8 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!” 9 And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ 10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.” 11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate;
Isaiah’s vision was finally one of surrender, and that surrender was of his own success. What a temptation it must have been to preach a smooth, palatable message, to which some might have turned in a superficial way. But if he had, the truth that needed to be inscripturated would never have gotten preached. And two hundred years later, when people were crying out to God in an agony of repentance, they would never have had that truth to turn to and say, “Ah, there is hope for even people like us.”
The call to Isaiah in his own lifetime was to preach a compassionate, whole, burning word, but one which God knew would not turn that generation to himself. The call of the servant of God is not to be successful but to be faithful. That does not mean that you and I have the right to preach harsh, mean, little words and when people don’t respond, to say, “Well, they are just turning their backs on God.” No, it does not give us that right, but neither does it give us the right to try to wash away the power of His truth by making it more palatable to a generation that, because of its previous choices, will not hear.
What is the antidote for our rebellion, yours and mine? It is a vision of our need, a vision of the Holy God, a vision of our ruined, unclean selves, a vision of redemption, a vision of obedience, and most of all, since rebellion is the problem, a vision of surrender, surrender of our own success.