All Christians Are God's Scouts (Isaiah 6)
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." (Isaiah 6:8)
As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the foundation of the Boy Scouts of America, we look at our Old Testament reading because we see God calling and sending Isaiah to be His scout. When we talk about scouts, we have the idea of one who gathers intelligence about an enemy in wartime.
Arguably, the greatest example of a scout in American history comes to us in the form of James Ewell Brown Stuart, or "Jeb" to his friends. Jeb was the cavalry commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Among his many accomplishments was--not once, but twice--completely circling the Army of the Potomac. Robert E. Lee, on many occasions, called Stuart "the eyes and ears of the army." When hearing of Stuart's death, Lee said that he had never received a bad piece of information from him. Stuart's loyalty made him a valuable resource during the early campaigns of the Civil War. His recon proved very helpful to Lee and to Stonewall Jackson as he was able to accurately describe the positions of each enemy battalion. His work as a scout was one that required great bravery because he became an easy target for Union soldiers because he was behind their lines. These three--his loyalty, helpfulness and bravery--are three of the core values of the Boy Scouts that Jeb Stuart exemplified during his service in the Civil War. He showed the way a proper scout conducts himself in a time of war.
And that's where we find ourselves today. We're in the midst of a war. We've been commissioned as scouts to discover what we can about the enemy. What gets us about this war is that God is the enemy we're scouting information from. Unlike a traditional enemy, God freely gives away His intelligence to enemy scouts. This intelligence is used by the scouts to report the great things God has done, is doing and will do in this world.
When God commissions scouts, He takes them from His enemy's camp. He takes His enemies and makes them His scouts through the waters of Baptism. Through that commissioning, God calls His enemy's scouts to be His scouts in the world. Isaiah had already been taken from the enemy's camp by God through the rite of circumcision when he was eight days old. He was already one of God's chosen people. When God asks the question, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Isaiah boldly proclaims, "Here am I! Send me" (v8). Before this, God appeared and showed Isaiah that he is still a sinner. God would use Isaiah as a scout as he had the prophets who went before him, but God wanted Isaiah to know that there was nothing in him that made him worthy.
There's no better way to say it than Isaiah says it (vv1-4):
- I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of Him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
God appears in all His glory. Nothing is held back. With this revelation, Isaiah can do nothing but say, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips ... for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (v5). St. Peter says the same thing after his first miraculous catch of fish: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). When God appears, sinners see themselves undone. "The eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see" (LSB #507.3). Before the holiness of God, we see ourselves as nothing. We see ourselves as unclean and polluted. As Isaiah also said, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (64:6). Before the holiness of God, we have nothing to take refuge in. We are laid completely bare and undone.
But God doesn't leave us that way.
- Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." (vv6-7)
As God's glorious appearance makes us undone, He makes us complete once again through the work of a mediator. With Isaiah, it was one of the seraphim with a burning coal from the heavenly altar. Isaiah points towards the Great Mediator, Jesus Christ. Jesus not only took a coal from the altar, He was the sacrifice laid upon the altar of the Cross. The burning coal purifies Isaiah's unclean lips by the Word of the Lord. It's a very particular cleansing. It's a cleansing of the sin that has been confessed. During the Baptismal rite, there is the triple renunciation of the devil, his works and his ways (LSB p. 270). Everything that revolves around the devil and his complete and total opposition to God, His works and His ways is renounced and confessed to be sin in our lives. We come to the font and we find ourselves in the presence of the holy God. Like Isaiah, we find ourselves undone because we are lost and condemned sinners (SC II, 4). As Isaiah's lips were cleansed, so also your entire self was cleansed through the waters of Baptism and you were called to be God's scout. God cleansed your lips and your life so that you might be useful for Him.
God has called you from His enemy's camp to be His scout. His scout not to find out information about the enemy. God already knows that. God uses you as a scout to tell the enemy about Him. Jesus told the self-proclaimed unclean Simon Peter, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men" (Luke 5:10). God's scouts are proclamatory scouts. They don't go to inform the One who sent them. They go to inform the enemy about His plan. Not like double agents. The scouts have completely switched sides and desire nothing but to bring more people across the line with them.
God's scouts want to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They want to spread the fact that they have been cleansed of their sins and have the gift of everlasting life. They want to share the gifts they've received because sharing doesn't diminish the gift. It multiplies the gift the more it's shared. The Gospel comes as the angels sang at Jesus' birth: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth" (Luke 2:14). God's scouts are cheerful. They seek to make others cheerful. They want others to say with the Apostles, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68-69). Words of eternal life make everyone who believes in them cheerful.
This cheerfulness leads them to be able to persevere the obstacles that the devil, the world and the sinful flesh throw in their way. After commissioning Isaiah as His prophet and scout, God tells him that he'll have to persevere. People will hear but not understand. People will see but not perceive. They will have dull hearts, heavy ears and blind eyes. Everyone will not be receptive to hearing the message. But the scout continues to be cheerful because you have the assurance with which we will end our service this morning (LSB #398.5):
- O'er ev'ry foe victorious, He on His throne shall rest,
- from age to age more glorious, all blessing and all-blest.
- The tide of time shall never His covenant remove;
- His name shall stand forever--that name to us is Love.
With the assurance that the love of God sustains His covenant through every age, God's scouts are bold to proclain His message to His enemies so that He might convert them from enemy to friend. God sends His scouts out into the world so that those that belong to the world might be brought from the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). By faith in these promises, we are able to be His scouts and give out His message to everyone around us.
God's scouts, like Jeb Stuart, may sometimes be too flamboyant and misunderstood. But they have the perfect intel about God. His promise of everlasting life through faith. God's scouts, and His gifts to them, make them to see the truth in the Scout Law: "A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."
You are God's scout because He has cleansed you and sent you into the world to proclaim His good news. Trust the Lord and be assured of His presence with you always. Amen.