After this massive theophany (God revealing himself), “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!’ ”
The spiritual experience is not an end in itself, nor a means to an end. It is a stimulus to praise and to service. It could easily be perceived that God is talking to the angels, his messengers, wanting to send one or some of them to do his bidding. But he allowed Isaiah to hear it, and Isaiah didn’t hesitate one moment. Our God is a sending God. Mt. 28.19; Mk. 16.15. Almost everything God does in this world He does through people. It makes God almost invisible, since anyone could say at any time, “No, so-and-so did that.” The hand of God is everywhere, but it’s “hidden” in the good and godly works of people. That’s why we must go. We are truly his hands and his feet—his body for His work in the world.
God takes the initiative, but we must make the response. Cf. Eph. 2.8. Again, God’s work in the world is the same way: always through people. His is the initiative; ours is the obedience/response. It’s the way the world works, and the way God works. People say, “God didn’t do that. You did.” Duh.
Only after he has stepped up to the plate does Isaiah learn the assignment: you’re going to tell the people that I’m ready to judge them unless they change everything, and completely, inside and out. People think they are so smart and so wise, and just don’t know that they’re blind. Talking to anyone bears this out. They have their opinions, they think they are right, and their mind is difficult to change. And there are enough perspectives and pros and cons on any subject that someone can justify how they were right. The wisdom of the world is the foolishness of God. But honestly, it’s not a whole lot different from Christians. I find Christians to be just as bull-headed, opinionated, and wrong in their misunderstandings as non-Christians. After all, we too just see in part (1 Cor. 13). So what’s the difference?
The difference is that the only way we can understand our circumstances is when a prophet explains them. And the only way we can understand God is through the Word. Here’s the difference: when a prophet explains it, the people of God get it, and accept it, and believe it, and live that way. But even when a prophet explains it to non-believers, they still don’t get it. And they don’t believe the Word.
“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.” What? Every revelation of God, whether through signs, miracles, or words, will just make things worse. No surprise—look at the children of Israel during the 40 years of wilderness wandering, or the response of people to Jesus. He raised Lazarus from the dead, and they concluded, “We gotta kill this guy, and Laz too.” Why does God desire to harden their hearts? Because there is no hope for them. They won’t turn to God, no matter what, so the less they understand, the less they will be punished in eternity. But there’s a greater reason: so future generations can learn from their negative example and be saved from the same fate.
It is true that throughout history, any revelation of God strengthened believers and worsened unbelievers. Revelation by itself does not accomplish convincing evidence. As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Witness the exodus, the miracles of the prophets (Mt. Carmel, for example), and the miracles of Jesus. The same incense is a stench to those who don’t believe, but a beautiful fragrance to those who do (2 Cor. 2.14-16). Spiritual life comes by the Spirit, not by the manifestation of works and revelation by God.
And to answer the question: I thought unbelievers were brought to God by Him revealing Himself to them? Yes, but to their hearts, not in the physical world.
For how long will this hardening, the judging, and this separation go on? We know from 9-1-1 that it often takes disaster to open people’s eyes, and they won’t change until they are FORCED. The judging will go on for CENTURIES (v. 12). As we learn from previous chapters of Isaiah, God doesn’t have to judge them. All he has to do is withdraw his protection and mercy. People destroy themselves and each other. God is not judging them; they judge themselves. Without God’s caring protection, people tear each other apart with greed, abuse, injustice, and violent. They are given to lies, bribes, war, and power. God just allow natural consequences. It’s typical for things to have to get out of control and extreme before we do anything about it. It seems to be human nature: justify yourself and your actions, make excuses, keep trying instead of admit any kind of problem. People really don’t reform until they are absolutely forced to by hopelessness.
V. 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.” The “tenth” represents God’s share—the ones set aside for Him. The righteous will suffer right alongside of the disobedient, but the righteous will not be destroyed (2 Cor. 4.9). The righteous have hope, and the righteous are the only hope of society.