Summary: God’s call to service may not bring what the world calls success. Remaining faithful to God’s call and to His Word is true success.
CALLED TO A REWARDLESS MISSION
The prophet knew that the entire nation needed the same kind of awareness of God and cleansing of sin he had just received. So he responded that he would willingly serve the Lord. Isaiah the prophet volunteered himself to be God’s messenger. However, the message he hears is harsh. Moreover, it is coupled with a command to dull the people’s senses so that they are not able to change their actions and be healed or redeemed.
The effect of unheeded preaching is hardening that leads to destruction. [The implication is that its effect is extended to all the nation that would not heed, even though all did not come and hear.] The proclamation of the Word of God brings either obedience or hardening. There is a point of no return in refusing to obey God’s Word. Israel had reached that point. It had determined to go its own way and it did not matter what God said. They might give lip service to God but obedience from the heart had been lacking for some time.
I. THE COMMISSION TO PROCLAIM, 8-11.
Let’s briefly review verse 8 again. 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!
Isaiah heard the need and volunteers to fulfill the call. His response is Send me, that is, Lord, give me commission and full instruction. Send me, and then, no doubt, You will stand by me. It is a great comfort to those whom God sends to know that they go for God, and may therefore speak in His name, as having authority, and be assured that He will uphold and strengthen them.
Upon acceptance of the call the mission command follows beginning in verse 9. And He said, Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.
God takes Isaiah at his word, and here sends him on a strange errand—to foretell the demise of His people and even to ripen them for that ruin—to preach a message from God that if not heeded would bring a hardening of hearts. Yes, they will hear him, but that is all. They will not learn from or heed his message because their hearts had become calloused (hardened) beyond repentance. They will not understand him, meaning, they will not receive any painful conviction, nor apply their mind that they might understand him. They were prejudiced against the true intent and meaning of what he says, and therefore they will not understand him, or pretend they do not.
This hardening of hearts is a type or a foreshadowing of the Jews in the days of the Messiah. They then would obstinately reject the gospel, and therefore be rejected of God. These verses are quoted in part or referred to six times in the New Testament. Jesus quoted part of this verse to explain that Israel in His day could not believe because they would not believe (Matt. 13:10-15; Luke 8:10; John 12:37-43). In spite of the warning of spiritual judgment they hardened their heart against the Christ. Though spiritual judgment makes the least noise, and is usually unobserved, yet of all judgments it is the most dreadful.
Verse 10 tells the effect of Isaiah’s preaching. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, And their eyes dim. Lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.
Responding as he did in verse 8, Isaiah probably, thought that his serving the Lord would result in the nation’s cleansing. However, the Lord told him His message would not result in positive spiritual response. The people had not listened before and they would not listen now. The Lord did not delight in judging His people, but discipline was necessary because of their disobedience.
In fact the people, on hearing Isaiah’s message, would become even more hardened against the Lord. Their hearts were so distant from God that they simply could not perceive the truth, nor would they respond to the truth. Their eyes, ears, and heart, the faculties for perception and response, would become dulled and apathetic or insensitive.
Instead of his preaching resulting in admission of guilt and a turning to God it would result in a more obstinate refusal to recognize their true need. The turnings to God were too demanding for their liking.
There is no easy gospel. There is no cheap grace, no good word that gives assurances to those who drop by hoping for a quick and comfortable deal. And that leaves in these undiscerning cases only judgment and its terrible consequences. Even the prophetic Word preached by a prophet of God will not compel the free will of man to do what is right in God’s eyes.