It’s the optical illusions that are fun to talk about. A couple years ago online it was the dress. Was the dress black and royal blue or white and gold? Debates raged. The internet was on fire. Friendships were probably lost over two people seeing one image in totally different ways. Both were seeing, but were they really seeing? Same goes for when we listen to people. We hear them speaking, but are we listening? We hear them, but are we just preparing ourselves for the next time we get to talk? People can see but not see. They can hear but not hear.
We have an example of that in the gospel. Jesus heals a man who had been born blind. It was pretty clear what happened. The blind man even gave personal testimony. He had been blind, but now he could see. The reason was Jesus. But there were those who saw this miracle, heard the man’s testimony, and still didn’t see or hear. Really they didn’t want to see and hear. They were in denial about who Jesus was and what he could do. They all saw Jesus, but they didn’t see. They heard Jesus, but they didn’t hear.
Isaiah shares a similar point with us in the first lesson. The Lord has made promises. They were a long time in becoming reality, but that didn’t mean they weren’t in effect. Waiting a long time and the sinful nature combined to make people blind and deaf spiritually. But the time had come. Things were going to happen. God was taking action. For them and for you…
God promises sight and sound
He’s no longer restrained
He delights in his righteousness
By the time of Isaiah, a long time had already elapsed since God made that declaration to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the opening chapters of Genesis. A long time since God promised he would act in this world in a major way to fix the sin problem. “I have been silent for a long time. I have kept still. I have restrained myself.” God’s plan required he remain restrained. Because of people. God could have seen how Adam and Eve disobeyed and rebelled against him in Garden of Eden. God could have seen their sin and he could have ended it all right there. Struck them down, punished Adam and Eve. End of people. God could have seen the way his people suffered throughout history and immediately brought destruction and disaster on those who were causing the harm. End of people. Or when his own people wandered away from him into idol worship and unbelief. God could have brought judgment on them in the moment. End of people. End of time of grace. People sent to hell.
God loved people too much to do that. So he restrained himself. In his patience he allowed wickedness and evil to look like it was winning. All so his Word would have more time to touch those doing the running from him. These were people who were seeing, but not really seeing. Hearing but not really hearing. The more contact with the Word of God, hearing teachings, seeing the Word in action, the more opportunity the Holy Spirit had to win them over. To lead them to faith. The love of God would work on them during that time. A time of grace.
Persistent indifference to the Word and the truth of God still exist. At times it even shows in us. It’s brought the world to the place it is today. We can’t draw a line connecting spiritual apathy and a virus infecting the world. That kind of link God doesn’t allow us to make. But what of the reaction to the virus? So many people have abandoned divine truth, thinking God doesn’t exist, or at best he’s letting us fend for ourselves. When a mass of people have unhitched themselves from a divine being, a God of the universe, is the panic we see a surprise? Human beings need control. They need to know. With no control, misinformation, and disinformation out there, and with no God foundation to come back to, panic arises. People the world over think the only thing standing between us and total collapse of the world, is us. That’s blindness and deafness towards God. We’ve shown it too at times. Forgotten his presence, both in our lives and in our world. Forgot he works behind the scenes of everything happening. In our blindness we see what happens and react with trusting in our own abilities. Spiritual deafness causes us to hear what everyone is saying and buy into it. We agree human intelligence is our only hope.
Like a mother about to give birth, nothing can stop God’s plan from happening. Now he’s unrestrained. “I will dry up the mountains and hills. I will make all their grass wither. I will turn rivers into islands. I will dry up pools. I will lead the blind on a way they do not know. Along paths they do not know I will direct them.” In Isaiah’s day the plan of redemption was still in the future. But there was no doubt who would accomplish it. God acted. Now, that plan is finished. You are the beneficiaries. You were blind. God led you to find the way. Not saving yourself from anything. Not from a virus you couldn’t see, not from sin in thoughts, words, and actions you could see. God led you to see the Savior. Really see. See Jesus doing what he did for you. Leading you to forgiveness. Guiding you into a peace and comfort only children of God have. “I will turn darkness into light and rough places into level ground.” With light you see. You see Christ and his promises fulfilled. In suffering, in death, in resurrection. You can see him. You can hear him. He isn’t restrained anymore in giving you sight and sound.
In the middle of even a pandemic and the response to it, remember God won’t abandon you. You aren’t fumbling around like blind people unaware of how to get through this. You have sight from the Savior. He’s with you. He’s acting for you. Guide others to that sight. Let them know of your peace in Christ. Before you talk of fears and worries, remind them of Christ’s presence and actions. You aren’t in the darkness. Darkness doesn’t prevail, no matter what it looks like. The Lord is with you. He won’t leave you. He will not abandon you.
God said some things to those wanting to remain blind and deaf. Through Isaiah they get a warning. Rejection is dangerous. They may be seeing and hearing, but what they see and hear are idols of their own making. Spiritually they are blind and deaf to the true God. “They will be turned back and completely disgraced—those who trust in an idol, those who say to molten images, ‘You are our gods.’” It’s their own attempts to find God, when all they really find is themselves. The gods they find are made up, fashioned and formed in their minds or out of metal. People may be seeing and hearing, but they remain blind and deaf spiritually.
In our moments of sin we are blind and deaf. Sin is treating God as something to be dismissed. Inattentive to God’s Word we say we’re just busy with life. But that can grow. Apathy can set in. Suddenly we’re not turning to him in times of crisis. We don’t come to church regularly. We don’t ponder the Scriptures or apply it to our lives. People start trusting in idols they imagine to be gods. Medicine, money, methods. Anything can be a god, if we give it first place in our lives and trust in it for our future.
The Lord is faithful to you. Because he’s faithful to the salvation he promised. It’s a plan that can’t fail, hasn’t failed. His grace to you is always faithful. In spite of people closing off their eyes and ears, God is gracious. “You, Israel, see many things, but you do not observe. Israel opens his ears, but he does not hear. Because of his own righteousness, the Lord was pleased to make his law great and glorious.” God delights in his righteousness. He wants that for you. The great and glorious Bible is how he does. The message of grace in Christ is great. God’s promises have overcome your sins with forgiveness, your problems with promises of the future eternal glory, and your heartaches with heaven. There’s no promise of a virus-free life. But there is a promise and guarantee of a virus and sin-free eternity.
More illusions are sure to come. Likely will blow up the internet and cause divisions among people trying to determine what they see or what they hear. God has given you crystal clear spiritual sight and sound. He’s no longer restrained. His message to you is one of grace and forgiveness in Christ. God’s delight is in his righteousness, which he was pleased to give you through that message of Christ. You have the faithfulness of God, protecting your life now, providing for your life to come. Promises of sight and sound in the perfection of heaven forever.