Summary: God calls us to faith when we are blind.
March 3, 2002 Isaiah 42:14-21
“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. 15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools.
16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. 17 But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame.
18 “Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! 19 Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD? 20 You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing.” 21 It pleased the LORD for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious.
Most of you are probably familiar with the Helen Keller story. Helen was both blind and deaf. On top of that, she was a little brat. She would often smash dishes and lamps and terrorize the whole household with her screaming and temper tantrums. She would eat the food off of other people’s plates at the dinner table. Relatives regarded her as a monster and thought she should be put into an institution. But really, what could you do if you were the family? Yell at her?
Pure logic would seem obvious that it won’t do any good to yell at something that can’t hear. But how often don’t we try it? Did you ever try to yell at a weed wacker when it won’t start? One lady told me that when she spoke with someone who didn’t know English she would just speak louder. Imagine going to a doctor and telling him you are losing your eyesight to have him say, “come on! Look! Don’t be blind!” It seems rather foolish to tell a blind person to see. But the same thing happens today, as Isaiah calls out,
Look, You Blind, and See!
I. The reason for blindness
There are different reasons for blindness. Several years ago now, a pastor within our district - Pastor Russow - had a son who suddenly started losing his eyesight. Finally he was declared “legally blind.” His boy was already in college, and the doctors couldn’t find a cure. It was the strangest thing. With Helen Keller, when she was nineteen months old, she fell ill. It may have been scarlet fever or meningitis. Whatever the illness, Helen was, for many days, expected to die. But when the fever subsided, Helen’s mother soon noticed how her daughter was failing to respond when the dinner bell was rang or when she passed her hand in front of her daughter’s eyes. They then knew that Helen’s illness had left her both completely blind and deaf.
Blind and deaf. That’s the way God described the Israelites in today’s text by referring to them as “God’s servant”. Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the LORD? Just as there are different degrees of physical blindness and deafness, God says the same thing spiritually. Isaiah was in fact saying, “nobody is as blind and deaf as the Israelites!” What made them so blind and deaf? You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing. It wasn’t the fact that they COULDN’T hear or see, but that they WOULDN’T see or hear.
My wife claims I have the same problem. And I think I must have passed it on to my children - at least in a physical aspect. Whenever they are watching the TV, I can say their name loud and clear so that I know they can hear me, but they don’t respond. The same goes true of me. Think of this in spiritual terms then. The Israelites were blind and deaf because they didn’t pay attention to God’s blessings. I think the most glaring example of this is when they were in the Desert. They had seen God miraculously take care of them - over 2 million people with a miraculous manna that came from heaven every morning. They had seen God destroy the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. They had at least heard the stories of how God sent 10 plagues on the Egyptians to let them go. But when they were faced with a shortage of water, what did they say to Moses? “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! 4 Why did you bring the LORD’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? 5 Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20) Instead of looking at all of their past blessings and God’s promises to provide for them, they only saw that they had no water. They only heard the complaints of their bodies and those around them. They were totally blind!