PRIVILEGED ISRAEL (GOD’S SERVANT/MESSENGER) REMAINS DEAF AND BLIND TO GOD’S HEAVY HAND OF DISCIPLINE
How is it that our nation today can be so oblivious to our precarious position due to our rejection of God’s moral law and standards for righteousness? How much more patience can God extend to us in His love and forbearance? We seem to have no clue regarding how far we have fallen. I am not claiming that all of our founding fathers were dedicated believers; many of them like Thomas Jefferson were Deists. But still for the most part they had a healthy respect for the God’s revelation and understood the reality of absolute morality as opposed to the relativism that has engulfed us today. Look at the Puritans up in New England – wonderful depth of theology. Look at the founding of prestigious colleges on the East Coast as centers for studying theology and preparing men for Christian ministry.
As a nation, we tolerate and now even promote abortions. We tolerate and now even promote the homosexual agenda. We have come to the point where we call good evil and evil good. Have we not learned anything from the lessons of history. How did the great cultures of the past fare when they went down this same road of decadence and worship of entertainment and materialism? What about God’s warnings to us in passages like Romans 1 that spell out the downward spiral of a culture who has rejected God and exchanged the worship of the Creator for the worship of the creature? Who anymore even believes in the simple creation account recorded in the first chapters of Genesis?
Every day our leaders are making decisions that shock us – decisions regarding our national defense (or lack thereof), regarding our economic situation (with complete disregard to the common sense principal that you cannot continue to spend more than you can afford), regarding education, regarding the family, regarding you name it . . . We are more clueless than we can even imagine. This is even more distressing in light of how much opportunity and privilege and revelation we have had poured out on us by the grace of God.
How many bibles do you have at home? How many electronic bibles can you access right now – on your laptop … on your Ipad . . . on your phone? Do you know that with increased privilege comes increased accountability? That is why Jesus condemned so strongly the citizens of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum – Matt. 11:20-30.
Illustration: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip. After a good meal, they lay down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.” “What does that tell you?” Watson pondered for a minute.
“Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you?” Holmes said, “Watson you idiot, someone has stolen our tent.”
Well as a nation, someone has stolen our tent and we are exposed to God’s wrath and seem clueless about what type of judgment must be headed our way. God’s message to His covenant nation Israel is certainly relevant to us today. America is in no way the new Israel … but the principle of how we perceive and respond to God’s discipline remains very applicable.
Constable: Chapter 42 thus contains a strong contrast. It opens with one Servant who will discharge His ministry successfully, and it ends with another servant—in servitude to his captors— having failed to minister effectively. The Servant Messiah obeys God and fulfills His task, but the servant Israel refuses to listen to God and draws His judgment.
PRIVILEGED ISRAEL (GOD’S SERVANT/MESSENGER) REMAINS DEAF AND BLIND TO GOD’S HEAVY HAND OF DISCIPLINE
I. (:18-20) THE SURPRISING LACK OF DISCERNMENT ON THE PART OF GOD’S SERVANT NATION ISRAEL
A. (:18) Deaf Ears and Blind Eyes – Despite Much Opportunity
“Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see.”
It sounds almost unreasonable to command the deaf to hear and the blind to see … their very problem prevents the called for solution
Constable: The Israelites had concluded that Yahweh was blind and deaf to their situation, namely, impending destruction. Now He revealed that it was they who were blind and deaf to what He would do for them. He challenged them to comprehend what they had missed.
Motyer: Blindness would thus make Israel’s need identical with that of the Gentile world, while deafness would add that other dimension of culpability (ever the Lord’s primary charge against his people) of failure to hear his word (see 30:9-11; Am. 2:4).
Like the Israelites, we practice selective hearing. We only see what we WANT to see. – we’re blind. We only hear what we WANT to hear.
B. (:19) Clueless Despite Their Privileged Status
1. Privileged Status as God’s Messenger Servant
“Who is blind but My servant,
Or so deaf as My messenger whom I send?”
The nation sent to announce God’s good news to the Gentile nations of the world
No nation is as blind as Israel
Oswalt: The Servant is blind because he will not draw the correct implications from the experiences he has had with God.
Motyer: The “missionary” task of the Old Testament was characteristically performed by attraction rather than by outreach, by the Lord’s magnetic people.
No capability to perform the function of a faithful servant or the function of a faithful messenger
2. Privileged Status as God’s Covenant Servant
“Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me,
Or so blind as the servant of the LORD?”
The nation enjoying peace with God as a result of their special covenant relationship.
Constable: It is the servant of the Lord, and of all people—Israel (cf. 41:8-16)—that was blind and deaf. How ironic it was that God’s messenger to the world, the one that He had brought into covenant relationship with Himself, was blind and deaf, blinder and deafer than any other. Israel, above all others, needed to be able to see and hear what her Lord told her so she could tell it to the world (cf. ch. 22). The nations were blind (cf. vv. 6-7), but Israel was both blind and deaf (cf. 6:9-10; 30:9-11; Amos 2:4).
Unaware of how bad off they are:
Revelation 3:17 “Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:”
First step in recovery is always admitting your situation – how bad off are you? That’s why 12 step programs or Alcoholics Anonymous, etc. have you start off with admitting your problem; no solution apart from coming to terms with where you are right now
Our nation is deceived by how much wealth we have in the stock market – that could be wiped out tomorrow; we are deceived by the security of our insurance policies and the abundance of our retirement nest egg – if our confidence is not in God, it is sorely misplaced
Our children can be deceived by their association with church and with Christian teaching – have they ever really been regenerated by the grace of God? Just growing up in a Christian family and hanging around church and other Christians does not make someone a believer
C. (:20) Blind Eyes and Deaf Ears – Despite Much Revelation
“You have seen many things, but you do not observe them;
Your ears are open, but none hears.”
Sounds like the book of James – no practical faith; no implementation of the Word of God
II. (:21-23) THE SURPRISING LACK OF DELIVERANCE FOR GOD’S SERVANT NATION ISRAEL
A. (:21) The Purpose for God’s People — Exaltation of God’s Law
“The LORD was pleased for His righteousness’ sake
To make the law great and glorious.”
One of the purposes for which God raised up Israel was to give them His Law and have that Law (entire OT revelation rather than just the Torah) regarded throughout the world as great and glorious because it reveals the righteousness of God (all that is right and true and good).
Young: Israel’s sinful and rebellious condition had despised the law, but it is God’s intention to carry out His purposes. He will magnify and make honorable His law that all the world may see the honor and majesty of His truth and authority. The magnifying of the law would also and primarily consist in its being carried out and obeyed. The law is not to go by default, but will be shown by God Himself to be glorious and honorable.
B. (:22) The Predicament of God’s People
1. Imprisoned and Plundered
“But this is a people plundered and despoiled;
All of them are trapped in caves, Or are hidden away in prisons;”
Young: He pictures the people as plundered, like a caravan travelling across a desert place attached by bandits . . . hidden in darkness, a symbol of the greater darkness of sin and ignorance.
2. Pursued and Abandoned
“They have become a prey with none to deliver them,
And a spoil, with none to say, ‘Give them back!’”
C. (:23) The Plea for God’s People – Because of Deafness Towards God’s Correction
“Who among you will give ear to this?
Who will give heed and listen hereafter?”
Beall: God is pleased with His righteous standard; He will magnify the law (here probably including the prophetic revelation as well as the Sinaitic law), regardless of the receptivity of the people. But, Isaiah continues, this (emphatic pronoun, in opposition to hwhy) is a people who have been plundered (as in the Babylonian exile), and yet still do not see the error of their ways.
Will any one listen (v 23)? It is God Himself who has ordered this pillage of Israel, in order to get their attention, to show them their sin. And yet, they still would not obey (v 24). Therefore, the Lord had to set the nation on fire, and yet still the people would not hear.
Problem: not being able to discern the signs of the times; you can’t look at your experiences and draw out the principles that God is trying to teach you
III. (:24-25) THE SURPRISING LACK OF DISCERNMENT ON THE PART OF GOD’S SERVANT NATION ISRAEL
A. (:24) Clueless in Understanding Their Discipline –
Cannot answer either of the 2 most fundamental questions?
1. Who Abandoned Them? Their Covenant God
“Who gave Jacob up for spoil, and Israel to plunderers?
Was it not the Lord”
It was not King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon that was to blame
2. Why? Deserved Because of Their Law Breaking
“against whom we have sinned,
And in whose ways they were not willing to walk,
And whose law they did not obey?”
Motyer: In difficulties we rush to ask “Why?”, a question prompted by the pride that claims “I did not deserve this” and that assumes the capacity of the human mind to measure all things by its logic. But, as Job discovered, there are always dimensions of the human condition not amenable to present human logic, and there is no guarantee that to understand why trouble has come will comfort the troubled. On the contrary, the true question is “Who?” – discover the agent and through knowing him adopt a position of acceptance, trust and hope.
Oswalt: The people have not understood the meaning of their own history. They have failed to recognize what God was about in calling them, and they have failed to learn the lessons that their experiences with God should have taught them. It is relatively easy for us, living in the modern age and imbued with a concept of history and its lessons, to grasp this idea. But in Isaiah’s time this idea was revolutionary. Nowhere else in the ancient world of that day do we find the idea that human experience from the past could be classified and evaluated in such a way that it could be learned form, and that future behavior could or should be modified on that basis. The law of continuity dictated that all human actions were determined by corresponding forces in the cosmos in an endlessly repetitive cycle. Thus persons had no real control over their behavior nor any real responsibility for it. . . Today the Western concept of history is in desperate trouble because we no longer believe in one, transcendent, personal, righteous, purposeful God. Yet we still talk about human accountability and responsibility, as if those concepts could long survive the loss of the entire ground on which they rest.
B. (:25) Clueless in Responding to Their Discipline
1. Intensity of the Discipline — Fierce
“So He poured out on him the heat of His anger
And the fierceness of battle;”
Cf. the Warning of Wisdom in Prov. 1:20-33
2. Insensitivity to the Discipline — Delusional
“And it set him aflame all around, Yet he did not recognize it;
And it burned him, but he paid no attention.”
You are in a bad way when you are burning and you don’t even know it.
Bomkamp: Isaiah knew that captive Judea would be crying out and asking the question of, “Why God would allow this to happen to them?” It is this question which Isaiah attempts to answer in these verses. It was because of their sin that these things happened, they were suffering only the consequences of their own sin.
Young: As a result of the outpoured wrath, the anger burned Israel on all sides; but Israel was unable rightly to interpret the meaning of the calamities that had come upon her. These calamities did not come by chance or accident. They were manifestations of the burning anger of the God of the covenant. The reason why Israel does not know the truth of what is happening is that she does not set her heart to consider the meaning of these events. Her thoughts are far from God and she does not look unto Him as the One who dispenses all providence. In manifold ways God had pointed out the nation’s iniquity and the nature of the coming judgment, but Israel hearkened not. Now that the punishment has come, Israel does not consider it nor understand it.
– This blindness; this hardening is partial – does not extend to all Jews
– This blindness is temporary – will not last forever
– Deliverance is coming; God will keep all of His covenant obligations
What about our country? Will we open our eyes and give ear to God’s revelation?
What about you personally and your family?
James 1:22 “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves”