Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
I was tempted to think on verses nine and ten and how we believers often apply those to non-believers and the context does not support that application. Instead, I feel drawn to verse eight.
Isaiah has an encounter with the LORD. He enters the temple and God happens to be there and angels are worshiping and Isaiah is made keenly aware of a particular area of sin in his life. Many believers can empathize with Isaiah, as close encounters of the divine kind tend to leave us with a more acute awareness of an area of sin in our own lives. For Isaiah, the area was speech. Neither he nor the folks around him were speaking in such a way as would glorify God. Again, most believers can empathize, as none of us bridles our tongue as well as we ought.
After an angel — a seraph, to be precise — has cleansed Isaiah’s guilt by fire — a coal from the altar — Isaiah hears God speak.
There is a proper order there that bears note. Cleansing must happen before I can hear God’s voice clearly. Isaiah heard the angels just fine and might have heard God speak if God had said anything. But it would seem, based on the order of things, that God reserves His insights and commissions for those who have first recognized their sinfulness and accepted cleansing for it.
God asks a question. Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? It is important to note that God does not persist in the first person singular pronoun (I), but switches to the first person plural (Us). This is an instance of conversation among the members of the trinity. And the very next chapter contains a prophecy of the virgin birth. Aside from that note, there is something more obvious going on: God is looking for a messenger. I think that God knew that Isaiah was going to volunteer and God further knew that He was going to take Isaiah up on that. So why ask the question? It is an invitation. God can use whom- and what-ever He pleases. He’s God. We cannot stop Him. However, He also gives us free will. He wants us to make the choice on our own. Paul wrote that the love of Christ compelled him. God wants that same motivation to move me. God wants me to be stepping forward when I hear Him ask whom He shall send.
Isaiah does just that. He steps forward and offers himself. Here am I. Send me! is not a claim to efficacy or ability. The only claim Isaiah is making in that statement is that he is available and willing.
Application for me is simply that God will not necessarily let me overhear the call for positions I am qualified to fill. He will, however, let me overhear the calls for service in places He knows I have the time and a willingness to fill. If I hear the call of God, let me say, as Isaiah, Here I am. Send me.