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I have used Isaiah 6.1-8 as a text for many sermons. I never remember a time when I have preached from the remaining verses of the chapter.
Nearly everyone who has attended church for any time has heard the famous words of verse 8.
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!'” (Isaiah 6.8).
The next verses are quite difficult to fit within our understanding of God.
Preaching a Nation’s Funeral
As a young preacher, I was in a meeting with one of our state’s seasoned Christian leaders. I will never forget his words, “Some preachers have been called to preach the funeral for the church they are serving.”
Over the years, I have seen that statement lived out in numerous churches. For one reason or another, they failed to thrive. Instead, they dwindled and ultimately died.
I can’t imagine the shock that Isaiah must have felt after the powerful vision and call to ministry to then hear what his mission would be.
In effect, God told him that his life would be spent proclaiming the nation’s end.
9 And he said, “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend;
keep looking, but do not understand.’
10 Make the mind of this people dull,
and stop their ears,
and shut their eyes,
so that they may not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and comprehend with their minds,
and turn and be healed.” (Isaiah 6.9-10)
People who are primarily readers of the New Testament have a hard time with these words. They wonder how it can be that God would prevent repentance so total destruction of the nation may occur.
The truth is that this event is not too far removed from our experience. Have you ever heard a message from a friend or in a sermon that hit you right square where you live?
You were possibly confronted with wrong behavior that you cherished like a “pet” sin.
Instead of changing your behavior, you used your reasoning to discount the word and to continue with the bad behavior.
Isaiah was a messenger of the truth. Only the truth could heal the nation.
A message that failed to confront the basic issues of the people may have been popular, but it would never have cured the disease that corrupted society.
Not the First Time
Isaiah was not the first to preach God’s truth, only to have it rejected.
The people of God were ready to enter the Promised Land. By God’s power, they had been liberated from generations of slavery in Egypt. With the land of promise before them, they calculated their human potential and acted in unbelief.
All Moses could say to them was, “Although I told you, you would not listen. You rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went up into the hill country” (Deuteronomy 1.43).
The Apostle Paul faced a similar issue and said, “[They] are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3.7).
The problem all must face is that pride, self-sufficiency, and rebellion is a disease. If we don’t surrender to God’s revealed truth, we won’t be able to comprehend or understand God’s word to us.
We will have dull minds, deaf ears, and blind eyes to God’s activity among us.
How Long and Why
When I heard that denominational official years ago, I prayed a silent prayer. “God, please don’t send me to a church where all I can accomplish is to preach its funeral.”
Can you imagine Isaiah’s pain when he had this dialogue with God?
11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
and houses without people,
and the land is utterly desolate;
12 until the Lord sends everyone far away,
and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.
13 Even if a tenth part remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak
whose stump remains standing
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6.11-13)
The message of the Book of Isaiah is not one of total judgment. Words of judgment are often complimented by beautiful pictures of God’s mercy and salvation.
However, the result of his message was still one of desolation.
The people refused to believe God’s word and repent. Defeat in battle and exile from the land was the result of their unbelief and rebellion.
Why would God allow this to happen? Why would he permit his people to harden their hearts in rebellion and self-will?
As much as Isaiah grieved over the situation of Israel, we can be assured that God was grieved even more. However, God can not stop being a just and righteous God.
At the very beginning of Israel’s walk, God gave them instructions. If they trusted God and followed his direction, they would be blessed.
If they refused and rebelled, God described a different outcome.
“And just as the Lord took delight in making you prosperous and numerous, so the Lord will take delight in bringing you to ruin and destruction; you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 28.63).
More Than a History Lesson
I hope we all will see this passage as more than a history lesson from the distant past.
We all need a personal encounter with God, where his holy and exalted glory is impressed on us.
We need the experience of the forgiveness of sins.
We need – and the world around us needs – to take up the mission God has given to us.
More than anything, we need to no longer trust human potential. Instead, we need to put our complete trust in God.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross is an excellent student of Isaiah. Rudy and I have a video you can see on the Bob Spradling YouTube Chanel.
Rudy will bring a different dimension to Isaiah than what is in my blog. I hope you will check out and enjoy my interviews with him.
I am indebted to a book by Dr. John Oswalt on Isaiah for his insights into this powerful book.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist prayer team will pray for you.
Wise is the one who studies history to learn and change their ways, rather than to sit in judgment of those who came before. It’s easy to shake our heads and think how unfortunate for Israel. It’s harder to look at ourselves for those Israeli traits and seek to restore ourselves to God’s way. Thank you, Bob, for the truth you bring in these blogs.
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Thanks for your comment Denise. I know you are praying for family, friends and the nation. I join you in this prayer effort. May God have mercy on us all.