Years back we had a saying in the Church … “use it or lose it.” By this we referred to spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit distributes a gift mix to each new born in Christ. Should these not be developed and used … you shall lose this gift mix. It’s like the piano student learning scales, then classic music followed by syncopation. Should you not keep it up and should you not develop what you learnt you shall lose what you learnt.
Many people are Christianized. They have been to Sunday School, gone through a confirmation class or catechism class and drop out of Church as soon as they leave school, start university or move out of their parents’ home. Five to ten years down the line, after not being in Church, what they learnt is largely history. They forget their way around the Bible. They forget how to prevent sin and deal with sin. They forget the Biblical morality they were taught. They move in with a partner, start a sexual life forgetting that premarital sex is the cause of 95% of all problems in marriage. By the time they have children or get married and have children and want them to be baptized, not only are they strangers to God, they are strangers to the Church and what it teaches and requires.
Certainly the people I refer to are not believers … they were Christianized. Just imagine if they allowed the teaching they received to continue to genuine faith! They lost what they were taught because they did not use it. Their hearts were hardened. Is this not why the Jews Paul spoke to were in conflict with each other? Some wanted to believe his message about Jesus and others refused to believe. Had they lost what they had learnt about the Scriptures … especially Isaiah? Are their hearts hardened? Please read again:
Ac 28:25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 26 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”
We have worked our way through verse 25. We know what Paul is saying comes as a paraphrase, yet a Holy Spirit inspired quote from Psalm 119 and the Book of Isaiah.
Ps 119:70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.
Isa 6:9 He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ 10 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, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”
Ac 28:26 “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.”
The context of Paul’s quote from Isaiah comes after Isaiah had seen the three times Holy God, the Lord God Almighty, seated upon His Throne with His robes flowing down the steps. As you read the beginning of chapter 6 you find a renewed call upon Isaiah to go to the covenant people of God with a message. As the people had wandered spiritually and as their idolatrous hearts were no longer fixed on the true Sovereign God, the message Isaiah was required to present to the people was nothing short of damning!
Consider what He said step by step, as Paul quoted Isaiah in paraphrase. As we do, consider the present Church environment where the preacher pours out his heart, expounding God’s Word and people can’t comprehend what is said. During a sermon I preached at a Church I had never been to before, a coupled got up and left at the 60 minute mark. I was told afterwards that they are 59 minute Church attenders. It seems they are Sunday Christians! They dedicate a strict 60 minutes to God and anything longer is too much. They watch the clock and not the Word. Their hearts are hardened. They only want Church their way.
1) Hearing but never understanding. You will be ever hearing but never understanding. Isaiah had to tell his audience God’s message, but even though they heard with their physical ears they could not understand. The word “understand” means to join together in the mind. The message, even though presented in their language did not gel, did not make sense, the meaning could not be grasped. We have people like this in Church. They hear in plain language yet they cannot decipher in their minds. They come to Church and leave as they arrived.
2) Seeing but never perceiving … you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. The word “perceiving”, as used here means to “get knowledge”. The prophets were very demonstrative in their proclamation of God’s Word. The hearers would see them preaching as well as the vivid imagery they used, yet they were not able to get the meaning of either the words or the imagery. For some hearers in the Church today, even though the preacher uses the simplest words, phrases or illustrations, they cannot get the meaning of what is communicated. Hearing and seeing are closely related. What is the reason for this inability? It is because … they have …
3) Calloused hearts. For this people’s heart has become calloused. The word “calloused” here means “to make fat” resulting in the heart being “made stupid.” In others words, the heart is dull! Naturally we are referring to the spiritual realm … that of grasping and understanding God’s Word. Is it not so amazing how the most brilliant minds, at times do not grasp simple spiritual truths, whilst on the other hand, those considered with lesser academic abilities, quickly get the meaning of God’s Word?
4) The effects of a calloused heart … they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Spiritually they cannot comprehend. This is surely the saddest experience for a preacher who either through preaching a sermon, teaching a Bible Study or counseling someone … sees no spiritual activity in the heart … because the heart is spiritually dull. What is the end result?
5) Should there be seeing, hearing and understanding, there would be healing. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. One needs to understand what God is saying through Isaiah (and Paul quoting). It is not that God does not want to heal the soul’s spiritual lost-ness! Rather it is because the callous hearts … the spiritually stupid heart is stupid and dull because the individual does not want God. The soul does not want God to heal and restore and make it right with Him. Such is the one who by choice has decided to reject God and His Word, resulting in a heart fattened with the world, the flesh and the offerings of the devil. Should they have “turned” as in repentance and faith God would have forgiven and restored them, yet they choose to remain as they were, spiritually dead. This was the condition of the hearts of the Jewish Leaders. Even those who were starting to believe seem to have been dissuaded. Sadly, our pews are filled with such people.
Our Lord and God, Your mercies are new every morning. Your heart is always open when lost souls seek pardon and salvation. Today we plead for those hardened hearts in our Churches. Mercifully soften their hearts, open their spiritual ears and eyes and save their souls as we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.