Avoiding the Consequences
Reading: Isaiah 28-31
“Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not with wine, stagger, but not from beer. The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers). For you the whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I can’t; it is sealed.’ Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I don’t know how to read.’” (Isaiah 29:9-12, NIV).
Paul paraphrases these words in Romans 11:7-10, NIV, when he writes: “What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: ‘God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear to this very day.’ As David says: ‘May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.’”
This was the ultimate “giving them over” described earlier in Romans (1:24, 26, 28). If you persist in your sin, says the Lord, there will come a time when even if you wanted to understand, even if you wanted to hear the Word of God again, you will not be able to. The consequences of rebellion must be accepted.
It wasn’t that God's people weren't religious. The problem was that the form didn’t match the heart. Isaiah writes: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (29:13) Jesus repeated these words in addressing the religiosity of His day (Matthew 15:8). We can repeat them again today.
A little later, in chapter 30, Isaiah notes: “These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!’” (30:9-11, NIV).
Paul warns his protégé, Timothy, to be constant in preaching, teaching, and living the truth because: “…the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4, NIV).
Hundreds of years separated Isaiah from Timothy. But history tends to repeat itself. The lessons learned and relearned by Israel are lessons that we, today, need to learn and relearn.
In the midst of the warning Isaiah says: “Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (30:18, NIV).
It is a fearful thing to realize that we have missed the path and then to seek the Truth only to find that the voices of that Truth are silenced, that there is no going back until we go forward through the consequences of our rebellion. It happens.
But before we get to that point, there is still opportunity to do as Isaiah instructs us, relying on the compassion of God and His faithfulness in fulfilling His promises. The prophet writes: “In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll, and out of the gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord; the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel…they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction…In repentance and rest is your salvation. In quietness and trust is your strength…” (29:18, 19, 23b, 24; 30:15, NIV).