Amazing Grace

“Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found was blind but now I see!”  The song is right; God’s grace is truly amazing!  When we think about grace we often think of Jesus in the New Testament.  But the Bible is full of grace.  For example, our passage from Isaiah is full of amazing acts of grace.  Let’s consider Isaiah’s vision.  First consider the time when this all takes place.  God sent this vision to Isaiah in the year that King Uzziah died.  Uzziah had been King for over 50 years.  His reign was one marked by prosperity, and because of his strength the land was at peace.  What would happen now that he died?  Judah was open to attack.  Until the new king demonstrated his ability to lead someone might topple the kingdom.  The people, Isaiah included, were probably very apprehensive.

  In an act of grace God appeared to Isaiah.  God’s glorious presence I am sure was a reassurance.  Their earthly king had died, but here was proof that their heavenly king was still alive.  And what a king He is; powerful and wise, attended by seraphim and sitting high and holy and mighty on a throne.  Here was proof that their lives were in good hands.  But God did not have to go to all that trouble.  God had things well in control.  God personally appeared to Isaiah to comfort him.  It did not benefit God at all.

  It is amazing that God would come to someone like that.  But God does it all the time.  That is what God did in Christ.  The people were afraid and had forgotten that God had promised to protect them.  So in Christ, God came to them in the flesh and showed them that their heavenly Father would suffer their punishment for them.  Amazing grace, that God in all God’s holiness would come to me to bring comfort and care.

  In the midst of Isaiah’s response to God’s vision comes another act of grace.  As Isaiah looks on at this vision of Glory, suddenly he realizes who he is.  He is a sinful man!  He had forgotten God’s steadfast love.  He had abandoned trusting in God’s promise to protect the people.  He had spoken words of doubt and despair that proved how unfaithful he had been.  He was a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips.  Had the Almighty come to destroy him for his lack of faith? 

  But the amazing grace of God never quits.  God knew Isaiah’s heart, his guilt and his shame and hisregret.  Isaiah repented with his mouth; what his heart had already declared.  So God graciously sent an angel of mercy.  One to bring forgiveness to Isaiah whose lips were truly impure.  So God’s angel took a coal from the heavenly fire to purify Isaiah.  God did not have to do that either.  God had every right to destroy Isaiah and all the people without delay.

  The hymn “Amazing Grace” was written by John Newton.  According to legend he was the captain of a slave ship.  The crossing was the worst part of the slave trade.  The newly enslaved Africans were treated like cargo.  They were packed in as closely as possible.  Many died and their bodies were unceremoniously thrown overboard.   When John Newton realized his sin, he saw himself as he really was.  He was a man with the blood of thousands on his hands.  And he lived in an age when many had these same blood stains on their hands.  But the blood of Christ washed those stains away from Newton.  It is no wonder he wrote, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”

  But God’s grace for Isaiah did not end with forgiveness.  Like John Newton, Isaiah was amazed at God’s grace.  He was surprised by the way that God would show such mercy and loving kindness.  And Isaiah knew that the people needed to know that loving kindness too.  But he was just a man whose lips had been filthy just a moment ago.  He was one who had been forgiven of unspeakable crimes of disbelief.  How could he speak of such great and holy things?

  Then God said, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”  This was an invitation.  Without hesitation Isaiah said, “Here, send me!”  And God did.  God did not have to entrust such an important message to someone who had been so unfaithful.  God had every reason to say, “No, Isaiah My people have betrayed Me, so I will find another nation to bear this word.”  But God was gracious and let Isaiah bear that word of judgement and grace.

  Seven hundred years later in 30 ADGod was still doing the same.  Israel was still insolent and forgetful of God’s great love.  But God kept calling them, He even sent His only begotten Son to bring them Good News.  And when He did, He called some Israelite fishermen to helpHim.  Jesus could havedone it by Himself, but He allowed Peter, James, John and the others to participate in sharing the glory that God was revealing.

  “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now am found was blind but now I see.”  God’s grace is amazing when you stop to take a good look at it.  It is a pleasant surprise to discover that God comes to those who are at the endof their rope and discouraged.  It is especially pleasant to know this in a world where things are changing so fast.  Our prosperity isat risk.  Will the gains of the past be lost by a careless generation?  But in the midst of our worry and concern God appears to us in Christ.  And he reminds usof His loving kindness.  He shows us His power.  God is in control, we do not have to worry.  (Reprinted with permission ofRev. David Setzer)