Passage: In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another.
"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory."
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
"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.
"Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.
"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!
"He said, "Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 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.
"Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?" And He answered: "Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. 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."
Journal: Our final look at chapter 6 could well focus our viewpoint on evangelism. Isaiah is faced with the realization that his message will be largely rejected and that his warning will go largely unheeded. ("Go and tell this people: 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 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.") In fact, not only did Jesus use these words in His revelation to Isaiah, but he quoted them to the Jews while pursuing His ministry on earth (John 12:40). That is, the message God is giving Isaiah will not be fruitful from the human perspective of Isaiah.
What is the cause of this unbelief? It would certainly appear to be a judgment on the people by God. The people of Judah's day (and the Jews, for the most part, of Christ's day) would not believe because they could not believe. The truth that God hardens the heart of sinners is taught frequently in Scripture (Rom 9:18; 2 Thess. 2:11). It is not that God takes an otherwise good, soft and pliable heart and hardens it against its natural instincts. Rather, it is that God allows a corrupt, vile and hard heart to continue in its rebellion. That is, God in His sovereignty has determined not to intervene and change the course of the heart from its naturally disastrous destination. Only God can redeem us, and His redemption must be an outcropping of His sovereignty.
How does the sovereignty of God impact our evangelism? In my view, it is quite freeing. When I realize that I am to be faithful, and that I will not be graded on whether I am fruitful, I can pursue the joy of the Lord over the happiness of the age. It is not that God has a scoreboard in heaven and tallies the "people I have won to the Lord." Rather, it is that God will hold me accountable for the faithfulness of my pursuit of the ministries He gives me. I am to cultivate. I am to plant. I am to tend. Yet, the fruit harvested is the fruit of God, and I leave that in His sovereign hand. Isaiah now knows this, and in the midst of unbelief remained diligent in the ministry God gave him.
The tree will be cut down and only a stump will remain. ("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 stump may not be showy or "seeker friendly," but it is God's stump and the offshoots will be His to grow and mature. That, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is God being God, and using His creation for His own glory.