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Isaiah 49:16; 56:38; 66:1820, 23 comment (0)

December 4, 2008

By James C. Pounds Jr.

Related Scripture: Isaiah 49:16; 56:38; 66:1820, 23

Bible Studies for Life
Director of the Extension Division, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

God’s Missionary Heart
Isaiah 49:1–6; 56:3–8; 66:18–20, 23

So often Christians find themselves under pressure to be conformed to the world’s idea of success: personal comfort and personal accolades. The emphasis to live life with a “what’s-in-it-for-me” approach is prevalent and preferred by the society that surrounds us, and yet God calls on us to be like Him — to think more about others than ourselves. 

Light for All Nations (49:1–6)
In this beautiful passage, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah to call His people back to Him. God wants His people to know they can come to Him — certainly return to Him — with confidence that they will not be rejected. But He then goes further. This call is not just for a select few but for all who will hear and will come. He wants His salvation to reach to “all nations” and to the “ends of the earth.”

Inclusion for the Excluded (56:3–8)
The prophet continues to stress that God’s love is great and welcomes all who will “join themselves” to Him despite their citizenship. In this text, the promise is made to the “foreigner,” one who is outside the family of God, that just like the “chosen ones,” if he or she loves the name of God, serves Him and holds fast to the covenant, then there will be a place for him or her inside the house of God. 

Worshiped by All Nations (66:18–20, 23)
In God’s closing words through Isaiah, He announces there is an approaching day in which He will gather His followers from all nations. These who have heard and answered and joined Him will see His glory and be sent by Him to declare His glory to others. Furthermore God announces that as a result of all of these actions, there will come a day in which all mankind will bow down and worship Him.

God uses Isaiah to paint a picture that shows how clearly He loves all people from all nations. This love is so great that the God of all creation desires that no one be omitted or excluded — He shows His “missionary heart” by declaring that He will go anywhere and everywhere to bring everyone to Him who will come. Christ is the Servant whom Isaiah speaks of, the Servant sent by God to bring His chosen back to Him and to go even further — to extend His salvation to the ends of the earth, to all people.

God is, in effect, stating that He will do everything possible to let everyone know they are loved by and welcome with Him. And by coming to earth as a man and dying for the sins of mankind, that is exactly what He did.

And to those of us who have been “gathered to Him,” those of us who have been saved through our faith in the One who became the “light of the nations,” we are also called to declare His glory to the “ends of the earth.” In fact, we recall that before Jesus returned to His Father, He reminded us that we were to take on the servant role and be about the Master’s work, which included making disciples of all the nations (Matt. 28) until He returned (Luke 12).
Because when He does return, Isaiah prophesied and Paul confirmed that everyone will bow and worship the name of Jesus (Phil. 2:9–11).

So often when we hear this, we naturally think of missionaries and missions trips — people and places that are far, far away; excursions and experiences that require a lot of time and a lot of money. But you and I are on mission each and every day, and there are “foreigners” all around us; we don’t even have to get on an airplane to meet them. Just look around. Aren’t we noticing the number of folks who have actually come to our neighborhoods from many places that are far, far away? We’re called to share God’s love with them, to declare His glory to them, and we probably don’t have to go more than a couple of miles to encounter them. 

But then there are also those “other foreigners” who look a lot like us and sound a lot like us but feel very excluded from us — and are hurting more than we realize. We’re called to share God’s love with them and to declare His glory to them, too, and we probably don’t have to go farther than across the street to reach out to them.

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