Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Isaiah 6: 8-10

Isaiah’s Commission

Then 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!”
He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
10 “Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull, and their eyes dim,
 Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”

Last week's passage was so vivid--as I'm sure it was for Isaiah in experience it--that I'm having a difficult time remembering that this was a vision. But, when God sends a vision of Heaven, complete with the Seraphim, you don't choke that up to just another dream. Truly, visions are much more than that, and what happened to Isaiah in his spiritual cleansing almost defies what we can believe. Yet, this is something that we all need to grasp--God, putting a call on our lives, purifying us for His service and sending us out. From my study Bible:

"Isaiah's vision has made him painfully aware of his sin and has broken him, in this way God has prepared him for his cleansing and his commission."

Verse 8, "Then...."  As if having one of God's supreme angels literally touching him with a censor of cleansing and forgiveness wasn't enough, now, Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord. "Who will go for Us?" That 'Us' strongly suggests the Trinity were issuing a joint call. And Isaiah, broken, yet--I'm thinking--with the greatest clarity he has ever experienced, says, "Here I am. Send me!"

"Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart."
--"Here I am, Lord" ("I, the Lord, of Sea and Sky"), Daniel L. Schutte, lyrics

I remember being a newbie Christian and also answering the call to serve as a Stephen's Ministry leader (a lay caregiving ministry). We had a formal commissioning ceremony after two weeks of training. They played this song, and the words burned on my heart (in the best way!). It was as close to an Isaiah experience as I have known. My mission to teach and encourage others in their caring for people in difficult situations was not nearly as daunting as the task that was laid before the prophet, however.

Isaiah's call was to speak to the people of Judah--God's chosen, yet seemingly hopelessly lost people. Verse 9 says that Isaiah was not going to give Judah words they could use but, rather, words that would confuse. In my study Bible, I have this explanation for verse 9 starred and underlined: "Isaiah's message was to be God's instrument for hiding the truth from an unreceptive people. Centuries later, Jesus' parables were to do the same." A wild call, indeed, but Isaiah would be in the best possible company:

"And He said, 'To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'"
--Luke 8:10, Jesus speaking

To what extent was Isaiah to influence? Verse 10 is a must-look-at-the-Hebrew-meanings verse! "Render the hearts of this people "insensitive" or "fat," in the King James'. 'Fat' means "to shine, i.e. (by analogy) be (causatively, make) oily or gross." [Strong's] Isaiah would not be making the hearts of the people shine like the stars. No, no.... God's Word would literally slip off their oily hearts. Wow! "[Render] their ears dull or "heavy," in the KJV. Again, heavy as in so full of the wonderful words of life? No. "To be heavy, i.e. in a bad sense (burdensome, severe, dull)." [Strong's] ; "[Render] their eyes dim or "besmeared" (KJV), meaning "smeared over, blinded." [Strong's]

"That, forasmuch as they would not be made better by his ministry, they should be made worse by it; those that were willfully blind should be judicially blinded: “They will not understand or perceive thee, and therefore thou shalt be instrumental to make their heart fat, senseless, and sensual, and so to make their ears yet more heavy, and to shut their eyes the closer; so that, at length, their recovery and repentance will become utterly impossible...."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

If God didn't have everything under His control, you might think this was a crazy plan. But, God knew exactly what He was doing, as He even told all of Israel--through their great leader, Moses--that this precise situation would come about in their lives:

"The Lord alone guided him,
And there was no foreign god with him.
He made him ride on the high places of the earth....
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation....
The Lord saw this, and spurned them
Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters.
Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end shall be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faithfulness.'"
--Deuteronomy 32: 12-20 (The Song of Moses), excerpts

It's all there, isn't it? Amazing! What is discouraging is that the "perverse generation" is not completely gone. There are still those who listen and look, but do not find or understand. The "fatness" of the world is clearly evident. My church's recent sermon series on Romans brought this to light this past Sunday, as one of our pastors spoke on Romans 8. It's as if we hold up our hand in God's face, denying His presence in deference to our own wants and pleasures:

"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God."
--Romans 8:5-8

Again, wow, what a calling for Isaiah! People who "would be made worse by" his ministry, to quote Matthew Henry. Going up full force against the flesh. But, with a mighty calling comes a mighty hand. God was abundantly faithful to Isaiah, granting him a long ministry, and providing him with words that though they may not have penetrated the hearts of all Judah in his day certainly were not lost words. Jesus and His disciples referred to Isaiah so many times in their ministries. Questioning the fulfillment of prophecy? Just note Isaiah's words and the happenings in the New Testament. I digress a bit, but this whole chapter is such a great study in and of itself in receiving a call from God and His preparation of His servants for such a calling.

Yet, a question remains....

"Lord, how long?" God's calls are not forever.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 6: 11-13

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).