It’s comforting to know that God knows what the world is like. He knows the darkness and the messiness of our hearts and world.
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
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.’
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.”
11 Then I said, “For how long, 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.”
The book of Isaiah is one of those massive books in the Old Testament – one of those really long ones by a prophet that is pretty hard to get your head around. Seraphim, burning coals, visions of God, ears that hear but don’t understand, and eyes that see but don’t perceive…? What the… ?
But while Isaiah appears to have been smoking something funky here in chapter 6, if we look a bit deeper into this chapter, we have a clue to understanding not only the book of Isaiah, but also God’s plans for the history of the world, and in particular, an answer to the question: “why Jesus?”.
Isaiah 6 reveals to us a darkness in human nature and our world – a darkness that has existed for thousands of years. God knows that the world is messed up – he’s not hiding from this reality or ignoring it, hoping that the darkness will go away. God needs a messenger, and he chooses Isaiah (6:8) – despite Isaiah’s own failings (6:5). He sends the messy Isaiah into the messy world, to people who desperately need to hear God’s voice.
Isaiah 6:9-10 speaks of a depressing reality in our world: the message Isaiah brings to the world from God is essentially: “I know you won’t listen. I know you can’t listen. You’re blinded by sin and caught in rebellion from God. There’s really little point in me speaking this message… yet I am”. The people Isaiah go to might physically hear his words, and see him as God’s messenger, yet they won’t – they can’t – understand or perceive God’s message to them. Their hearts are turned against God, and they don’t want to hear that they are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.
Frankly, Isaiah 6 taken on its own could be quite intense and depressing. But there is also a strange comfort in this chapter. While the perspective it gives us of our world is depressing, it is also real. It’s comforting to know that God knows what the world is like. He knows the darkness; he knows the rejection that his message faces. And in verses 11-12, he acknowledges that this darkness is not just a blip on the landscape of history, it’s pretty much locked in. This is what our world is like. Full stop.
Or is it?
The final verse of Isaiah 6 gives us hope. While the picture painted of our world is one of a desolate wasteland, there is still the hope of God’s “seed” remaining, from which new life will come. God sent Isaiah into the mess of his day with a message that was 99% depressing and 1% glimmer of hope. Isaiah never saw that hope grow and flourish in the world, he just preached God’s message and watched it get rejected.
Ultimately Jesus is God himself coming into the mess of the world. In Luke 8:10 Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9. Like Isaiah, Jesus knows the darkness of our world, and spoke God’s message to people who would hear and see, but never understand or perceive. But unlike Isaiah, Jesus didn’t need forgiveness or cleansing – he was in the mess, but not messy himself. Every human life has been dominated by darkness and mess – until Jesus. God himself became man and spoke into our world, and ultimately died to bring forgiveness to us as individuals, and to restore all of creation to perfection.
Why Jesus? Jesus came into our dark, wasteland of a world to bring new life and hope. He recreates our hearts and makes it possible for us to be forgiven and restored. For the first time in history, people have hearts that can understand and perceive God’s message clearly.
Head: How do you respond to the idea of hearts that are “hardened” to God?
Heart: When do you personally find it hard to listen to God’s message?
Hands: How does this idea of hard hearts impact how you share your relationship with Jesus with others?
Prayer: Father God, thank you for changing my heart to know you and hear your message. Thanks for Jesus who has changed my life and all of history in his death, and brought us new life in his resurrection. Please help me to hear and understand in all areas of my life so I can follow Jesus and share him with people in my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A song to listen to: Saved My Soul
Katharine Yock- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- South Bank