I've written a new blog entry at i.ucc.org. It's about the call of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:1--8. Naturally, I spend most of my thoughts on verses 9-10. It's called "Something more to learn."
Hearing but not understanding. Seeing but not perceiving. What is it that we're missing?
This week's Bible reading comes from Isaiah 6:1-8. So naturally I'm going to really talk about verses just after the reading.
Isaiah 6:9 - 10: And God said, Go and say to this people: Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand. 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.
The Isaiah 6:1-8 reading is about God's glory and Isaiah's perceived inferiority and God's call and Isaiah's response to God's call to share God's news with everyone. Isaiah's willingness to step forward even when he felt unprepared and frightened is a great example for others who are afraid to stand up and share God's unconditional love with everyone.
But those verses after the "send me!" from Isaiah have always bothered me. It's as if I don't have the faculties to completely understand what they are saying. I've heard that it means that there will always be people who will reject what God's followers have to say, but that we continue to say in anyway. I've heard that the rejection is a test to see if we're really following God's call. I've heard that God hardens some hearts and lets others be open. I've heard that when Jesus quoted these words in Matthew 13 and Mark 4 that he was necessarily excluding some people from ever receiving the good news. I've thought that the verses were meant to chide those who ought to know better and still turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the needs of those who are persecuted, moved to the fringe and unloved.
And I don't think any of that is complete with what the verses say and with how Jesus used them. I think the verses are an invitation to dig deeper and discover more about what the Bible passages mean. I think that the parables Jesus told invited the listener to search for more because they were confused at the first hearing. I think that those who heard the words of Isaiah and the other prophets were invited to continue searching for more that would be revealed through God's word as they contemplated, studied, discussed and prayed about what they had heard.
I think the words from Isaiah 9:9-10, along with them being quoted in Matthew 13 and Mark 4, are verses that invite us to learn more. They invite us to realize, as John Robinson did as he spoke to the Pilgrims departing for the new world, God "has yet more light and truth to break forth out of his holy word."
There's more to learn, more to understand, more to seek. God is still speaking,