God Said What???Posted: September 13, 2012
For the astute observer you may have noticed on Sunday that we left off the problematic 2nd half of Isaiah chapter six. After God says: who will go for us? After Isaiah says: Here I am send me. After all that God says to Isaiah:
Go and tell this people:
Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing but never perceiving. Make the hearts of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn and be healed.
This sounds weird right? It sounds like God doesn’t want his people to understand Isaiah. It sounds like God doesn’t want his people to respond to Isaiah’s message. It sounds like God doesn’t want his people to turn and be healed. That’s what it sounds like. But that’s not the case.
If you read all of Isaiah you’ll find Isaiah does not preach an obtuse, cryptic or unclear message to the people. Isaiah preaches the very simple, very clear message God gives him. In fact Isaiah’s message is mocked for being too childish and simple (Isaiah 28:9-10). God wants people to understand Isaiah. You see that in the clarity of Isaiah’s message.
And if you read all of Isaiah you’ll find God definitely wants people to respond to Isaiah’s message turn and be healed. That’s the endgame for God. His people finally responding so he can heal them.
So given the context of the whole book of Isaiah it’s clear God’s message to Isaiah is not: be obtuse so people won’t respond. That’s not what is happening here. But what is happening here?
I think three things are happening in this passage.
First, Isaiah is simple declaring a present reality. We become like what we worship. The people have been worshipping blind, deaf, dumb idols. The people have now become blind, deaf and dumb themselves. Isaiah is simply declaring a present reality.
Second, Isaiah is declaring a fixed future. God’s judgment was coming. The northern kingdom of Israel was going to be destroyed by Assyria. The southern kingdom of Judah was going to be exiled by Babylon. Done deals on both because of their sin. But judgment is not the last word, salvation is. When the carrots don’t work to get people’s attention, God brings out the stick. But God disciplines to restore, he wounds to heal, he punishes to save.
Third, there is a strange and sad dynamic at play when God’s people reject God’s prophets. The prophet speaks God’s word. The people reject that word and become more hardened to God. The prophet again speaks God’s word. The people reject that word and become even more hardened towards God.
This is strange. God speaking to his people should soften them not harden them. But this is not always the case.
This is sad. You’d like your ministry to bring people to God instead of pushing them away. But this is exactly what happens to Isaiah, Jeremiah and many of the Old Testament prophets.