A few weeks ago at our orientation for GGBTS, Dr. Durst shared a devotional on Isaiah 6. He started from the beginning of the chapter-Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on the throne and Isaiah’s call to go and speak to the people of Israel on God’s behalf. The chapter is a familiar one to me and yet God still spoke a distinctly new thing to me through it. (side note: isn’t it amazing and wonderful to hear new things continually through the Word? I love it!)
I’d never really focused on the last verse of the chapter before. After volunteering to accept God’s call, Isaiah asks in verse 11 how long this mission to speak for the Lord is to last (which is a good question, although the timing brings to mind Merry and Pippen’s stunt in the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring where they insist on accompanying Frodo with the Ring and only after being accepted say, “Great. Where are we going?”).
God’s answer is that Isaiah is to speak until judgement comes upon the people (v-11-12). This is probably not what Isaiah wanted to hear (although I have no way of knowing and this is just informed conjecture). I know if I were in Isaiah’s shoes (sandals?), what I’d want to hear from God would be more along the lines of “Until the whole nation repents and you are a national hero!” or “Until I call you to a different task” or even “Until you’ve faithfully obeyed me even though not many have repented.” But to hear the Lord effectively say “Obey my call until the nation is destroyed in judgement for its sins and taken into captivity and the land is mostly forsaken”? Wow…I don’t know how I’d react to that, honestly.
But, hard as the answer is, that’s not where God leaves things. He’s told Isaiah that it won’t be an easy ministry by any means and that there’s an incredibly hard transition coming, but his last words to Isaiah here leave him with hope:
And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump. -Isaiah 6:13
A remnant will remain. Even in his judgement on the people who have forsaken him, God will spare and preserve some. And from this stump will come new life! (Hence the Guardians of the Galaxy reference-sorry if that’s spoilers for any of you, but c’mon! It’s been out for quite a while now.) It’s hard not to think of God’s messianic promise in the midst of cursing the snake in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s offspring (literally seed in Hebrew) will crush the serpent’s offspring under his heel. From this remnant comes a Messiah.
God’s promises have not failed, his purposes have not been thwarted. He remains faithful.
What a joy and comfort to know that God is a God who-even in the midst of judgement and punishment- is in the business of fresh starts, new life, restoration, and reconciliation for his chosen people. New life from the ashes of the stump.