For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.
Paul, the Israelite and former Pharisee, is quoting these verses from Isaiah 6 to his countrymen. He was confronted by Jesus and called to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, which Paul does effectively, just not very quickly. Even here in Acts 28 after all the events that he endured to get to Rome, he still begins with Jewish people and then makes them angry by saying that he’s taking this message to the Gentiles. The Jews, being God’s ‘chosen people’ often looked down at Gentiles, so to say that this message from God was going to the Gentiles because of the Jews’ ‘unworthiness’ did not sit well with them.
To quote Isaiah 6 about anybody would be very offensive! ‘You are hearing, but never understanding… You are seeing but never perceiving…’ Those words would sting a God-fearing Jew. The reason it’s true, however, is their calloused hearts. Calloused hearts are why they can hear and see, but not understand.
Callouses are good and very necessary when you’re playing a guitar. The hardness on the fingertips is needed to endure the strings and play that instrument. For the beginner, continuing through the pain of developing those callouses often is the difference whether or not they’ll play. Imagine this process on the heart. Pain is involved in a heart becoming hard, but it’s the emotional pain of life that does it. For the Jews it may have the sense of entitlement that caused them to, out of fear, look down on everybody else.
Being hurt by others can harden your heart. The irony is that people with calloused hearts often cause emotional pain in others, and the cycle continues. I have had people in my life whose hearts have turned calloused against me. The most frustrating thing about that is what Isaiah describes: along with their calloused heart comes ears that cannot hear me and eyes that no longer see me. The real me.
The only way to break this cycle is to take the emotional pain of life to Jesus. He is the one who can turn a ‘heart of stone’ back into flesh. He can keep me from becoming calloused myself. As I turn to Him, I can see with my eyes and hear with my ears, understand with my hearts… and turning to Jesus, He heals me.
Lord, thank You for this renewing power you have in my life. Your Gospel is powerful and freeing! Help me to live in that freedom by turning to You in all things. I live for You today.