Ps. 138; Isa. 6:1-13; 1 Cor. 14:12b-20; Luke 5:1-11
Coal, Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin shall be atoned” (vv. 6, 7).
Forgiveness is necessary for sinful men to speak on behalf of God; his Word is holy. If God will employ men to reveal His truth, ignorant and vain speech of sinful men must be dealt with in Absolution.
The vocation of every Christian is to hear and confess God’s word in clarity of understanding (Isa. 6:9b; 1 Cor. 14:15). It is why we engage pastors for preaching and teaching forgiveness and knowledge of God’s holiness (Jn. 17:3); otherwise, concerning the things and ways of God, all men are “dumb as dirt”.
Isaiah, about to undergo a change of vocation from temple priest to purveyor of God’s word, intuited his ignorance before God. In the visible presence of the pre-incarnate Son, Isaiah stood in fear, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5).
God did not initially speak; rather he first delt with Isaiah’s confession, dispatching a fiery angel for his purifying Word by a fiery ember of Spirit infused char-wood from heaven’s altar of incense. The charcoal applied to the mouth of Isaiah bespoke the incarnate Christ’s coming work of atonement on the cross for sin, a burnt offering to God.
Divine fire hallowed Isaiah’s mouth and tongue through which God’s word would work in Israel. The Seraph proclaimed an Absolution, “Behold … your guilt is taken away, and your sin shall be atoned” (v. 7).
Through delivery of the Word Isaiah was absolved preparing him to proclaim God’s gracious heart to men in Christ to come. Isaiah stood before God, newly minted prophet of the Word; enlightened by divine fire, no longer “dumb as dirt” of the things and ways of God.
God now spoke in Trinitarian majesty, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah, knowing God to be Justifier and Teacher, no longer cowered; but like an excited schoolchild who knows the answer to his teacher’s question, gesticulated, “Here am I! Send me” (v. 8).
Enlightened for prophecy Isaiah would preach man’s sin and God’s way of repentant forgiveness in Christ. Nevertheless, the message Isaiah was to deliver would surprise, “Go, and say to this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see … and hear … and be healed” (vv. 9, 10). Isaiah naturally inquired, “Till when, O Master?” (v. 11).
We note God’s modus operandi for salvation is killing to make new and alive (Dt. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Jer. 1:9b, 10b), the entire point of Baptism and resurrection. God’s order of grace delivers his word for faith-born repentance and thanksgiving; or for judgment on man’s rejection of so radical a salvation.
Certainly, Isaiah conveyed God’s comfort (Isa. 40:1, 2), the manner and means perhaps not entirely clear (Isa. 53:1-4); but not so in the NT epoch, we love Him because he first loved us in Christ (1 Jn. 4:19).
In time God would answer Isaiah’s query of when his preachment apart from understanding would be clarified; in sending his Son, a Burnt Offering in the Spirit’s fire-infused wood for atonement and our Absolution, Jesus is either rejected, as at Nazareth (Lk. 5:28, 29), or received as in Capernaum (v. 42).
Like Isaiah, Peter when called by the Lord was “dumb as dirt”; if Isaiah was called from his priestly vocation; Peter was called from washing fish nets to casting God’s word into the abyss for men.
By Jesus’ boat teaching and great draught of fish miracle, Peter understood Jesus, the Holy One and Son of God. Like Isaiah’s confession of guilt, Peter in fear fell at his knees, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8).
As the Seraph had approached heaven’s incense altar with tongs, Jesus, in the fullness of his humanity was on his way to the altar of burnt flesh on the wood of the cross for man’s Absolution.
Like Isaiah, Peter first received a word of forgiveness, “Do not be afraid”; after which in the resurrection the Apostles would receive the HS for proclaiming, our “guilt is taken away, and sin … atoned”.
As with Isaiah, Peter and his brother Apostles were called out of former occupations into Christ’s prophetic office; their directive for the church’s mission is clear; out of the world’s darkened chaos, the church will catch and receive, “men alive” (v. 10b) by the word of God.
By grace, ignorant men now hear and behold God’s love and their gracious Way of salvation; the law no longer stumbles, the revelation of Christ has lifted the veil from Moses’ face for understanding and knowledge of God (2 Cor. 3:12-16). Clarity of the God’s word is the gift of the HS in his church.
St. Paul insists on gospel clarity, utterly distinct from God’s law and both at one and the same time True. Corinth was an international city, a crossroad in the Mediterranean where residents and visitors communicated by a multiplicity of languages. For the sake of the Word in the congregation Paul instructed, “one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret” (1 Cor. 14:13; cf. Ap. XXIV, para. 2).
Betokened by the great catch of fish Jesus’ Apostles were cemented to his mission. Later in the Resurrection St. John reported, a similar catch (Jn. 21:1-14). Peter and six other apostles returned to fish for fish while awaiting the HS. Returning bereft of fish out of the darkness into morning light, the Lord, from the shore, commanded they re-cast their nets to the right.
John discerned the risen Lord; he had seen this miracle before. Peter dove into the sea to meet the Lord broiling fish over a charcoal fire. Jesus, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day invites us to our morning meal for passing out of the world’s chaos, remembering his cross and Spirit-infused flesh upon our lips in the Holy Communion.
For the seven Apostles awaiting Pentecost, this 2nd draught of fish reprised their Call as at the 1st draught of today’s Gospel. St. John reportage of the two catches weds the church’s baptismal vocation of catching men alive out of the world, with Jesus and our gift of the HS who would later descend on the church as tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4). Amen.