How do you respond to Isaiah 6:10?

The Lord tells Isaiah,

“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.” (cf. Matt. 13:14–15)

If taken out of context this passage may sound like the Lord wants certain minds to be spiritually dull, certain ears to be spiritually deaf and certain eyes to be spiritually blind. Hence this passage is sometimes cited as evidence that it is by sovereign design that some people are hardened to the message of the Lord. How can this passage be reconciled with the universality of God’s love and desire for salvation expressed elsewhere in Scripture?

The answer is to be found in the observation that the Lord is not commissioning Isaiah to preach to people who would otherwise be receptive to his message. God never hardens anyone arbitrarily. Rather, in this passage God is responding to the persistent obstinancy of the Israelites. (Hence, God no longer refers to them as “my people” [cf. 1:3] but as “this people” [cf. 8:6, 12; 9:16).* God sends Isaiah out as an act of judgment, anticipating that the preaching of his word will only serve to further solidify the Israelites in their self-chosen obstinancy. This increased solidification will make them “ripe for judgment.” It always grieves the Lord that he has to treat people in this fashion: it is not his perfect will (e.g. Hos. 11:5–9). And even in judgment the Lord holds out hope for the future (cf. Jer. 29:9–14).

Note
*C. W. Carter, ed. The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Vol. III (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1969), 35.

    Related Reading

    What is the significance of Jonah 1:2; 3:2, 4–10; 4:2?

    God “changed his mind” (3:10) about the destruction he planned to carry out on Nineveh. If all events in history are eternally settled and known by God as such, his word to Jonah that he planned to destroy Nineveh in forty days was insincere as was his inspired testimony that he in fact changed his…

    Topics:

    In a democracy, don’t Christians have a responsibility to participate in politics?

    Question: You’ve argued that Christians shouldn’t try to gain power in government on the grounds that Jesus didn’t try to gain power in the political system of his day. But his government didn’t allow for such power. Caesar and Pilate weren’t elected by anyone. Our government allows for this. So don’t we have a responsibility…

    What is the biblical basis for “free will”?

    Question: Much of your theology depends on a supposed ability humans have to thwart God’s will by our free choices. But what is the biblical basis for your conclusion that people have “freedom”—at least “freedom” in the sense that we can decide to go along with or thwart God’s will for our lives? Answer: Scripture…

    Tags: ,

    What happens to babies who die?

    The Bible does not directly address the issue of what happens to babies who die before being able to make a decision for or against Christ. People have thus had to arrive at conclusions about this matter on the basis of other beliefs they hold to be true. The majority of evangelicals today assume that…

    What is the significance of Jeremiah 19:5?

    The Lord says that Israel has “gone on building the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind.” Here, as elsewhere, (7:31, 32:35), the Lord expresses disappointment, if not shock, over Israel’s idolatry. The…

    Topics:

    How do you respond to Isaiah 14:24, 27?

    The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have designed, so shall it be; and as I have planned, so shall it come to pass… For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who will annul it? his hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? The fact that Scripture frequently speaks of…