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Here am I—Send Me!

How many times have you sung these words? That old evangelistic hymn stirs our hearts to this day.

The prophet Isaiah said this when he saw the Lord sitting on His throne. “Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isa. 6:8). The nation of Judah was in bad shape. Many of the Jews had departed from the law of God. The land was full of hypocrisy and corruption—drunkenness, adultery, idolatry, greed and carelessness in spiritual matters. God needed someone to go and preach to these people, and Isaiah quickly said he would.

When we sing those words, we often think of the joy of teaching lost souls and baptizing many people. That is certainly our goal. God wants people to be saved; in fact, He wants everyone to be saved (I Tim. 2:4). But the work of evangelism is not always so exciting. That is what God told Isaiah. “And he said, ‘Go, and tell this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on saying, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed” (Isa. 6:9-10). The world will always have its share of stubborn people.

The greatest preacher and personal worker who ever lived encountered people like this. Even Jesus could not convert everyone He taught. When his disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables to the people, the Lord said, “I speak to them in parables, because they seeing do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive’” (Matt. 13:13-14). Jesus could make the blind see and the deaf hear, but He could not make hardheaded souls accept the truth.

The greatest missionary of all time dealt with this problem. He accomplished much. He baptized many. But not everyone believed the gospel he preached. When Paul arrived at Rome, he met with the Jewish leaders for a study. He showed them that Jesus was the Messiah of their Scriptures. After he had reasoned with them all day, “Some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, “Go to this people and say: ‘Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed’” (Acts 28:24-27). If Paul and Jesus said that people in their day were like the Jews in Isaiah’s time, we should not be surprised if the prophet’s words ring in our ears as we teach people today.

What did Isaiah say when God told him he had would have a tough job teaching these Jews? He asked, “Lord, how long?” (Isa. 6:11). How long will these people harden their hearts, and how long am I to continue this work? The Lord answered: “Until all the cities are laid waste and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man, the land is utterly desolate, the Lord has removed men far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land” (Isa. 6:11-12). This refers to the Babylonians invading and destroying the nation of Judah. That happened after Isaiah died. Jeremiah later preached forty years to this nation, but they would not listen. They were even more stubborn than the generation in Isaiah’s day. But then God sent the Babylonians to punish His people. So God is telling Isaiah to keep teaching regardless of their impenitence.

But God gave hope. He told Isaiah that although the nation was headed for divine punishment, it would be like an oak tree that is cut down and the stump remains (v. 13). It will grow again. Hearts will be softened and turn back to God—long after Isaiah was dead!

What a lesson for us! We will convert lost souls in our lifetime if we preach the gospel. But we only see a small part of the entire picture, and our efforts, though necessary, are not the only influences to save souls. The Lord in His chastening providence may bring about repentance long after our labors are over. Until then we just need to do our part and teach the gospel. The future will bring forth its own fruits.

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin article for August 13, 2023


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