Isaiah Cries Out Against Calvinism
9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
10 “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.”
This is one of the most Anti-Calvinist verses in the Old Testament. First what is the Calvinist interpretation of these verses? The Calvinist believes people are predestined to damnation before the world began. Isaiah’s commission is not to warn the people to repent and follow God. No, see the “lest.” These people were in danger of repenting and returning to God. Isaiah’s mission was to harden their hearts so the eternal purpose of God, their damnation, might be fulfilled.
While this sounds like a parody of Calvinism, I assure you it is true. Here, in Calvin’s own words, is what he believes:
Here the former statement is more fully expressed; for God informs Isaiah beforehand, not only that his labor in teaching will be fruitless, but that by his instruction he will also blind the people, so as to be the occasion of producing greater insensibility and stubbornness, and to end in their destruction…Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. 13: Isaiah, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Here he expressly declares that he did not send the Prophet because he intended to save the people; but, on the contrary, because he intended to destroy them. Apparently it was not enough that God predestined these people to hell. He had to send Isaiah to “blind” the people to produce “greater insensibility and stubbornness” to ensure their destruction. Moreover, he never intended to save his people. What is the intention of this loving God in Calvin’s words “he intended to destroy them.” Just quoting Calvin is enough to make a person desire to wash out their mouths with soap. How could this vile and pernicious caricature of a Holy Loving God be taken seriously?
For the sake of those rabid Calvinists who insist the purpose of Isaiah’s commission was the damnation of Israel how is Isaiah’s commission described in Isaiah 1:
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the LORD,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword”;
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
God promises forgiveness of sin to all who are obedient and willing. Only the rebellious people will be devoured by the sword. God’s purpose is to extend forgiveness to all in Israel in order to save those who will repent. He will make their sins which are blood red, white as snow. The intention of God is to extend forgiveness to a repentant Israel.
By the way, the context of Isaiah 1 and Isaiah 6 is earthly blessings. I make the jump from earthly blessings to salvation because in Israel’s covenant with God, be willing and obedient, was a qualification for election to the Mosaic covenant of Israel. It was by this covenant an Israelite was saved.
In Isaiah 6, God is using sarcasm and irony to make a point. Irony is making an assertion that is contrary to the purpose of the statement. God really wants the people of Israel to repent but he knows “preaching repentance to Israel” will have the opposite effect. Because they are a stubborn people, they will intentionally harden their hearts against the message of God each time it is preached. By preaching repentance, Isaiah will effectively make their hearts even harder.
This is also an example of sarcasm. Sarcasm is of Greek derivation, it means to tear the flesh. Ridicule or mockery is used, to taunt Israel into repentance. In verse 10, God is saying the people of Israel will grow weary of God’s message and harden their hearts. Why would they continue to harden their hearts when repentance will only be for their good? Repentance would lead to understanding with their heart, returning to God and being healed. Why refuse this generous offer?
The word “lest” is from the Hebrew פֶּן transliterated into “pen.” It used as a precaution. Proverbs 9:10 reprove not a scorner lest he hate you. If this word is used as a precaution it must be warning Israel to change their ways and travel another path. This potential change in direction would be meaningless if the people of Israel were unable to change. In discussing the use of the Hebrew word for “lest” the famous Hebrew grammarian Gesenius explains the sentence construction:
§ 152. Negative Sentences.
(i) ־ פֶּן lest, that not, at the beginning of a clause expressing a fear or precaution,This is especially the case after an appeal to do or not to do an action by which something may be prevented..
Gesenius, F. W. (2003). Gesenius’ Hebrew grammar (E. Kautzsch & S. A. E.
Cowley, Ed.) (2d English ed.) (Page i). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
God is calling the people of Israel to repentance, because the future is open. The people are encouraged to do more than just listen, they are exhorted to accept the call to repentance and open their hearts and minds to the message. It is their stubbornness which prevents the call of repentance from being believed. This repentance would heal their wounds and give them the blessings of God. There is no excuse for their unbelief. They have heard the message and know God’s promises. Why not act now?