The Coal

Written by Heather Zempel | November 30, 2010 | Isaiah 5 - 8

I’ve never gotten my mouth washed out with soap. Which is shocking given that the majority of sin issues I struggle with seem to be concentrated in that area. As a kid, I had quite the smart mouth, wisecracking mouth, sarcastic mouth. And it hasn’t improved a whole lot as an adult.

Isaiah 6 is one of my favorite chapters in the entire Bible. In fact, it was the text for one of the first sermons I ever gave. God appears to the prophet, calls him, cleanses him, receives worship from him, and then appoints him for the task of taking his message to the people. It’s a picture of God in all of his glory and humanity in all of its depravity. And Isaiah’s calling is found in the space between.

I resonate so much with Isaiah’s response to God’s glory, “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.” When we see ourselves in light of God’s holiness, we realize just how messed up we are. We keep reading and find that God’s solution to that is a good old fashioned mouth-washing. Only not with the nasty blue soap. With a coal. Purified by holy fire from the altar. It removed guilt and it atoned for sin. Immediately thereafter, Isaiah courageously answered “Here am I, send me?” to the Trinity’s inquiry of who might be their messenger. Isaiah spent the rest of his life speaking peace, joy, and hope into the midst of troubling times. His words became the foundation upon which the children of God rested their hopes for Messiah.

As we enter this season of Advent, what message might Christ commission us for? Messages of peace, messages of joy, messages of hope. It’s usually in the season of Christmas celebration that we find ourselves in the gap between seeing the glory of God and the depravity of humankind. It’s in that gap that our message of grace is most needed. Messages of grace to broken families, hurting people, poverty, loneliness, spiritual emptiness, sickness, etc. But we need God to bring purity to our speech. Not just a coal in our stocking, but a coal of righteous purity on our lips.

This is a busy season. Take just a moment today and ask God to give you clean lips so that you can spread messages of hope this Christmas.