Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
“He blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
I Wouldn’t Do It That Way
According to Craig Keener, the author of the InterVarsity Press Bible Background Commentary, the point of this passage is that “Israel’s very unbelief in the servant-Messiah fulfills Scripture.” I get that, but in spite of that fact, this passage is still hard for me. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would harden their hearts in this way. It reminds me of how He hardened Pharaoh’s heart in the book of Exodus. In chapter 7 verses 3-4 God says to Moses, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you.” (Exodus 7:3-4)
And there are other things God does that I don’t understand. I don’t understand why he doesn’t uproot and expose false believers. It seems to me that many a misperception would be avoided if only God would do this. Jesus speaks on this issue when he tells the parable of the weeds. He said the workers came to the master asking if they should go out into the field and uproot the weeds that looked like wheat in appearance. But the master told them not to uproot the weeds lest they uproot the wheat along with them. He said they’ll be harvested together and separated at that time. I don’t like that and I wouldn’t do it that way. It doesn’t make sense to me. It seems to me that getting rid of the “weeds” or false believers like those who use religion for their own financial gain and other hypocrites would help God to attract people to Jesus.
And I don’t understand sadness and suffering. And I don’t understand why war is allowed on this earth. And I don’t understand why people die young.
Why It Makes Sense That God Wouldn’t Make Sense
But it makes sense that I don’t understand.
Not understanding is exactly what we would expect concerning the God who is the Creator of all things. He is the One who created the neutron star, a teaspoon of which would weigh 6 billion tons. He is the One who created the flea which can accelerate twenty times faster than the space shuttle. He is the One who created the people who built the space shuttle. He is the Creator of the caterpillar that metamorphosizes into a butterfly. And He is the Creator of the Butterfly Nebula (pictured at the top of this post). He is the One who created atoms, and the protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up atoms. He is the One who created the quarks that make up the protons and neutrons. (A quark is maybe the smallest thing in the universe.) And He is the One who created the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall (a structure made up of galaxies that may be the biggest thing in the universe).
Why would I think that I would understand the actions of a being like that? That would be like a flea understanding the actions of the man who wrote the article about the flea accelerating faster than the space shuttle. It makes sense that the flea doesn’t understand the actions of the author of the article describing him.
In the same way it makes sense that you and I don’t understand the actions of the Author of the human being, who is also the Author of the universe the human being lives in.
What I Do Understand
I understand that something happened in Jerusalem around 2,000 years ago that changed the world. Those followers of Jesus had absolutely nothing to gain and everything to lose by sharing Jesus. They were put out of the synagogue. They were ostracized from their friends and family. They were persecuted and many of them were killed.
Former atheist Jennifer Fulwiler puts it this way:
“You have this guy named Jesus who comes from a lower class region, gains a bunch of lower class followers, and ends up being executed by the Romans. And yet in droves you see thousands and thousands of Jews giving up these traditions that they had held dear for thousands of years. And, the people who joined in on this new religion, there was no benefit for them. It was a persecuted religion. People who joined this religion, [it] didn’t tend to work out too well. They tended to lose social status and often face death.”
And I understand that whatever might not make sense to me, I know God loves me because of what His Son Jesus did for me. He died for me, and for you. His perfect justice recognized my sin, and your sin, but his perfect love found a way in Jesus to reconcile me to Himself, in spite of my sin.
So even though I don’t understand why God does what he does, even though I, in my limited human understanding, would do things differently, I trust that He has my best interests at heart.
I love Him, because He first loved me.
And I trust Him.
You can too.
1 John 4:19, BibleGateway
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
15 amazing science facts that will blow your mind, HowItWorksDaily.com, 2015
Jacqueline Howard, The Biggest Thing In The Universe Is So Gigantic It Shouldn’t Exist At All, Huffington Post, June 24, 2017
Image of the Butterfly Nebula via NASA