When we were in Lakeland they kept talking about how you could ask for and receive a burning coal, to take back with you to where you’re from. Of course that’s coming from Isaiah 6. It was the year King Uzziah died. That king had a long and (mostly) distinguished rule of 52 years. He became king at the age of 16 following his father’s assassination. He started out really well and was faithful to the LORD for a long time – that is the measure of a governmental success in scripture – and during that time he and his nation prospered.
Unfortunately one day he made a terrible mistake, when he entered the temple to burn incense, a duty reserved by the LORD for the priests only. Pride comes before a fall. It says, But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. (2 Chronicles 26:16)
He was confronted about his sin, got angry instead of repentant – and ended up a leper, living out his last days in tragic isolation, while his son Jotham ruled in his stead until he finally died.
Lesson? Don’t try to light your own fire! Don’t step outside your anointing! How often do leaders try to light something or set something going themselves when God hasn’t commanded or empowered them? Uncommanded labour is just tiring and leaves you empty, disillusioned, powerless and lonely (been there, done that, got the t-shirt).
So when Isaiah went into the temple, he was probably at a very low ebb. A wise and good king who’d started well but finished terribly had died. The nation’s in mourning.
But then, unexpectedly, GOD WAS THERE! Imagine, finding God actually in church! It’s amazing where he might turn up you know
What happened when God came? He saw the Lord on his throne of glory, High and lifted up – and his train filled the temple! He saw strange visions of angels, the seraphim heard them calling and declaring the praises of God in worship. That whole huge building quaked and shook!
Surely if that was available under the old covenant, we should not be surprised as believers in a greater covenant that when God manifests his presence it’s with similar and even greater glory? If the ministry that brought death…came with glory… will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? (2 Cor 3:7 & 8). Why would you be surprised that he who shook the temple causes people to shake? Why would you doubt that the angels who are ministering spirits sent to serve us who inherit salvation still come – and that people of faith still see them and hear them as did believers and sinners and even a donkey?!
Does not the Lord still inhabit the praises of his people? (Ps 22:3 NKJ). And is Jesus the same, yesterday, today and forever; mighty to save – a healing, miracle working God?
When God came to Isaiah he came with conviction, with cleansing, and then with a call. My friend Mark Stibbe has been emailing me about his time in Lakeland as he’s there right now. I will leave him to publish his own assessment but yesterday he reminded me, “the Holy Spirit is the limitless and unlimited presence and power of Almighty God. And he is uncontainable…”
Isaiah found that whatever the nation looked like, the real King was still on the throne that day! The length of a king’s robe signifies his majesty. Our KIng’s robe filled the temple!
The angels cried out, “Holy, Holy Holy!” Why? Some scholars say it’s because in Hebrew one way to express a superlative is by repetition. For example, we say, ‘good, better and best.’ But in Hebrew you could just repeat the word to express a superlative, similar to ‘Vanity of Vanities’ or ‘King of Kings.’ Other say it’s just a chant, Holy, Holy, Holy – because He is! So if anyone complains that the worship chorus is too simple, tell them you’re just trying to do it like the angels.
That recognition in the worship of who God really is brings conviction. “Away from me Lord, I’m sinful!”
Spurgeon said, “God will never do anything with us till he has first of all undone us.” Isaiah became undone before he could do anything,
That was certainly something I felt in the very simple worship at Lakeland. No great band, showy flashing lights, or technological paraphernalia (all great stuff, but if I want that I’ll go to see Oasis). All there was when the presence of God was most powerful and tangible for me was a lady singing, a keyboard and drums. Sins committed recalled, but not to condemn – to cleanse and restore.
Oh, and angels ascending and descending. That evening when Hannah was healed, in the worship, I had a vision of angels dropping down gift after gift on me, I thought ‘that’s wonderful’ – but I knew it wasn’t it. There was even a bicycle among the gifts, and that’s one of my favourite things!
Then I saw them bring a golden word from God, a page from the Bible, I thought, ‘That’s fantastic!’ – what more could a preacher want? But then I knew it wasn’t it either.
Then the Lord gave me his heart.
That’s it! Those who hunger and thirst WILL be satisfied.
A burning coal ( a ‘live’ coal) comes from the altar. What Uzziah could not do, God does. He brings the fire we cannot and should not try to self generate. He convicts, He cleanses, and then the call. “Who will go?
After conviction comes cleansing, and after that comes a call. I said, “Me Lord! I want a coal! I want to burn for you! I’ll volunteer! (That’s one of the reasons I’ve got my hands up!). Send me! I don’t just want to go, I need to be sent by you. Commissioned to fulfil the call.”
He said, GO!
Last night, we held a meeting at the place where we meet for L1FE, which ran well over three hours, and it was so – well, easy. When the Spirit is there, there is liberty. No hype, just God coming to church. Hannah gave her testimony, I preached because this has to be founded in scripture, and then the Lord took over. The coals are starting to ignite in the UK.
An email I recieved this morning says, this:
Along with I hope many others, may I share with you what happened to me last night? During the worship I several times felt a gentle tingling all over me and a need to try to sing in tongues. I asked for prayer from Emma … and during that time I felt her hand really warm on my shoulder. I couldn’t actually hear what she said because the singing was too loud, but it didn’t matter. When I got back to my seat I started shaking all over for several minutes, and in the next worship time I did sing in tongues…wonderful release ! I have not felt the Spirit like this before….