Summary: The rebellious want to believe a lie, escape responsibility and avoid God, but the people of God are called to model truth and love.
Very often, on my day off, I enjoy going to the state forest near Loudonville and hiking through the woods. I put something to eat and drink in my pack and head out. I am energized by being alone where there are no phones or other means of communication — except the best communication one can experience. It is a great place to pray and think. Usually I take a good book with me and just read for a few hours in the forest. This week I was sitting under a tree enjoying a good book when I heard a woodpecker near me. I looked in the direction of the noise he was making, but couldn’t see him. The noise was loud enough that at first I thought is was a person cutting wood somewhere. But after awhile he flew into the large tree I was sitting against. It must have been a pileated woodpecker because he was sending shock waves through the tree. I sat back down and soon there was a shower of bark and wood chips coming down on me. I didn’t bother to move because I was actually enjoying the experience. Since the chips were landing on me I knew that he must be right above me, but when I leaned my head back to look up I still could not see him.
As I reflected on that experience I thought about how much it is like our experience with God. We see the results of his work, and even though we look up and do not see him, we know he is there. He showers down his blessings on us, and again we look up to find him, but he is hidden from our eyes. It does not take away from the fact that we know he is there. To ignore his existence and not believe that he is there would be like me thinking the tree was making those woodpecker noises all by itself and the chips were falling by accident.
Last week we read about the people Isaiah would prophesy to who were, “ever hearing, but never understanding; ever seeing, but never perceiving.” Their hearts were calloused, their ears dull, and their eyes were closed (Isaiah 6:9-10). Isaiah was a part of God’s divine mission in the world — to announce the glad tidings of a God who loved them and wanted to be in covenant with them, but the people did not want to hear; they did not want to understand. The situation is the same in the passage that we have read together today. They say to Isaiah and the other prophets: “See no more visions! Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” (Isaiah 30:10-11). They were more interested in a lie than the truth — as along as the lie was one they want to hear. Even if the warning of the prophets would have saved their lives and made their lives better, they still did not want to hear about it. The chips were falling, but they did not want to believe there was a woodpecker above them.
The first point that Isaiah is making in this scripture is: A rebellious people want to believe a lie. Isaiah’s message to his nation was that their continued rebellion against God would be the ruin of the nation. Sin would not only destroy their personal lives, it would destroy their country. Sin brings judgment — always, inevitably. Isaiah was warning them about what was going to happen if they did not turn from their sin and turn back to God, but they did not want to hear it. It was negative talk. They did not want to hear about God’s judgment, they wanted to hear about God’s love and blessing. They wanted Isaiah to build up their self-esteem. They wanted him to discuss pleasantries and recite poems. They wanted a positive gospel. And even though Isaiah was telling them the truth, they preferred to believe a lie.
It is hard to understand why people would prefer destruction over hearing and believing the truth. But this was the case in the New Testament as well. In the sixth chapter of Luke we read about Jesus ministering to people and healing them while the religious leaders stood by trying to find something to criticize. When Jesus healed a man’s deformed hand on the Sabbath, instead of being glad for the man, they were furious at Jesus and began to talk among themselves about how they could kill him. At the trial of Jesus, Pilate asked the people why they wanted to crucify Jesus and what the nature of the crime was which he had committed. But they only shouted louder to crucify him. And then they said to Pilate: “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:23-26). Seventy years later their wish was granted as the Romans completely destroyed the city and the temple. Why would people prefer disaster to the truth? Because this is the essence of rebellion: I am going to do it my way even if it kills me. We would rather live a lie than face reality. After all, illusions make us feel comfortable and secure; truth makes us uneasy. The rebellious want to believe a lie and avoid the truth. Charles Shultz, in his Peanuts cartoon strip, has Charlie Brown and his friend standing outside looking at the stars. After awhile Charlie Brown says, “Let’s go inside and watch television, I’m beginning to feel insignificant.” When people reject THE Significance of the universe, they are uncomfortable and seek to create their own significance — even if it is a lie. Isaiah wrote: “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it” (Isaiah 30:15).