DIG: Compare this verse with 6:5. What is significant about that? How is the Trinity hinted at here? What did Isaiah know that the nation needed? What is Isaiah’s new mission? What effect will it have on Judah? Is this what God wants to happen, or an ironic statement of what God knows will happen? Compare Matthew 13:10-17 and Acts 28:26-27 with these verses. How do these passages of Scripture illuminate each other?
REFLECT: When have you given up, only to receive God’s grace? Are you willing to serve anywhere, anytime? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? John 12:40-41 relates this vision to Messiah. How is Jesus’ glory like the suffering and healing Isaiah saw? How did John use these verses to show that the unbelief of the Jews and their rejection of Yeshua actually fulfilled God’s plan and purpose? Why has the LORD sent you to your world?
The removal of sin is always followed by the requirement of service. Commission always follows cleansing. We have been saved to serve.19 The rest of this chapter deals with the message Isaiah was to preach to the southern kingdom of Judah. Significantly, he was not called to service until he had been cleansed. After hearing the seraph’s words in 6:3 and 7, Isaiah then heard the voice of the LORD.
Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994), a British evangelist, once said, “The greatest miracle God can do today is take an unholy man out of an unholy world, make that man holy, then put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.” This seems to be what the LORD did to Isaiah when He commissioned the prophet to speak to His people.
Around the time of the death of Uzziah, one of Judah’s more successful kings, Isaiah had a vision of YHVH. The prophet saw Him as the true King of the universe, sitting on a lofty throne. In the vision, Isaiah saw seraphim worshiping ADONAI with a hymn that praised His holiness, majesty, and glory.
Isaiah’s vision of ADONAI led to a true vision of himself as unholy and broken before Ha'Shem. Woe to me, he cried, I am ruined (6:5). That recognition of sin led him to a need for and the reception of God's cleansing grace (6:7). Newly cleansed, Isaiah was commissioned to spread YHVH’s message (6:9). The LORD sent Isaiah into an unholy world, not only to live a holy life but also to tell an unholy people about a holy God.
Ha'Shem speaks for the first time, and He uses I and Us in the same breath. Then I heard the voice of ADONAI saying: Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us (6:8a)? Here is one of the implications of plurality regarding God in the TaNaKh. But this is merely a preshadowing and not necessarily a proof.
The question: And who will go? does not mean the LORD did not know or that He only hoped someone would respond. He asked the question to give Isaiah, then cleansed, an opportunity for service. The prophet knew the entire nation need the same kind of cleansing of sin that he had received. Then he responded without being asked or coerced.
It is as if Isaiah was not ready to hear these words before this moment. But he is neither directly addressed nor forced into service. Perhaps it is because Isaiah did not need to be forced, but only needed the opportunity to serve. However, after seeing his true spiritual condition and then receiving the grace of the LORD, Isaiah was desperate to serve. His response is one Hebrew word that translates: Here am I. Send me (6:8b). Note his ready and spontaneous acceptance of the divine mission even before its nature was revealed to him. Those who need to be forced into service do not understand God’s grace toward them. Unlike Adam and Eve who sought to hide from HaShem’s voice , Isaiah cannot keep silent. This is the way it is with those who have received the grace of ADONAI after giving up hope of ever being accepted by Him. It is not a matter of being able to repay God. We are incapable of that. It is a matter of wanting to please Him. It is a matter of love.
The sequence of events in Isaiah’s life should not be overlooked. Each event leads to the next. The king’s death prepares the way for the vision of ADONAI; the vision of God leads to self-despair; self-despair opens the door to cleansing; cleansing makes it possible to recognize the possibility of service; and the climax is service to the LORD Himself.
After responding as he did in 6:8, Isaiah probably thought that his calling would result in the cleansing of the nation. But after he volunteered to be a prophet, he was given a heartbreaking assignment. ADONAI declared: Go and tell this people, “Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving” (6:9). This saying would have been a contradiction in the Hebrew mind. Normally, to hear was synonymous with understanding and doing (Deuteronomy 1:43, 6:3). But here, the LORD is saying that the disease of pride and rebellion was so pervasive that the Israelites would simply fail to comprehend the truth of what they heard. The use of these verses in the New Covenant makes them especially important to understand (Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10 and Acts 28:26-27). Yeshua quoted part of this verse to explain that Y'hudah in His day could not believe because they would not believe (John 12:40).
Tragically, Isaiah was to warn the people of Judah with no positive response. In other words, he was commissioned to go and have an unsuccessful ministry. Perhaps Isaiah hoped that by serving the LORD the nation might be cleansed. But he is told to go to a people who would be unable to understand what he had to say. The people had not listened before and they would not listen now. In fact, the people would become even more calloused against God after hearing message from His prophet.
But these verses also reveal that Isaiah’s message had a different purpose. Here we come to the heart of God’s commission. The preaching of ADONAI's prophet would not make it easier for the people to believe and repent; it would make it more difficult. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed (6:10).
But why would God desire to harden people’s hearts? Why would He not want them to be healed? It is evident that something is more important here than healing. If Isaiah were faithful to his calling and declared the holiness of ADONAI, it would only harden his generation in its rebellion (3:8-9; 5:18-19). He couldn’t water down God’s truth, which would be a mockery. For what can heal except the LORD’s truth? He couldn’t try to salvage his generation at the expense of future generations. But if the truth could not save the present generation, if it would, in fact, destroy that generation, it could, if faithfully recorded, save future generations. This then was Isaiah’s commission, as it is with all servants of God. Not to merely be successful in a human sense, but to be faithful. What was true in Isaiah’s day is true today: Some listen, but even though most refuse to listen, we must still spread the Gospel (Ezek 3:11).20
The hearts of God’s people, synonymous with their minds or understanding, would be calloused in three ways. First, they are without feeling for any work of divine grace. Secondly, they are unable to listen. Thirdly, they have no ability to see. The result is spiritual blindness, deafness and spiritual death. The reason they are being hardened so much is that they might repent and be healed. Ha'Shem can only tolerate sin for so long. Because of Judah's continual hardening, now they will be hardened for good so that their punishment can be assured, but future generations could be saved.
The fulfillment of Isaiah’s warning came in three ways. First, was the judgment of the Babylonian Captivity, just as he had promised. Secondly, when Jesus came the masses would not accept His clear and simple teachings, like the Sermon on the Mount, so He spoke to them in parables that they could not understand (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Er – The Parables: Do You Get The Point?). Thirdly, He gave the gift of languages to the early messianic coummunity. This gift was observable in a dramatic way on fest of Shavu'ot and continued during the apostolic age from time to time as a testimony against those who would not believe. Like the parables, those of faith would be able to understand them and those without faith could not. The Ruach HaKodesh tells us that tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers (First Corinthians 14:21-22). Consequently, the LORD gave His truth to Isra'el in simple, clear teaching that was ignored, and then He spoke in parables that were meaningless riddles without faith. Finally, He spoke in unintelligible languages that could not be understood without translation.
Some have wondered if these verses remove people from responsibility for personal sin. The answer is certainly not! While ADONAI is sovereign over sin and belief, people are always responsible for their actions because God has given to us the ability to choose (Genesis 2:16-17, 4:6-10; Jeremiah 36:3-7; Ezekiel 18; John 7:17). The sovereignty of the LORD never abolishes human responsibility. No, YHVH was offering here the sinful nation forgiveness and blessing on the basis of repentance (Isaiah 1:16-20). But they had persistently refused . . . and God the Holy Spirit is a Gentleman. He will not kick down the door of your heart if you refuse to open it. As a result, this generation of Jews would be under judgment, and the words of Isaiah would only serve to harden their hearts and confirm their unbelief. The same sun that softens wax, hardens clay. Through the pain of Isaiah we can learn a valuable lesson. Many times, by the grace of ADONAI, our ministries are successful; but sometimes, like Isaiah, all God asks of us is to be faithful.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017