6/26/2015

Do Not Understand and Perceive the Truth (Isaiah 6:9-10)

"Yes, go, and say to this people, 'Listen carefully, but do not understand. Watch closely, but learn nothing.' 10 Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their heart and turn to me for healing" (Isa 6:9-10, NLT).

Tell people not to understand and to never be able to. Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted in all four gospels and Acts (Mt 13:14-15; Mk 4:12; Lk 8:10; Jn 12:39-41; Ac 28:26-27). It is an odd commission because the plain meaning says to tell people not to understand (Isa 6:9) and then to make sure they will not (Isa 6:10). The communication is to be comprehensive. It specifies the "outer" (hearing, seeing) and the "inner" faculties (understanding, perceiving). Also, Isa 6:10 is arranged into a rounded structure (heart ... ears ... eyes ... eyes ... ears ... heart) thus emphasizing the people's total inability to comprehend.

Is it because Isaiah was such a bad teacher and communicator? On the contrary, Isa 28:9-10, NIV, says, "Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? 10 For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there." Or: "Why does he speak to us like this? Are we little children, just recently weaned?" (Isa 28:9, NLT) This suggests that Isaiah presented the truth with such a plain, reasoned, systematic simplicity, and with such force and simple clarity that his people reacted by mocking and ridiculing him for being too simplistic and repetitious, as though he was teaching children the same things little by little and over and over. So they wanted to pack him off to teach kindergarten.

The same truth changes and hardens hearts. Isa 6:9-10  alludes to the preacher's dilemma: those who resist the truth can be changed only by telling them the truth simply and plainly. Yet to do this exposes them to the danger of rejecting the truth yet once again --- and maybe this further rejection will push them beyond the point of no return and they will become irretrievably hardened in mind and heart (Heb 6:4-8).

Only God sees and knows the human heart. The human eye cannot see this "point of no return" in advance --- nor necessarily recognize it when it is past. But the all-sovereign God both knows it and indeed appoints it as he presides, with perfect righteousness and justice, over the human psychological process.

The only two options are be saved or be judged. Isaiah understood what his terms of commission meant: he was to bring God's word with fresh, even unparalleled clarity -- for only the truth could win and change them. But in their negative response his hearers would pass the point of no return. The very opportunity which could spell their salvation would spell their judgment.