Hear, You Deaf; Look, You Blind, and See

42: 18-25

   DIG: What things have the exiles seen and heard but failed to notice? What was the result? What was God’s original plan for the northern kingdom of Isra'el? For the southern kingdom of Judah? How have they failed to live up to it? What have they become instead? If you were in exile, what comfort would you find in this passage?

   REFLECT: Are there times in your past when you were deaf or blind to the obvious will of the LORD? How was it obvious, now that you look back on it? Did ADONAI give up on you? If God needed to gain your attention today, where would you place yourself on the scale of 1 (deaf) to 10 (all ears)? Are there areas of your life where you might still be turning a deaf ear or a blind eye to the LORD? What lesson for the future could you learn here?

    After stating that He would deliver His people in 42:10-17, ADONAI now addresses the people’s present condition. The dispute was not between God and idols as in 41:21-29, or between the LORD and idol worshipers as in 41:1-7, but between ADONAI and His own people. Why has God been so blind to the sufferings of His people? Why has He been so deaf to their cries? In His grace He had given them the Torah, but they had refused to believe it, they were not willing to walk along the path laid out for them. Then when the punishment came for their rebellion, they refused to learn the lessons that the LORD was trying to teach them. To all this, it was as if Isaiah was saying, “It is not ADONAI who is blind and deaf, look in the mirror, it is you!”

    He called attention to Judah’s condition by saying: Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to Me (42:18-19)? In verse 18, blind and deaf are plural, but in verse 19, blind is singular. The plural looks back to 42:7 and 16, where the blind are the lost Gentile nations. Since verse 19 is singular, this points to nation of Judah, God’s servant. It was as if the LORD was asking them, “Can the blind lead the blind?” How could Judah lead the pagan Gentile nations into the truth if she was blind herself? Later, when the Israelites sat on the banks of the Euphrates River in Babylon they might wonder what had happened to them. Why were they exiled from the Land and their Temple? Isaiah would answer their question by saying that they were spiritually deaf and blind.

    But as an encouragement, God pointed out that her spiritual blindness would be healed in the future. Her future spiritual health would be in sharp contrast to the state of Judah in Isaiah’s day. Theirs was not the total darkness of the Gentile world. ADONAI would say to them: You have seen many things. Isra'el had been given the Torah; but unfortunately, she paid no attention to it. Judah had been given the prophets; but even though her ears were seemingly open, she heard nothing (42:20). And because of that, there were two results.

    First, came the necessity of punishment. Why? Because for God’s own sake, His righteousness demanded punishment for sin (42:21a). The meaning here is steadfastness and purpose. God acts in accordance with His predetermined plan. Secondly, the Torah had to be upheld. It specified that if the Israelites lived according to God’s righteous commandments He would bless them. In that sense the Torah would be great and glorious because it would reveal His righteousness to the Gentile nations (42:21b). Therefore, if the Torah had to be upheld it demanded punishment because it clearly stated chastisement was the result of disobedience. What was their punishment? They would be driven out of the Land (Deuteronomy 28:49-53).

    The Israelites where in an utterly helpless position. But this is a people whose cities would be plundered and looted (also see Ezekiel 7:21, 26:12, 29:19), all of them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They have become plunder, with no one to rescue them; they have been made loot, with no one to say, “Send them back” (42:22). In the future they would be plundered and looted by the Babylonians. They will be hidden away in pits or hidden away in prisons with no one to rescue them except for the LORD. And just as sure as night follows the day, judgment follows spiritual blindness. Far from influencing the Gentile world, the Gentile world ended up influencing her! Through her failure of making the Torah great, Judah had lost her status in the world and her protection of ADONAI. That was the truth taught in the Song of the Vineyard (5:1-7): no fruit equaled no protection! Far from being the ones who could assist in the deliverance of the Gentile nations through the Torah, they themselves needed deliverance.

    Which of you will listen to this or pay close attention in the time to come (42:23)? The judgment of Judah and Israel in this section is in light of her state of deafness. Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not choose to listen to you any more (59:1-2). Who was really deaf here? A man told his doctor that he thought his wife was going deaf. The doctor told him to conduct a simple test. When the man reached the front door of his home, he called out, “Honey, is dinner ready?” Hearing no response, he walked inside and repeated himself. Still no reply. On the third try, when he was immediately behind her, he finally heard her say, “For the third time, yes!” ADONAI had sent Isaiah to prophesy to Judah about her impending judgment, but the message had fallen on deaf ears.

    Was it that the LORD could not protect them? No, He demanded judgment, and here the judgment is described. Isaiah points out that the Israelites must indeed learn her lesson. What exactly was the lesson? Who was the cause of their suffering? Perhaps the immediate cause was the Gentile nations. Assyria. Babylonia. Medo-Persia. Greece. Rome. The Arabs. Nazi Germany. Soviet Russia today. But Who is the ultimate cause? The answer is that ADONAI is the ultimate cause of their suffering. He is the One who handed Jacob (or Judah) over to become loot and Isra'el to the plunderers because of her sins (42:24a). The means of judging Judah or Israel has always been to turn them over to the Gentiles. Now these Gentile nations are sinful, wicked nations, and because God punishes sin, He eventually ends up punishing those Gentile nations also. But God uses their wickedness to discipline Judah and Israel.

    Why did God judge and discipline them? Was it not ADONAI they sinned against (42:24b)? Grammatically, the only answer was, “Yes.” They would not follow His ways; they did not obey His commandments. They had an unsubmitted, rebellious will. Why the dispersion after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD? They were still blind to their sin and His ways. That is why the LORD would send His Servant to open their eyes.

    So, on account of their sins and disobedience to the Torah, God’s anger was against them. So He poured out on them His burning anger, the violence of war (42:25a). The theme of Chapters 40-48 is that her warfare had been completed. Here the prophet brings out the fact that for centuries God has been disciplining Judah and Isra'el. When the northern kingdom of Israel was both assimilated by the nation of Assyria (Second Kings 17:24) and deported to Assyria (Second Kings 15:29), or when the southern kingdom of Judah was sent into exile in Babylon, the Israelites thought ADONAI was deaf when they cried out to Him. But the problem was actually with them!

    But Israel’s response was that even though God enveloped them in flames, they did not understand. Isra'el did not know who was disciplining her because of her deafness. Even though God consumed them, they did not take it to heart (24:25). You can talk to rabbis today, and this is still very true. If you ask them why the Jews were dispersed, the answer that you get is that God dispersed the Jews for the purpose of spreading Judaism throughout the world. The discipline of ADONAI did not cause the nation to repent and return to Him. They still would be blind to their sin and His ways. We know this because of the reaction of the religious leaders of the nation when Messiah presented Himself (see Gl – The Three Messianic Miracles). But did that thwart the purposes of the LORD? Never. It did not frustrate the purposes of God for Judah and His holy ones (Deuteronomy 33:2-3; Job 5:1; Psalms 16:3 and 34:9; Zechariah 14:5). She, and they, would be regathered into the Land as seen in the coming deliverance from Babylon from 43:1 to 44:5.

    Could it be that the LORD is trying to tell you something but you aren’t listening? Let’s examine ourselves carefully. ADONAI speaks to us through His gentile whisper (First Kings 19:11-12), and His Word: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (Second Timothy 3:16). His voice isn’t audible, but if you are paying attention, it is unmistakable. We need to listen with both our heart’s and our brain’s to hear Him.


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