8 Then 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!”
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.”
11 Then I said, “For how long, O Lord?”
And he answered:
“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
A New Mission
This is a well-known passage for most Christians, and is most frequently used during missions months at churches. And most of the time, it is used as a positive encouragement: “God, send me to proclaim your good news to the world!”
But the actual context of this passage is a little deeper than this, isn’t it? The message that Isaiah is sent to proclaim to Israel is not a warm-and-fuzzy, everything will be alright message, but a prophecy of rebuke and impending punishment and desolation. What does this mean then, that this passage has nothing to do with the gospel and missions? Not exactly – it informs of us other truths that we must weigh, and decide upon:
– The message that we bring will not always be warmly received – are we still willing to go?
– The message may require us to do extremely difficult preparation work, the work of calling for repentance and righting injustices, the work of true prophets – are we still willing to go?
– The message that we will bring may fall on ears that are deaf, hearts that are hard – are we still willing to go?
We have to ask ourselves these kinds of questions before we consider missions, because missions is not always like giving sweet candy to people – sometimes it is like giving out bitter, but needed, medicine to them instead.