“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!'”
Uzziah died a leper; and now Isaiah sees the Lord in His glory. What a contrast! As to time, this was about BC750 according to many chronologists, and ten more kings were to reign in Judah before the Babylonian captivity. It is therefore remarkable that the prophetic word given to Isaiah should find a major fulfilment nearly 800 years later, in the days of Jesus and the Apostles. What was his message?
“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.”
Difficult words for many, who can’t imagine that God would create blindness and deafness in order to prevent people believing and being saved. But the thrust of these words is rather that the people themselves had already reached that state of blindness and deafness due to their own disobedience, and therefore, as the Lord said Himself, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” (Rev.22:11)
Six times in the NT we find Isaiah’s prophetic word pronounced, four in the Gospels (Matt.13:14, Mk 4:12, Luke 8:10, and John 12:40) once in Acts 28:26-27, and once in Rom.11:8, which reads as follows –
“What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded. Just as it is written: ‘God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day.'”
We shall find this to be the thrust of all five of the threefold passages in this series. God may have chosen the people Israel for His name, but out of that people there is only a small election by faith. The rest are set on one side. The election obtains the right to be the ruling Government in the coming Kingdom of God. The rest will find themselves excluded, rather than imagining themselves automatically included because they were Israelites, of the seed of Abraham.
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: ‘I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not consider.’ Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward.” (Isa.1:2-4)
Of the ten kings to follow Uzziah, only two, Hezekiah and Josiah, were set apart by the Lord as righteous because they humbled themselves, sought the Lord, cleansed the sanctuary, and taught the people God’s righteousness. But did the people respond as a whole? Listen to the words of the prophetess Huldah to King Josiah,
“Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and you humbled yourself before Me, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,” says the LORD. “Surely I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace; and your eyes shall not see all the calamity which I will bring on this place and its inhabitants.”” (2 Chron.34:27-28)
In earlier times Elijah, on Mount Carmel, had proved to the people that Jehovah was the true God, not Baal, but did the people reject Baal and turn to the Lord with a whole heart? What did the Lord say to Elijah as he fled from Jezebel?
“I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18) “Unless the LORD of hosts Had left to us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been made like Gomorrah.” (Isa.1:9)
Isaiah was troubled by the prophetic word (of chapter 6) and asked how long this blindness would last. The answer came in the form of a sentence difficult to understand, but the whole point was encapsulated in the final word – “As a terebinth tree or as an oak, whose stump remains when it is cut down, so the holy seed shall be its stump.” (verse 13) In other words, even if the major portion of God’s people be cast on one side, there will always be life within the root stock. And what was true of Israel, and is undoubtedly still true of Israel as a people, is also true of God’s Church. Within the whole there is to be found a Remnant. “Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: ‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.’ . . . . Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (Rom.9:27. 11:5)
Are we Christians? Do we think that because we belong to a Church, a Denomination, we are automatically included in God’s elect? If so, then these lessons in the Old Testament towards Israel will come as a salutary lesson. God is still looking amongst His people for those with the tender heart of King Josiah.