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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 6:8-13

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, November 23, 2007

As Isaiah’s temple vision continues, the Lord speaks, and Isaiah is commissioned as a prophet.

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
   And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
   9 He said, “Go and tell this people:
   “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
   be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’

The time that we have on earth is our time of grace. This is the time given to each of us in which we come to faith, share our faith, and grow in our faith. For most of us, the time of grace is the same as our lifetime. But there are times in the Bible when God cuts a person’s time of grace short while they are still living. Such a person is judged by God because they reject God and harden their hearts toward him. God’s response is sometimes to harden their hearts even more in return.

That’s what happened to Pharaoh when Moses asked him to let the people go. And now it was going to happen to the people of Judah. God commanded Isaiah: Go and harden their hearts.

10 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.”

Perhaps a few would still be turned by Isaiah’s message to repentance. In fact, Isaiah preaches the clearest and most complete gospel message in the entire Old Testament. But this wasn’t the first time God spoke judgment to some while proclaiming the gospel to others with the very same words. Jesus quotes this very passage (Isaiah 6:9-10) in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10). By speaking in parables to proclaim both law and gospel, Jesus was able to instruct people sincerely interested in his message while giving his enemies no evidence to use against him.

11 Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?”
   And he answered:
   “Until the cities lie ruined
   and without inhabitant,
   until the houses are left deserted
   and the fields ruined and ravaged,
   12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
   and the land is utterly forsaken.
   13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
   it will again be laid waste.
   But as the terebinth and oak
   leave stumps when they are cut down,
   so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” (NIV)

Isaiah’s commission was to proclaim judgment until the people were judged, until there was no one left to listen except the scattered few who would remain behind like the stumps and broken branches littering a field that once was a forest. God was going to leave a reverse tithe—just a tenth of the people would be spared, but even then, the land would be attacked again and again. (The terebinth was an ancient source of turpentine. Like the oak, it is known for long life, and both are associated in the Bible with false worship practices, Hosea 4:13.)

Yet even in this message of judgment, there is a ray of hope: The holy seed will be the stump in the land. Isaiah will return to the message about the stump in chapter 11.

We don’t know how long our lives—our time of grace—will last. And we don’t know how much time we have with the people around us. So there’s no time to lose. The gospel of forgiveness is no secret. It’s simple, and it’s clear: Jesus died for our sins, and in him, we have forgiveness and eternal life. The time of grace might long or short—but while we have it, we must use it. That’s what one of my professors was talking about when he said this:

“Let Christ’s words, ‘That they may see the light’ (Luke 8:16) become a motto to urge you on to use every opportunity…to teach all who will listen to see the light of eternal salvation in the words and works of Jesus.” —Prof. Martin Westerhaus

Note: Verse 10 is an excellent example of the poetic device called a chiasm, in which the same words or ideas are presented twice, the second time in reverse order (ABC-CBA), to draw attention to the message. In verse 10 we have hearts…ears…eyes followed by eyes…ears…hearts. What we see and hear is what our faith is based upon: the message of salvation through Jesus.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.