it certainly in the case of the remnant of Israel, which has lately passed through the travail of Jacob’s trouble. So I would take the dynamics that we observe working in the case of end-time Israel, and then see how far this can be applied to Isaiah and Paul and to the church of God, which is you and me. Then we might gain some perspective into the nature of soil preparation. By the way, I think the paradigm of Israel’s salvation informed and shaped all of apostolic thinking concerning the nature of salvation. This doesn’t mean it was any the less revealed by the Spirit, since it is the Spirit that calls this to our attention.
As strong as my views on the freedom of God’s sovereignty, it is equally clear that the work of God never operates in a vacuum, but is prepared in advance. There’s no convenient ‘presto – chango’ where the holy things of revelation and grace are concerned. True regeneration only occurs where there has been a deep that has reached to the deep, sufficient to ‘break up’ all the fountains of the deep.
So, if we take Jacob’s trouble as our key, we find a very revealing word that appears in three very important passages that deal with the end of Israel’s exile (particularly the last verse from Daniel that deals specifically and unambiguously with the concentrated period of Jacob’s trouble; see Lev 26:19; Deut 32:36; Dan 12:7). That word is ‘ power’. Israel sees Jesus at the end of their power. That’s the only place that any of us really see Him.
That’s why we are killed all the day long. Christ is the end of the law, simply because He is revealed at the end of our strength, since the law, rightly understood, was given to take away our false strength. This is the death that brings resurrection, the weakness that brings power, but all by revelation, which most often works in a context of ‘tribulation’ (Heb. batsar; narrow; tight place; crowded; Gk. thlipsis; pressure, burdened; Acts 14:22 etc.).
God is the God that quickens the dead; so the revelation that is the death blow to confidence in the flesh is also the revelation that reveals and quickens Christ (These things said Isaiah, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him” – John 12:41). According to Paul, there is a necessary travail that precedes the inward formation of Christ (Gal 4:19). That’s a powerful rule we mustn’t overlook! Thus, the “travail of Zion” becomes a paradigm of all salvation.
So, whatever was at work in Isaiah and Paul, we may fairly reckon that there was a prior removal of strength and false dependency. ” But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raises the dead” (2 Cor 1:9). This ‘power’, I believe, is a deep and intractable residual humanism that can beset even a Peter (as seen in his presumptuous boast of superior rectitude and endurance under trial). And, if we are correct in our assumption that Isaiah’s chapter 6 commission came after an earlier call to the office of prophet, then we may safely assume that there was yet something high in Isaiah that had still to come down. In every case, there is evidence of a preparatory crisis.
But note: this preliminary weakening and removing of soulish ‘power’, however prolonged, is not by itself sufficient, not even the crescendo of crisis and travail of soul, but only the transitional moment of apocalyptic unveiling and intervention, the ‘event’ of divine revelation. This alone brings the final death blow to the remains of carnal confidence.
For the unregenerate, this is the regenerational event/ moment. For the Christian, even the most earnest disciple, this is the moment of deeper conversion (deep breaking, eg. Peter), what some have called the “second blessing.” It is the crisis transition that breaks in and transforms an entirely bound or partially bound person into one that is fit for apostolic sending. This comes only AFTER one has been devastated and raised by the power of God, and such devastation of carnal confidence comes as a sovereign, unconstrained ( i.e., ‘humanly’ unconstrained) act of divine self-disclosure, the ‘apocalyptic’ event.
This spells the end of Satan’s dominion, whether his power be broken over an individual, or an elect nation. I call it ‘the war against the veil’, because Satan is the god of the veil, so that when his power is broken, in this case through the ‘scattering of Israel’s power’, all these things are accomplished (Dan 12:7), the mystery is finished (Rev 10:7), and the veil, the covering, spread over all peoples is destroyed (Isa 25:7).
See the connection? All of this is contained in the revelation of the gospel, IF it is deeply, not superficially, apprehended. And this is my great hope for the church of the last persecution, a church that will travail till Christ is formed unto full maturity of corporate stature, a bright, unhindered incarnational expression of true Christ-likeness, birthing an army of unswerving followers of the ‘Lamb’, not loving their mortal lives unto death. Now that’s real freedom! As one of our corresponding brothers lately used Churchill’s famous phrase to describe that time as the church’s “finest hour.” This is my reading of Rev 12; but that’s another topic.
So, what does such a revelation accomplish? What would be its evidence? Great zeal, energy, and unction in speaking? Not necessarily. I think rather, a very reduced. simplified, and unassuming vessel with no greater delight than to yield his or her all to the transforming goodness of redeeming love. And we may be sure that such mission-constraining love will be defined by a holy fear that is commensurate with a vision of the majesty of God and the ‘everlasting burnings’ of unpropitiated holiness. Now that would be “apostolic;” regardless of whether one be an Apollos or a country bumpkin, far more likely the latter. In fact, if I know the Lord at all, there’s something deep in God that will not be satisfied until His greatest last day’s speaking will come through the tongues of those that stammer, particularly the foolish tongues of unqualified Gentiles (see Isa 28:11; noting also that Moses stammered, and Paul’s speech was regarded as contemptible and his bodily presence as weak).
So the object of divine shaking is any false dependency, regardless of the form that false comfort or confidence might take. Though a bit speculative, it is quite possible that Isaiah looked to the godly Uzziah as a check and restraint, a preservative against Israel’s downward spiral into apostasy, hastening judgement and exile. He must have felt that if things are this bad under just Uzziah, one of the rare instances of godly leadership, what will it be now in his absence? So, in a sense, with Uzziah’s death, the bottom drops out and a sense of despair steels upon the prophet. That’s possible; but in any event, when the bottom drops out, it’s usually to show that “underneath are the everlasting arms,” and this takes its greatest force in the light of the all-comprehending, invincible majesty of the sovereignty of God, such as Isaiah was blessed to see.
My second question or thought is, recently I was talking to my wife about the absence of the fear of the Lord within the body and I thought that the deeper root of it was the absence of the knowledge of God as He is. Which Art makes reference to. But how does one know God as He is? Is it the grace of God in a supernatural revelation or intervention? Or is it through time and waiting and seeking? Or is it through making ourselves available to Him? Or a combination of all of the above?
I think that’s a definite “all of the above” answer. But I would add that the simple answer to “how does one know God as He is,” must always be through God’s Word. But how does the living Word make us alive? Therefore, it must be the ‘quickened’ Word, the Word that divides, and this brings us again to the urgency of revelation. That said, however, the English divines made much of a conscientious attendance to what they called “the means of grace.” They knew that only a crisis experience of travail and soul-quickening revelation would suffice to raise the dead spirit of the natural man. However, contrary to popular opinion, they did not regard man as impotent to avail himself of the divinely prescribed ‘means of grace’ by which alone that grace is pleased to work. They called it the “Method of Grace,” as presented in an excellent book by that title, written by the precious John Flavel.
The Puritans understood that God has as much respect for the divinely appointed means as for the end itself. Their strong views of God’s sovereignty did not make them passive, but all the more reverential of the necessity to cooperate with God. Man could do this, but only to a point. To them, neglect of the graciously proffered ‘means of grace’ was dangerous presumption and high rebellion.
Still, the emphasis has to be placed on the moment of revelation. That’s why I’m so attracted to the whole area of ‘apocalyptic’, because it embodies and explains so much of what we’re discussing here. When Jesus said “upon this rock I will build my church,” I think he was referring to something deeper and even more foundational than even the correct identification of Messiah as Son of God. Rather, I believe He was referring to this very phenomenon of Spirit-quickened revelation, but, of course, only as it attains its goal in Him.
It is “the Christ of revelation” that is made to us a quickening spirit, not merely “the Christ of the creed.” See what I mean? It is the prerogative of the Father to quicken whom He will, to reveal to Peter what flesh and blood is impotent to receive; THAT is the “Rock” that distinguishes the true church of God, even as it is the foundation of God (2Tim 2:19). It is ‘the rock of revelation’. This is the quickening revelation that is specific to God’s elect.
Thirdly is it possible to agree with the doctrine and actually really believe cerebrally and genuinely that man is fallen and in depravity and yet still lack an understanding of it, truly in his heart? Is it possible to really see yourself if you have not first known God as He is?
Again, it is important to observe the order in Isa 6 and in the aforementioned analogies. All hangs on the seeing. Whether initially or by degree, it is as we SEE or HEAR (“take heed how you hear”) that we are changed from glory to glory. This process has its crisis beginning, but can also be progressive in nature. In fact, any true believer will tell you that they are “killed all the day long” as they are taken ‘from crisis to crisis’, just so they may be continually induced to recover to themselves and to maintain a clear and ever clearer vision of the Lord.
“Be thou my vision!” is the cry of every regenerate heart. If not, we may be sure that Fatherly discipline is at the door. God will not leave a true son in complacency. But as you point out, it was only as Isaiah SAW the Lord that he saw himself. Whether by degree or a sudden burst of devastating discovery, that is the rule, and again, it is all contingent on Spirit-quickened revelation. And it was only as Isaiah tasted of God’s goodness that repentance was complete unto the willing obedience of the indwelling Christ (1Pet 1:11), now fully formed in Him. It will be so with Israel after Jacob’s trouble, and it will be so with us according to the same pattern.
Also Art touches on the “haunting” issue of who? Which implies few; and he is correct. But I am wondering who is in a place of hearing that has not experienced the above? Who can hear the voice of God unless he is familiar with that voice? Who really wants to be sent to bear that type of word who has not first known the awesomeness and majesty of God? I see this on the front of numerous t-shirts and banners yet who really even understand the totality of that call and what that type of being sent means? Surely it is not bliss and acceptance?
If it is true, as I think it is, that we do not know God as God, can we really know sin as sin? As the abominable thing in the eyes of the Lord?
This whole issue seems so pivotal and lost to us or me especially. But when I consider it I realize I am just lacking in so many ways and just immature more than I know. But what is the right response? Or is it just a matter of time and death and seeking and failing and the like?
You’re right; it all starts with ‘hearing the voice’ or with SEEING God as He is. Until this, we’re spinning our well-meaning religious wheels. It is God that must move us to the place of hearing, just as He must move Jacob, as He moved Isaiah and Paul to that place. And this does not take place UNTIL the “set time” (Ps 102:13), until the “time appointed” because “that which is determined shall be done” (Dan 8:19; 11:27, 35-36; Gal 4:2; see esp. Gal 1:15 “when it PLEASED GOD to reveal His Son in me”). We must be ‘crowded’ to Christ. We are ‘shut up’ to a faith that MUST be ‘revealed’, not only chronologically, but existentially (Gal 3:23).
True, we must be willing and obedient; but then again, when will Israel be willing? According to scripture; that will only come “in the day of His power” (Ps 110:3). It is not in man to seek God; not this God; not the God that reveals Himself only to the destitute (see esp. Ps 102:17). But then again, who is really completely helpless UNTIL God takes this divine initiative? Jacob’s trouble shows us this; as only by a true revelation, quickened by the Holy Spirit, are we able to hear, see, and know God, and therefore know something of our own depravity in that light. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; WHO CAN KNOW IT?” Indeed, it impossible apart from revelation.
It is impossible for flesh and blood to promote such a personal ‘Jacob’s trouble’ process apart from divine inducements that we would never choose? He has appointed the crisis. He has ‘set things up’ for the sake of His own glory. “For with man, this is impossible.” That’s always the point. In this way, no flesh can glory, because the glory of God is mutually exclusive of any human glory. In speaking of Paul’s conversion in manifest analogy with the day of Israel’s salvation, I like to make humorous analogy with the slogan claimed for the Royal Canadian Mounties who ‘always get their man’. Well, I like to say that as much as God ‘got His man’ on the Road to Damascus, He knows how to ‘get His nation’. And that is always by a sovereign, divine arrest of apocalyptic intervention and revelation.
He knows how to get us too, Aaron, as we pray that He will graciously cut off all our vain options, our futile ‘escape routes’. We may thus take great hope that as much as it is God that has put it in our hearts to seek His face continually, then this is grace is the most reliable evidence and hopeful prospect that we will yet come to know Him in the way we so earnestly covet. A saint deeply exercised by the evils of the age around him (in analogy with Nehemiah’s tears over the charred remains of the name and testimony of God in the earth), will groan in himself; and the promise assures us that such holy groaning will in due time (Ps 126:6) be rewarded by heaven’s invitation to “come up hither”, there to receive a more expansive view. Such a view will doubtless be ‘bittersweet’, because it unveils not only the incomprehensible glory of undeserved mercy, but the terrible severity of divine justice that forms the incomprehensible background for a grace that is made by that severity to appear all the more amazing. BEHOLD the goodness and the severity! There’s the balance; both are to the uttermost.
I know I ask a lot of questions and probably wear you out with emails but thanks as always.
It is the business of the enemy to “wear out the saints” (Dan 7:21), but your questions always stir me to blessed remembrance of important topics of mutual interest. ” But exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today”; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Heb 3:13-14). By such exhortation, we are mutual helpers in our own perseverance to the desired haven.
Appreciating both your questions and your prayer, the Lord be with your faith, my dear young brother, Reggie