Isaiah 29:8-10 (ESV)
As when a hungry man dreams, and behold, he is eating
and awakes with his hunger not satisfied,
or as when a thirsty man dreams, and behold, he is drinking
and awakes faint, with his thirst not quenched,
so shall the multitude of all the nations be
that fight against Mount Zion.
Astonish yourselves and be astonished;
blind yourselves and be blind!
Be drunk, but not with wine;
stagger, but not with strong drink!
a spirit of deep sleep,
and has closed your eyes (the prophets),
and covered your heads (the seers).
Israel, for all their sense of safety, is not safe. She will “stagger, but not with strong drink!” She will awake from her sense of safety to discover “the multitude of all the nations…that fight against Mount Zion.” It makes me wonder how often we, as believers, have lulled ourselves into a false sense of security? How often have we believed that because we are not like the world, bad things won’t happen to us. It makes me wonder whether our faith is truly in God, or in the systems we have put in place to protect us from the uncleanness of a broken world. All the while, we totally miss what God is doing in the world and we revel in our own self-righteousness.
Perhaps the bigger question is why they were so blind. “For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers).” Why? Why would God blind his own people to the truth? Why would God close the eyes of the prophets? Why would God pour out on his people “a spirit of deep sleep?” Doesn’t God want his people to see? Doesn’t he want them to hear, repent, and submit? Why would he do this?
The answer comes three verses later. And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13). Therein lies the problem. Their hearts are not centered on God. Their fear of God is simply “a commandment taught by men.” Their religious activity is just that, religious activity. They are not worshiping God, they are going through the motions of worship. They are not approaching God in awe. They are simply doing religion.
God will not put up with that forever. There comes a time when he says, “Enough is enough! If you will not hear me, then you might as well be deaf. If you will not see me, then you might as well be blind.” But his discipline is not the angry outburst of a petty god who has his feelings hurt. His discipline is for the purpose of restoration. Discipline leads to brokenness and humility. The ruthless and the scoffer have nothing, but justice comes to the meek and the poor.
We “turn things upside down” (Is 29:16). The Creator turns things right side up. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see” (Isaiah 29:18). Why does God blind his people? Because they refuse to see. The good news is that he will one day restore their sight. It reminds me of the day Saul (Paul), who thought he saw clearly, ended up blind on the road to Damascus. The result was that he saw clearly for the first time. God blinded him to open his eyes to the truth. Proverbs says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” God is our friend.
He loves us enough to discipline us when we are not listening. His discipline is prompted by his love. Let’s listen to him today.
Father, give me ears to hear
and eyes to see.
If it takes blindness to bring sight,
then blind me.
Let me be one who listens well to Thee.