There are phases in life when there are experiences of great emptiness. This emptiness cannot be described but it is immediately understood when it comes.
During such times there is a possibility of having a vision of God. The way God chooses to reveal Himself may be a dramatic one or it could happen in a very ordinary fashion.
But it leaves you with an unmistakable sense of your own unworthiness to be before a Holy God. In God’s awesome holy presence you are immediately made conscious of your own sinfulness. That is the acid test to make sure whether you really had a vision of God.
And God has a purpose in allowing you to have a vision of Himself. That is to prepare you for a higher calling; a work that He has for you to do. For that no lesser experience than a vision of God is needed.
Example 1: Isaiah (Isaiah 6, 2 Chronicles 26)
Uzziah was a righteous king who walked in the ways of the Lord. He was a powerful king who ruled for fifty-two years. When he became powerful he became proud and it led to his downfall. In his pride he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense which it was permitted only for priests to do. So God struck him with leprosy. He left the temple immediately and he had leprosy till the day he died. He lived in a separate house. His son Jotham had charge of the palace till his death.
Now Prophet Isaiah had a vision of God in the year that King Uzziah died.
In this vision Isaiah saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted. He saw that the train of His robe filled the temple. He saw seraphs calling out to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3b NIV). Their voice shook the doorposts and thresholds of the temple and the temple was filled with smoke. It was an awe-inspiring vision.
The response of Isaiah to this glorious and majestic vision was immediate. He cried out that he was ruined because he was a man of unclean lips and that his eyes had seen the King, the Lord Almighty.
God responded to his cry by sending one of the seraphs with a live coal in his hand which he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched Isaiah’s mouth with it and told him that since it had touched his mouth his guilt has been taken away and his sin taken care of.
After this he heard the voice of the Lord asking whom shall He send and who shall go for them? Isaiah immediately answered that he was ready to be God’s messenger: “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8b NIV). God then gave him the message to the people.
We find here a pattern emerge. Isaiah was a prophet even before the death of King Uzziah. Yet he had a vision of God in the year King Uzziah died. A fifty-two year reign had come to an end. There is bound to be a sense of emptiness when such a long reign comes to end; though we do not know what exactly its impact was on Isaiah’s mind. God chose this time of emptiness to reveal Himself in a unique way by giving Isaiah a glorious vision of Himself.
Many Bible Scholars have pointed out that an empty throne on earth; and the King, the Lord Almighty, sitting on His throne in heaven are beautifully contrasted here. Isaiah, on seeing the Lord on His throne, was immediately gripped by the sense of His own sinfulness. But God purifies his tongue and gives him a higher calling; a striking message to take to His people. So we find here the pattern of Emptiness » Vision of God » Confession of Sinfulness » Higher Calling.
Example 2: Simon Peter (Luke 5:1 to 11)
The setting here is a day from the life of Jesus. He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret one day. The people were crowding around him. And He was teaching them. He saw two boats there at the water’s edge. The fishermen of these boats were washing their nets. Jesus got into one of the boats and asked the fisherman to take the boat a little out into the water. That boat belonged to Simon. So Jesus sat down on the boat and taught the people.
After he finished teaching He told Simon: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4b NIV). But Simon answered and told Jesus that they had worked hard all night but hadn’t caught anything. He added that because Jesus had asked him to do so, he would let down the nets. (During this conversation Simon addressed Jesus as “Master.”).
When Simon had let down the nets they caught a huge number of fish. Because of this their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats. They catch of fish was so full that the boats began to sink.
Simon Peter’s reaction on seeing this was immediate. He fell at Jesus’ knees and said: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8 NIV). (Note that Simon Peter addressed Jesus here as “Lord.”).
Not only Simon Peter but also the other fishermen including James and John were also astonished at the catch of fish they had taken. At that moment, in response to what Simon had said, Jesus said to him: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:10b NIV). On hearing this not only Simon but also the other fishermen pulled up their boats on to shore. They left everything and followed Jesus.
We find here a similar pattern emerge. Simon and the others with him were experienced and successful fishermen who knew the Lake well. But this day was different. After an all night hard work they had caught nothing. That was unusual. Their nets were empty. Their hearts drained of energy were empty too. And no fish meant that there purses were also empty that morning. Into this scene of emptiness the Master came.
Jesus asked Simon to move into deep water and let down the nets for a catch. Was it the words with which Jesus taught the people that made Simon obey; we don’t know. Surely he might have thought it foolish to obey a carpenter’s son while they were experienced fishermen. Yet when he saw the catch of fish, he realized that the “Master” in front of him was indeed “Lord” of the universe. He also immediately realized his own sinfulness.
We have to note that there was nothing about Jesus’ outward appearance that could have made him realize his own sinfulness. It was truly a vision of God in an ordinary way that he got. But to his confession Jesus responded in a very positive and challenging way. He and his friends were called to a higher calling; to go out and catch men. So we find here the pattern of Emptiness » Vision of God » Confession of Sinfulness » Higher Calling.
Do not be disheartened if you are passing through a testing period of emptiness in your life now. Though this period is painful and discouraging there could be hidden in it a tremendous possibility.
The possibility of having a vision of the Almighty God. It might come in the way Isaiah had his vision.
You may get a glorious vision of God. You may call it a heavenly vision. Or it might come to you right where you are at your workplace. It could occur in your quite ordinary circumstance of life and at a time when your hard work has borne no fruit and your nets are empty.
You may not realize that the vision you’re having is of the Lord Himself until after you see the miracle. It might be then that the realization strikes you with lightning speed and force. You may call it a earthly vision.
Yet, whether it be a heavenly or earthly vision, you get; the response will be the same. You cannot see a vision of the Lord and remain unaffected. Whether you be His own prophet or an unknown fisherman, you will be made conscious of your own sinfulness. No words or preaching are required to make you conscious of your sinfulness. The presence of God itself will do it.
And when you confess your own sinfulness God will respond with compassion. He gives you a vision of Himself not to destroy you but to prepare you for a higher calling. God is giving you a more powerful message to take to the people.
Or He may be asking you to step to a higher plane from catching fishes to catching men. Whatever the duty entrusted you there can be only one response after the vision: Leave everything and follow Him and say that “Here am I, Send me!”