By Femi Aribisala
If you answer the phone and discover that the call is from the president of your country, you can imagine how excited you would be. Your mind might make a 100-metre dash, concluding that the call is about some appointment or promotion, or something of grandeur and prestige.
You might Walter Mitty that: “The president wants to make me the Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Or he wants to make me a strategic and powerhouse minister in his government. It can also be that he wants to make me the Board Chairman of some highfalutin parastatal.”
When King Ahasuerus asked Haman what should happen to the man that the king wants to honour, Haman immediately concluded that the king had decided to honour him. He was lavish in prescribing the honour, not knowing that it was meant for his arch enemy Mordecai.
All that happened to Isaiah was that he wasgiven a privileged vision of God Almighty, high and exalted on His throne. Then he overheard the Lord saying: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”
Isaiah immediately got carried away. He was so excited; he butted in on a conversation to which he had not been invited and shouted: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8).
But his excitement soon disappeared when he heard the errand. God said to him:
“Go, and say to this people, ‘Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.’ Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing.” (Isaiah 6:9-10).
This turns out to be the most repeated scripture in the Bible. The Mathew 13:13-16 version is the scripture that God used to call me. But we may well ask: “What kind of thankless errand does this entail?”
Not surprisingly, Isaiah was nonplussed. He asked: “Lord, how long will this go on?”
And God replied: “Until their towns are empty, their houses are deserted, and the whole country is a waste land; until the Lord has sent everyone away, and the entire land of Israel lies deserted.” (Isaiah6:11-12).
This is not the type of errand that brings glory to the messenger. On the contrary, it brings reproach and opprobrium. Thus, Jeremiah has a bone to pick with God. He says to Him:
“O Lord, You deceived me when You promised me Your help. I have to give them Your messages because You are stronger than Iam, but now I am the laughing stock of the city, mocked by all.
You have never once let me speak a word of kindness to them; always it is disaster and horror and destruction. No wonder they scoff and mock and make my name a household joke. And I can’t quit! For if I say I’ll never again mention the Lord- never more speak in His name- then His word in my heart is like fire that burns in my bones, and I can’t hold it in any longer.
Yet on every side I hear their whispered threats and am afraid. ‘We will report,’ they say. Even those who were my friends are watching me, waiting for a fatal slip. ‘He will trap himself,’ they say, ‘and then we will get our revenge on him.’” (Jeremiah 20:7-10).
But the Lord God Almighty is not apologetic. On the contrary, He rubs salt into Jeremiah’s wounds, telling him:
“If racing with mere men-these men of Anathoth-haswearied you, how will you race against horses, against the king, his court, andall his evil priests? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you doin Jordan’s jungles?” (Jeremiah 12:5).
God’s calling gets us into trouble. That isthe reason why Paul found it necessary to point out that: “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). Something that works together for good is not good. But it ends up being good.
That was the experience of Joseph. God’s calling led to his being thrown down a well, sold as a slave to Egypt, jailed on trumped-up charges, before finally ending up as prime minister of Egypt. In thecase of David, he was on the run for his life for years before finally sittingon the throne of Israel.
For his part, Moses always knew there wasGod’s calling upon his life as a saviour of Israel. But when he took the initiative and killed an Egyptian and buried him in the sand in defense of an Israelite, he was shocked at the ingratitude of his people.
When he tried to mediate between two fighting Israelites, one of them challenged him, asking: “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killedthe Egyptian?” (Exodus 2:14).
Fearing his act was an open secret, Mosesfled from the king’s palace in Egypt and spent the next 40 years in the wilderness. When God finally called him to deliver the children of Israel from Egypt, Moses’ response was not Isaiah’s “Here I am, send me.” He came up with atorrent of excuses. He knew he was in trouble.
In the first place, the same God who calledhim decided to kill him immediately afterward for not circumcising his childrenand subscribing to the covenant God made with Abraham: “And it came to pass onthe way, at the encampment, that the Lord met him and sought to kill him.” (Exodus4:24).
The Israelites that Moses was sent to deliveragain turned against him when Pharaoh increased their labours in retaliationfor Moses’ audacity in telling him: “Ley my people go.”
Not so fast
If your response to God’s call is: “Here Iam, send me” then take note. You probably have not yet understood your calling.God’s calling hardly ever agrees with us.
When God called Jonah, He told him, a Jew,to go and preach the gospel of repentance and salvation to the enemies of theJews in Nineveh. Jonah would have none of that. He boarded a ship and headedfor Tarshish instead.
When one man offered to follow Jesus, He warnedhim that they would not be living in the Sheraton Hotel: “Foxes have holes andbirds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Matthew8:20).
But Jesus’ discipleship is even more drastic.To follow Jesus is to go to your own execution. To follow Him is to go to yourdeath and funeral:
“Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyonedesires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, andfollow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loseshis life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gainsthe whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchangefor his soul?” (Matthew 16:24).