Jesus cited Isaiah 6.9-10 to explain why people didn’t understand his parables. Paul cited the same passage, and Luke uses it at the end of Acts, to explain the rejection of the gospel by the Jews.
What catches our attention about the Isaiah passage is that it follows directly the account of the prophet’s vision of God’s holy glory and his calling to go speak to the people.
He said, “Go and tell these people: “‘Listen continually, but don’t understand. Look continually, but don’t perceive.’ Make the hearts of these people calloused; make their ears deaf and their eyes blind. Otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, their hearts might understand and they might repent and be healed.”
We have often emphasized, and rightly so, the place of hearing in the plan of salvation. Without it, there will be no understanding of the message and no salvation by Christ.
Hearing, however, like faith, is not a one-time action. It is a continuous process. This is seen clearly in the calling of Isaiah. He was an Israelite, one of God’s people. He did what Israel refused to do, in the preceding verse:
I heard the voice of the Lord say, “Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?” I answered, “Here I am, send me!” v. 8.
The Lord spoke to Isaiah. He heard his voice and responded to it. The Lord’s question points up the need, his will and desire, the importance of speaking the message of God. And this man, sensitive to his sin in the presence of God, steps forward.
You and I aren’t going to be privileged to see a miraculous vision of God’s throneroom and hear the booming voice of the Lord. It’s not going to happen.
But we have been privileged to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, who left that glory and became a human being, who lived as one of us and witnessed to glorious truth, who submitted himself to the will of God and humbled himself to the point of death — and death on a painful cross.
When we stand before that cross, we ought to hear the voice of the Lord say, “Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?”
And we ought to say, like Isaiah, “Here I am, send me!”
You and I who are the saints of God stand in the same position as the person who is hearing the truth of Christ for the first time. God speaks. The gospel and the calling are one and the same. We are saved to save.
Refusal to hear God and respond brings to both groups the same condemnation. He who refuses to hear the plan of salvation will not be saved. He who refuses to heed the call of Christ to go will not save others and he himself will be lost.
If the plan of salvation is precious to us, why is the call to go not as precious?
The American church is shrinking. It is shrinking for a single reason. Because it has refused to hear the voice of God.
It is time to wake up and listen. For God will cast her aside and find people willing to hear and to go. And the passage of Isaiah 6.9-10 will close another sad chapter in the history of the church, when his people refuse his word and find themselves excluded from the Kingdom.