"They knew not... the voices of the
prophets which are read every sabbath" (Acts 13:27).
"In the year that king Uzziah died I saw
the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted
up..." (Isaiah 6:1).
"While ye have
the light, believe on the light, that ye may become sons
of light... though he had done so many signs before them,
yet they believed not on him: that the word of Isaiah the
prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord,
who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the
arm of the Lord been revealed?" (John 12:36-41).
Let us be reminded that
what we are considering is the great difference between
hearing Divine words and messages, and seeing Divine
works, and really seeing through those things to their
meaning. There is indeed a great difference between
seeing and seeing through; between hearing with outward
ears, and hearing with the inward ear. The context in
history of our governing reference - Acts 13:27 - is the
context of an unspeakable tragedy related to this
difference. Both the Gospels and the rest of the New
Testament are built upon this difference in seeing and at
the same time not seeing, and hearing and yet not
hearing. That is what we are coming to with Isaiah.
It is very impressive
that John links together Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53 in
relation to the presence, ministry and work of Jesus -
the Christ. John says that when Isaiah set down what he
did, firstly: "Lord, who hath believed our
report?", and the rest of chapter fifty-three; and
then about his vision of "the Lord of Hosts",
and the resultant commission as to Israel, "He spake
of him" (Jesus) and it was when "he saw his
glory". There is plenty to think about here. John
says that the Lord whom Isaiah saw high and lifted up,
and sitting upon a throne, "the Lord of Hosts",
was Jesus. And in linking chapter fifty-three with
chapter six John clearly affirmed that the
"Lamb" of chapter fifty-three was "The
Lord" of chapter six. We come back to that later.
What John is clearly
saying is that, contrary to the great Prophet, Israel
could have in their midst - in one Person - "The
Lord" and "The Lamb" - with all their
meaning, and yet not see, not hear, not recognize. All
the wonderful enlightened ministry of Isaiah, and its
actual fulfillment could be right amongst them and
yet they not see. What is still worse: it could only
result in a hardening rather than a saving. That is
something terrible to contemplate! It is such a
possibility, and - in Israel's case - such an actuality,
which Paul carried over from Israel in general, in
warning, to the Synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia; thus
narrowing it down to a local company.
What was it that
accounted for the judgment of blindness and deafness
pronounced by Isaiah and made so evident in the days of
Jesus Christ? There are at least three things that led to
this, and will always lead to it.
The dictionary defines it as 'judgment reached
beforehand'. It is drawing a conclusion before giving
honest consideration. It is the closed mind and a closed
heart. It is, not wanting to, and not intending to. It
is, not being disposed to. The Prophets called it
"Hardness of heart".
The closed heart will
always result in closed eyes.
It is Henry Drummond
who has - as a scientist - so forcibly illustrated this
principle. In speaking of: "How shall we escape if
we neglect..." he says: "There are certain
burrowing animals - the mole, for instance - which have
taken to spending their lives underground. And nature has
taken her revenge upon them in a thoroughly natural way -
she has closed up their eyes. If they mean to live in
darkness, she argues, eyes are obviously a superfluous
function. By neglecting them, these animals make it
perfectly clear they do not want them. As one of nature's
fixed principles is that nothing shall exist in vain, the
eyes are presently taken away, or reduced to a
rudimentary state. This is the meaning of the favourite
paradox: 'From him that hath not shall be taken away even
that which he hath.' The presence of Jesus Christ among
men, and the advent of the Holy Spirit, meant - and means
- the possibility of seeing that which the natural
eye cannot see; but 'neglect' or refuse 'the Light' and
the judgment of double blindness is in the very nature of
things; it is a law."
The terrible verdict to
'will not' is cannot.
Prejudice is a cruel
and evil thing; it is a robber, a spoiler, in whatever
realm it exists.
Israel's blindness was due to their fear of losing
something if they yielded and obeyed. John quoted Jesus
as saying: "How can ye believe, which receive glory
one of another, and the glory that cometh from the only
God ye seek not?" (John 5:44). Self-interest was the
original sin of Adam, and by it the devil duped man into
losing his spiritual faculties in relation to God. Pride
it is that supports self-centredness. It was Israel's
fall, as it was Satan's and Adam's.
So often there is a large and fatal gap between
knowing and doing. This is really the responsibility
which the "Voices of the Prophets" laid at the
door of Israel. The Lord has never judged people for what
they did not know, or could not know, but always
for not doing what they knew. Paul quotes Isaiah
fifty-three in his great chapter on Israel's failure -
Romans ten. He cries: "Did they not hear?" and
answers: "Yea, verily." "But as to Israel
he saith, All the day long did I spread out my hands unto
a disobedient and gainsaying people." This voice of
the Prophet (Isaiah) has a large place in this paragraph,
and it has to do with the blindness and deafness
resultant from doing nothing about what they knew.
We are often greatly
dismayed, distressed, and disconcerted by the great
amount of preaching and teaching which has so very little
outworking, and we wonder how much longer the Lord will
allow the light to shine. We commenced this chapter with
John's quotation of the words of Jesus: "While ye
have the light, believe on the light." To believe is
to walk in and obey the light. Too often the
congregations and meetings of the Lord's people, after an
earnest and challenging message, just dissolve into a
noisy rabble of talk on anything but the message,
and so the message is dissipated and lost. How often is
the reaction: 'What can we do about what the Lord has
said to us just now?' This, then, is the point in
Isaiah's voice: "Who hath believed our report?"
Before leaving this for
the time being, we must just return to that point of
"the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted
up", "the Lord of Hosts", and the Lamb, of
Isaiah six and fifty-three. It was in the year that
earthly authority - as represented by King Uzziah -
failed and departed that the authority in heaven was
revealed to the Prophet. From that heavenly throne went
forth the terrible judgment of double blindness and
deafness. That state led on to not hearing the
"report" and the consequent 'slaughtering of
the Lamb of God'.
But ultimately the
course of things is reversed. The Lamb is at last seen in
the midst of the throne (Revelation 5:6), and that throne
is seen to be the full and final authority in this
universe. But what does the Lamb on the throne mean?
Hear Dr. F. B. Meyer:
"How does the
Lamb come there? Surely meekness, humility, gentle
submissiveness are not the virtues that win thrones!
Perhaps not in man's world, but they are in God's. In
the eternal world the passive virtues are stronger
than the active: sufferers wield more might than
wrestlers; to yield is to overcome; to be vanquished
is to conquer. It is because Jesus was the Lamb that
He is now God's anointed King."
This is the voice of
the Prophet Isaiah.