Understanding Isaiah’s calling

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I recently re-read Isaiah’s call in Isaiah 6. Usually we stop at verse 8, where, when God asks, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah volunteers and says, “Here am I. Send me.” This time, however, I read further. I read to what Isaiah was called.

Isaiah 6:9: And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’

Isaiah 6:10: 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.”

To preach to people to keep listening but not comprehend? To make the mind of people dull and shut their eyes? Excuse me? Isn’t the point of preaching to get people to understand?

The punch line is at the end “... and turn and be healed.” In other words, God is telling Isaiah to preach to not understand with our own minds, but rather to turn to God so that we can be healed.

It set off a lot of musing for me. I started thinking about some of these Christian programs that come along every now and then and are so popular that all the churches who have even a little bit going on are offering them. Now, I want to say at the outset: I have no problem with most of these programs (in fact, I’d kind of wish I had the time to take the one on Financial Peace).

I’ve witnessed, during my time on earth, that things come and things go. About eight years ago, it was “40 Days of Purpose.” I liked The Purpose-Driven Life and, prior to that, The Purpose-Driven Church. They offered a kind of boost to refocus our attention to God.

Just a couple years before that, everybody was reading The Prayer of Jabez and declaring it life-changing. While I have my disagreements with some of the author’s biblical interpretation, if it was helping people draw closer to God, I thought to myself, “So what?” Many years prior to that, it was The Power of Positive Thinking.

They pretty much say the same thing. They serve to give us a little jolt and enhance our relationship with God when it sags. It’s just that ... well ... they’re not too deep.

As I read these words of God, giving Isaiah his call, these programs came back to me. “Make the mind of people dull and so that they may not look with their eyes and listen with their ears ... ” It seems to me if these programs “worked,” we’d only need one of them. We wouldn’t need the next thing.

These books and programs are all well and good. It’s just that while they may be about the word of God, they are not God’s Word. The authors, while offering insight, do not know your name. God not only knows our names; he knew us before we were born and has the hairs on our head numbered. We can go and purchase a book by one of these gifted authors. By contrast, Jesus purchased our lives by laying down his own for us.

That is lasting change. Lord, make my mind dull so that I do not rely on my own or other humans’ understanding, but seek only to turn to you and be healed.

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Sally Oakes is pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, 607 Rivers Road, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Phone: 770-964-6999 or 770-964-6992, or e-mail bethanymnc@bellsouth.net.