I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!” And he said, “Go and say to this people:
‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’
Isaiah 6: 8-9
At the beginning of the week, we looked at Yahushua’ explanation of parables. On the surface, it appears Yahushua told stories so people wouldn’t understand. Instead, scholars point out Yahushua told stories knowing full well his audience’s expectations would prevent them from hearing.
Yahushua’ explanation that a good story will not be universally understood springs from Isaiah 6.
Honestly, this is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Isaiah’s imagery sparks my imagination. I want to see God’s robe that is so ornate and huge that its hem alone fills the entire temple. I want to see the six-winged seraphs. I want to hear their call. I want to be healed by a burning lump of coal against my lips.
Isn’t this what a good story does? Whether factual or allegorical, a good story sticks in our imaginations so we can’t let it go.
And yet, Isaiah’s story, like the parables of Yahushua, gives me trouble. Because Hebrew tradition tends to blur cause and effect, God seems to be telling Isaiah to preach in such a way that people cannot understand him. Instead, say the biblical scholars, God is challenging Isaiah to keep preaching even though the people will not understand.
Isaiah asks, “How long?” in verse 11, and God reveals his grace toward our stubborn hearts. Keep telling my stories, God says, until the cities fall into ruin and the houses are all empty.
It is easy to get tired of being a small voice crying out in the wilderness of your workplace or your local community. We should not expect God to let us off the hook.
On bad days, we will cry out like Isaiah, “How long until people get it?”
And God’s answer will ring a challenge back at us.
“Keep telling my stories until the cities are all empty and the businesses are all boarded up.”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What stories can you share about God’s work in your daily life? Do you know anyone who needs to hear these stories? How will your stories capture the imagination of those who hear them?
PRAYER: God, it feels risky to share the story of your work in my life. Help me serve you with the same perseverance that Isaiah served. Help me also know how to share stories in this age of social media. When I share about you on Facebook, it can feel shallow and trite, as if I’m endorsing a good movie I saw or a good restaurant I visited.
Yet I don’t want to be afraid of sharing about you just because others won’t understand what I’m trying to say. Give me the strength to keep sharing and sharing and sharing in every manner possible —from Facebook to the water cooler, from Twitter to the dinner table. Give me also the wisdom to share in ways that capture the imaginations of those who are listening for your spirit.
Most of all, Lord, create in me a pure heart. Despite my sin, let your story be expressed through your people with grace and truth, so that the world will turn to you and be healed. In Yahushua’s name I pray.