DIG: How did the stubbornness of Isaiah’s audience differ from that of the Pharisees? When will this prophecy be fulfilled? In what stages? How do these verses preview the rest of the book? When God says a tenth will remain, what does He mean by that? What did Isaiah name his son? Why? Who will conquer the Land? Who is the holy seed? How does this stump relate to the Branch in 4:2-6?
REFLECT: What ministry has God the Holy Spirit called you to? What is the most important aspect of your ministry? How do you measure “success?” results or faithfulness? Is your focus an audience of One, or an audience of many? When you get discouraged, how does the LORD encourage you to know for certain that all is not lost? How can you encourage others in that regard? What can you expect to happen when called to use your spiritual gifts, for example?
When Isaiah learns that his ministry will end in failure, in one sense he asks: ADONAI, how long will I have to endure this? God’s answer is not very encouraging. His answer was that it will be until the Land is totally depopulated. Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the field ruined and ravaged. First, the Babylonians will carry them into seventy years of captivity. Ultimately, however, this judgment will come in 70 A.D. at the hands of the Roman general Titus and the Roman Empire. Isaiah starts Chapter 6 by saying: In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord. This was very significant because the year that King Uzziah died was the year that Rome was established on the banks of the Tiber River. The instrument of their judgment was born.
In another sense, Isaiah cried out: ADONAI, how long (CJB) will this insensibility and blind stubbornness continue (6:11a)? He was neither angry nor objecting. The prophet was beside merely himself, as seen in his cry of dismay. This wasn’t what he wanted to hear, nor did he want to see his people destroyed. But on the other hand, it surely isn’t a refusal or an insistence that the LORD justify Himself. He was determined to obey, but he did so with a heavy heart.
The answer to Isaiah’s cry did not relieve his anguish. God’s justice would not be fully carried out until the Land was virtually empty. This was the verdict: Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until ADONAI had sent everyone away and the Land is utterly forsaken (6:11b-12). Only desolation, destruction, and exile of the sinful majority will bring an end to the deplorable conditions, so the prophecies of Deuteronomy would come into fulfillment (Deuteronomy 28:21 and 63; 29:28).
In a way, these verses preview the rest of the book. They hint at the fact that the Assyrian threat will come and go in Chapters 7 through 37; but beyond that, the more ominous consequences of dealing with Babylon will be seen in Chapters 38 through 48. Although Isaiah did not live that long, ADONAI meant that he should stay faithful to his calling and continue to preach even if he did not see Jerusalem’s downfall. That would be left to the “crying prophet” Jeremiah (see my commentary on Jeremiah Ga - The Fall of Jerusalem). The only way that Isaiah could carry out his duties as a prophet was by the empowering of God Himself. This was a ministry doomed to failure. But the LORD doesn’t call the equipped . . . He equips the called.
There is a song called, An Audience of One, and challenges us to realize that when we minister, we truly should only have a audience of One, Jesus Christ. It is He alone that we should be conscious of pleasing. If we were to please the entire world and not Him then we have failed. On the other hand, if only Him and no one else we will have succeeded. The only words that should really motivate us are those of our Lord. When you hear His words: Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21), any trials or disappointments during your earthly ministry will be well worth it.
As far as the Israelites were concerned, the Land was not theirs to possess as their own, rather, they possessed it in trust from the true Landowner. So long as they remained in God’s favor, by living lives in keeping with His character, then the Land was theirs to develop and enjoy. But if they ceased to live in obedience to YHVH, the Land would vomit them out as it had the Canaanites before them (Lev 18:25-27).21 Utter desolation was sure, but it was not the end. God was not finished with Isra'el.
Perhaps discouraged by such a negative response and terrible results, Isaiah was then assured by the LORD that not all was lost. And though a tenth remains in the Land, it will again be laid waste (6:13a). A remnant would be left, the poor who were left in Judah by Nebuchadnezzar (Second Kings 24:14). This is one of Isaiah’s most important emphases in his book (1:9, 10:19-22, 11:1, 27:6 and 37:31-32). Isaiah named his first son Shear-Jashub (7:3), which means, a remnant will return, as a sign to the nation that all was not lost.
God compared that remnant to stumps that terebinth and oak trees leave when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the Land (6:13b). The stump is the vital and indestructible element from which the tree springs to life again. From this stump or holy seed, the believing remnant would come and others would believe. Though Judah’s population would be almost totally wiped out or exiled, ADONAI promised to protect a small number of believers in the Land. God's promise to Abraham to bless all the nations of the world through His offspring would not be forgotten (Genesis 17). Just as Ha'Shem saved Noah and his family from the judgment of the Flood, the LORD gives His faithful children the grace to overcome the trials of this life.
So what we have in Isaiah 6 is an outstanding example of a call narrative because it describes the basic elements of what people can expect to happen when they are called by God to serve Him. We can anticipate seeing YHVH as He really is (6:1-4), then seeing ourselves as we really are (6:5-8), and finally, seeing the world as it really is (6:9-13).22
Therefore, utter desolation for Judah was as sure as the rising sun, but it was not the end. In that sense this chapter is much like the book of Amos, who was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Isra'el. Although it is filled with judgment, it ends with hope. God’s judgment is never the last word for those who have put their trust/faith/belief in Him (see my commentary on The Life of Christ Bw - What God Does For Us at the Momet of Faith/Trust/Belief). If this was an encouragement to Y'hudah and Yisrael, it should be no less for us.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017