So we have the encounter with holy God, we have the necessary cleansing, and now comes the last phase. How does the Lord prepare his prophet?
This is one of the hardest concepts from the Bible to grasp, but it’s there, and we have to deal with it. There is a theological term for what God describes in vss. 9-10: Judicial hardening. Before we understand what it is, we need to clarify what it’s not. It’s not a case of God seeing someone who’s trying hard to follow him and obey him and please him and saying to that person “Tough luck, buddy! I'm closing the door on you right now!”
It’s the same idea of what the Lord did to Pharaoh. When Pharaoh refused to let the Hebrews go, it’s not like the Lord made him do something he (Pharaoh) didn’t want to do. Pharaoh had already rejected God’s message multiple times. What happened after that--as best as we can understand--was that the Almighty confirmed the decision Pharaoh had already made. God chose not to rescue him from his own foolish choices.
It was the same here. Vss. 9-10 are ironic, almost like saying “Israel, I’m telling you to do this, but I know you’re not going to listen to me.” You might even say it’s roughly equivalent to “Go ahead, be stubborn!”
Before we move on from that point, we need to keep in mind what we saw with the story of Micaiah a few days ago: God will not leave himself without a witness. If someone wants to hear the truth, the Lord won’t leave them in the dark. He was under no obligation to send Isaiah at all. But he did.
But there’s more to this: a message for Isaiah as well. God was telling his prophet, right off the bat, that he (Isaiah) was going to be a failure, at least in some sense of the term. Getting the the nation at large to listen to him and repent? That wasn’t going to happen, for the most part.
If you ever get serious about sharing the Good News about Jesus with those around you, you really need to develop a “thick skin.” You’re going to be rejected more often than accepted. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but it’s one we have to absorb.
The good news (with small letters) is that God doesn’t count success with noses. He counts success by one standard: Obedience to what he says. If we do what he tell us to do, if we go where he tell us to go, if we say what he tell us to say, then we’re successful. Obedience doesn't lead to success. Obedience is success.
Once again, I want to share one of my favorite sayings:
It matters not if the world has heard,
or approves or understands;
the only applause we’re meant to seek
is that of nail-scarred hands.
Lord Jesus, I want to be successful, please. Not by the world’s standards, but by yours. Because I’m not going to have to give an account to them, only you.