Isaiah 6:8-13 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here I am! Send me." 9 And he said, "Go, and say to 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 blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." 11 Then I said, "How long, O Lord?" And he said: "Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, 12 and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. 13 And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled." The holy seed is its stump.
After Isaiah had seen an amazing vision of the throne room of God, Isaiah had realized his own sinfulness and also that of the people of Judah. Isaiah was to tell them that God’s judgment upon them would be evident in their rejection of him (vs 9-10). Isaiah then asks God how long this would last and God gives Isaiah a very grim view indeed. One would think it enough to be conquered by a brutal pagan empire and taken in captivity, but it would be even worse than that. Even for the few who would remain after exile, they too would remain under the judgment of God and the tree of Israel would be reduced to a stump. In that stump is the hope of Judah for restoration and population of the land.
If one knows the history of Israel, we know that Judah did indeed go into exile in Babylon and was without a true king even in the return from exile. Judah never saw its former glory and the fulness of the expectation promised to them through the prophets. Even in the time of Jesus Israel was under Roman rule with a puppet king who was not one of their own. If Isaiah’s prophecy is to come true, this rejection of God would eventually end when a little stump could again grow.
The New Testament authors tell us that this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus.
In Matthew 11-13 we see a crowd that is following Jesus as he has different interactions with them and the Pharisees. In Matthew 13 Jesus speaks to this primarily Jewish crowd in parables and one of the reasons for using parables is to show their unwillingness to truly interact with the truth of his Kingdom revealed. Matthew shows that in the use of parables, Jesus is showing that Isaiah 6 is fulfilled. This is the post exilic Israel still living in the rejection of God’s revelation of himself to them. With Jesus, however, is a small group of disciples who accept his truth and end up spreading his message throughout the world.
In John 12:37-43, John tells us that even though Jesus had done many miraculous signs, the Jews still did not believe in Jesus as their Messiah King. Again, John says that this rejection of Jesus is a fulfillment of Isaiah 6. These Jews who had witnessed the power and glory of God in Christ had been unwilling to see him as their Savior and Lord. The Pharisees particularly rejected Jesus and even those who did see something in Jesus were not willing to acknowledge him publicly. Even for those Jews who saw that Jesus was authentic, they were not willing to overcome the fear of man to know true faith and hope in Christ.
In Acts 28:16-28 we read of Paul in Rome. As Paul awaits the consideration of his case, he sits before the local leaders of the Jews and talks to them about the circumstances that led him to this position. He wanted them to know about the hope of Israel and taught them from all the Scriptures concerning the Kingdom of God in attempting to convince them about Jesus (vs.23). While some were convinced, others disbelieved. Paul told them that the rejection of Jesus and his kingdom was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 6. He then went on to specify that while the Jews will not listen, the Gentiles will.
Through Jesus there will be a believing stump that will sprout and grow and spread its limbs into the entire world. As we see the New Testament fulfillment of God’s Word, we can be very thankful that God left a stump for the hope of the whole world. From a small group of disciples in front of a disbelieving crowd, through the antagonism of the Pharisees, and through a rejecting contingent of Jews in Rome, those who were prophesied not to listen to Jesus made way for millions who now do.
I wonder what Isaiah would think if he could see the extent of a prophecy that sounded so discouraging, but actually shows the amazing grace of God. God would never have been doing wrong by the idolatrous Israelites to completely wipe them out, but through faithful long suffering, our God preserved a remnant to bring about a stump that would again become a majestic tree. If you are in Christ today, you are part of that promise.
One other amazing thing to realize is that John’s gospel records that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory and spoke of him (12:41). The God on the throne speaking to Isaiah to seek repentance and faith from the people of Judah is the same God who tells us to go out to all tribes, tongues and nations. He is the same God who himself bore our sin to be our King. So, go back now and read Isaiah 6 and be amazed. What an amazing Savior indeed.