“Make the heart of this people dull…. lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed” (Isaiah 6:10)
These words, given to Isaiah during his commissioning as a prophet, might seem like a denial that God is ‘not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). Was Isaiah to preach, only to create obscurity among his listeners? No. Here are the principles:
1. Persistent hardening against God eventually becomes underlined in a permanent judgment. Most of Isaiah’s listeners were going to be contemptuous, treating his words as naïve ‘kid’s stuff’ ( Isaiah 28:9). They would finally remain in their blindness. This does not mean that we stop praying – and preaching! But from the outset Isaiah was warned.
2. History repeats itself. Earlier, Pharaoh of Egypt repeatedly hardened himself against God’s word through Moses to ‘Let my people go.’ The ultimate hardening of him beyond recovery became God’s judgment on him (Exodus 11:9,10). Such wilful blindness reached its height in a later generation of religious leaders who hardened themselves against Christ – who himself quotes the Isaiah passage (Matthew 13: 10-23) His use of parables would act like a judgment, sifting out receptive hearts (‘the good ground’) from the unheeding, in his story of the Sower.
3. Some stay hardened, but others will prove receptive! Later still, the imprisoned apostle Paul quoted the Isaiah passage to his unheeding fellow-Jews (Acts 28: 23-28). From now on, he said, God’s salvation would be proclaimed to the Gentiles, “and they will listen!” The result - as they say - is history. Where do YOU come into the story?