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We have already noted that Isaiah’s message is addressed to people who had rejected the knowledge of God. Their lack of knowledge of God, their lack of understanding, was part of both their sin and their lostness.

‘Israel does not know, my people do not understand’ [Isaiah 1:3].

This lack of understanding and knowledge of God is a choice: people choose to reject the true God and to disbelieve the truth about the true God. By this choice humans put themselves under God’s judgement:

‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have  been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse’ [Romans 1:18-20].

The deliberate rejection of the truth about God has a consequence: it results in ever-increasing and deepening ignorance of God. The more a person rejects the truth about God the more inaccessible and incomprehensible that truth becomes to their godless understanding.

Isaiah’s mandate was to proclaim the truth about God to a godless people, and that proclamation would result in hardening the people in their ignorance:

‘He said “Go and tell this people:
“’Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts”’ [6:9.10].

This descent into ever deeper ignorance and ruin is a common theme in the Old Testament prophets:

‘my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge … you have rejected knowledge … you have ignored the law of your God … they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful …’ [4:6,7].

‘a people without understanding comes to ruin’ [4:14].

‘A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land”
The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way ...’ [5:30,31].

‘Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?’ [8:9].

‘You must not mention ‘the oracle of the LORD’ again, because every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God …’ [23:36].

‘… the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate’ [3:7].

‘Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah … do your prophesying there” ’ [7:12].

‘”The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land –
… a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.
Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to south,
searching for the word of the of the LORD,
but they will not find it.”’ [8:11,12].

The ignorance of God that we humans choose becomes in the end that to which God condemns us. He gives us what we sought. This rejection of the knowledge of God holds us in inescapable bondage. Our ignorance of God becomes so deep and so hard that even when we seek ‘God’ we do not know what we are looking for, nor do we recognize God when we see him.

‘Then they asked him, “where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”’ [John 8:19].

‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ [2Corinthians 4:4].

Our only hope of release from this deep ignorance is that God, whom we have rejected, would take the initiative and break through our dark ignorance, open our eyes and make us see. This is what he did in the incarnation of his Son [John 1:18]. This is what he does every time he, in an action of incredible grace, shines his truth into a human heart and mind [2Corinthians 4:6].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2014, 2023