God’s Spiritual Blinding of Israel: Part 1
God called the prophet Isaiah nearly 750 years before Christ. The Bible records God’s calling in Chapter 6 of the book of Isaiah. The prophet noted the exact time of this encounter. It occurred the year King Uzziah died. Isaiah was in the great temple Solomon had built for the Lord several hundred years earlier. Isaiah saw the Lord there, sitting on a throne—high and lifted up. The vision terrified Isaiah. The foundations of the temple began to shake as an angel shouted out Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord. Isaiah very quickly dropped into prone position—his face to the ground. The most powerful earthquake to be recorded in the history of the earth struck the Middle East just several years prior to this event. This earthquake is recorded in ancient history and the Bible, as well. Isaiah surely remembered that great event. Countless people lost their lives as stone and brick structures collapsed on their heads. One might think Isaiah would have run quickly out of the temple as smoke billowed through it and the foundations trembled. But the imposing presence of an omnipotent God makes earthquakes seem innocuous. What took place thereafter is quite interesting. Isaiah was actually a very good man. No one has dug much dirt up on this individual. Yet he was immediately aware of his sinfulness and his inability to stand before a Holy God. He knew a sinful man cannot see God and survive the event. Isaiah said, “I am a man of unclean lips.” His mind was focused on his sinful speech. One of the angels accompanying God flew to Isaiah with a burning coal and singed Isaiah’s lips with it, saying: “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven” – Isa 6:77. God removed the sin filled speech from Isaiah’s mouth and replaced it with God filled, Holy Spirit driven speech that would characterize Isaiah’s life from that point forward. The above story has been the subject of many sermons over the years. We, however, will focus on the rest of the story. That is told in the remaining verses of this chapter:
When I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me.” He said, “Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive. Keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.” Then I said, “Lord, how long? And He answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, and it will again be subject to burning. Like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump”– (Isaiah 6:8-13).
These five verses provide an understanding of God’s dealing with Israel from that point forward. God speaks in the first verse of this section, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” God had chosen His messenger to His people. The plural pronoun, Us, represents the plurality of the Godhead—the Trinity. All three persons of the Godhead performed important roles in Isaiah’s subsequent ministry. God has posed the question and now it is up to Isaiah to respond in faith, which he does in the next verse: “Here am I. Send me.” Isaiah had no idea what he had volunteered for, but the next four verses would drive Isaiah’s prophetic ministry for the rest of his life, lay the groundwork for the coming Messiah, and even the formation of the Body of Christ. Wow! How could this be? Brace yourself. We’re in for a roller coaster ride through the Scriptures.
God truly demonstrates the power of His Word. It takes only four verses to set the stage for the most important events of the next 3,000 years! These events have filled the pages of thousands of historical books, including the most important one—the Bible. God instructed Isaiah to tell his fellow Jews to listen, but they would not perceive, to look but they would not understand. Isaiah was ordered to render the hearts of Israelites insensitive with his prophecy. But why? God partially answered the unspoken question in Isaiah’s mind. “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed” – (Isa 6:9-11). After God called Isaiah and purified the prophet’s tongue, He declared the message to Israel would not get through. Isaiah’s preaching would not be effective in changing the course of the nation. God obviously fully intended to blind Israel to His program. God drew a veil over the collective eyes of the nation, that they might not know His ways. He did not reveal to Isaiah His reasoning for performing this strange action. That was God’s secret—a mystery to be hidden in God’s mind until a time much later in the future. Isaiah knew it was futile to question God. After all, Job did not obtain his desired answer when he questioned God more than a millennium before. But Isaiah loved his people. He was of the tribe of Judah, of the lineage of King David, and blood related to the Kings of the nation. He was interested in the welfare of his people. He received the message God intended for him—that Israel would be providentially blinded. So Isaiah asked: “Lord, how long?” – (vs. 11). Will Your judgment last for weeks, months, or perhaps years? God refused to state a period of time. Rightly so, for Isaiah may well have surrendered on the spot and asked God to terminate his life, had he known the time frame God was planning. God answered Isaiah: “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people and the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land” – (vs. 11-12). These two verses perfectly describe what followed this prophecy. The Assyrians savagely attacked the northern kingdom of Israel during Isaiah’s lifetime and utterly made it desolate. The Assyrians killed hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—and transported most of the remaining people to Assyria, in present-day northern Iraq. The Jews dispersed from there into Europe and other nations of the world over the course of many generations. Just over a hundred years later the armies of the mighty Babylonian Empire attacked the southern kingdom of Judah and besieged the capital city of Jerusalem. Babylonian soldiers ultimately breached the city walls and charged through the city, killing nearly everyone in their sight. Once again, hundreds of thousands were murdered and many of the remaining citizens were forced to march to Babylon, in present-day southern Iraq. The Babylonians utterly destroyed the temple Solomon had built for God. The Jews were once again without a homeland and without a temple to worship God. Their land was desolate—owned by a foreign people. The diaspora had begun in earnest. Several thousand Israelites were permitted to return to their homeland after the Babylonian captivity. They rebuilt their temple and began to worship God as a collective nation once again. But that did not last long. The brutal Roman Empire ruled Israel and the Middle East with an iron fist. They repressed Jewish worship and installed Roman sympathizers into the Jewish leadership and priesthood. Several decades after Pontius Pilate ordered the crucifixion of Jesus, many Jews rebelled against their Roman taskmasters. The Romans brutally crushed the rebellion and completely destroyed the wondrous Herodian Temple. Over the course of the next century the Romans pushed nearly the entire remaining population of Israelites out of their land. They renamed the country Palestine, after the ancient Philistines who had occupied the coastlands of Israel centuries before. God continued to push the Jews far from their homeland. The worldwide dispersion of Jews continued after the Roman Empire. Jews were banished from their homeland for nearly two thousand years.
Isaiah struggled with the concept of God’s blinding of Israel. Throughout his prophetic life Isaiah returned repeatedly to this theme in his writings. God revealed to Isaiah that one day the blind would see and the ears would hear and the darkness would be made light. However, God did not offer a clear timetable for this event.
Then the eyes of those who see will not be blinded, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The mind of the hasty will discern the truth, and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak clearly – (Isaiah 33: 3-4).
I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them – (Isaiah 42:16).
Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come, but He will save you.” Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped – (Isaiah 35: 5).
Is it not yet just a little while before Lebanon will be turned into a fertile field, and the fertile field will be considered as a forest? On that day the deaf will hear words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the Lord, and the needy of mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel – (Isaiah 29: 17-19).
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I have given Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in your place. Since you are precious in My sight, since you are honored and I love you, I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!” And to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, and the deaf, even though they have ears. All the nations have gathered together so that the peoples may be assembled – (Isaiah 43: 1-9).
When Isaiah wrote the prophetic words in the first 36 chapters of his book, the entire population of Jews still resided within the borders of Israel. The Assyrian invasion described in chapter 36 and previous chapters destroyed the northern kingdom and the Assyrians carried many hostages into northern Iraq. But even to the end of Isaiah’s life, the southern kingdom stood and many Jews still lived in Judah. The above verses in Isaiah 43 portray spiritually blind and deaf Jews traveling to Israel from nations over the entire world. This worldwide migration to Israel has only occurred in recent times—after World War I. Several thousand Jews returned to their homeland following the Babylonian captivity, but this was not a worldwide migration.
Two additional articles will follow this one. They will present the full scope of this theme. Please read on for a full understanding of this important topic.