Isaiah 6 describes how the prophet Isaiah, through a vision from the Lord, begins his ministry for God. In the vision, the Lord asks, ““Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8a). Isaiah’s response was to volunteer for service: “Here am I; send me” (verse 8b, KJV).
After a 52-year reign of relative peace, King Uzziah of Judah died of leprosy in 739 BC (2 Chronicles 26:16–23), the same year Isaiah began his prophetic ministry. In a vision Isaiah saw the Lord, “high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple” (Isaiah 6:1). The Lord had a message to deliver to the nation of Judah, and He expresses His desire for a messenger in verse 8. Isaiah’s exclamation “Here am I; send me” marked the very beginning of his ministry; the priest was now a prophet, and the Lord’s message for Judah eventually became the book of Isaiah.
Before Isaiah could say, “Here am I; send me,” he had a problem that had to be addressed. Isaiah 6:5 describes how Isaiah was made aware of his own unworthiness: “Woe to me! . . . I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Standing in the Lord’s presence, Isaiah is made painfully aware of his sin, and he is broken about it in the same way as were Job (Job 42:6) and Peter (Luke 5:8) when they were confronted with the presence of the Lord. God was preparing Isaiah for his cleansing and commission.
After Isaiah acknowledges his sin, a seraph takes a burning piece of coal from the altar, touches Isaiah’s lips with it, and says, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:7). Some details are important here: Isaiah could not remove his own guilt, the atonement is made possible by the altar—the place of sacrifice—and the purification is specifically applied to the point of Isaiah’s sin—his lips—making Isaiah acceptable as a minister of God’s words.
It is only after Isaiah is cleansed of his sin that he says, “Here am I; send me.” Prior to that point, he saw himself as an unworthy messenger; once he was forgiven, he immediately desired to serve the Lord in whatever way possible. The Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”—He wants willing volunteers in His service—and a grateful and enthusiastic Isaiah doesn’t hesitate in taking the opportunity: “Here am I; send me.” And for the rest of his life, Isaiah serves the God who had forgiven and saved him.