Witnesses; November 7, 2019


Isaiah 43:10-11 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no savior.”

This whole chapter is so extremely rich! I have long loved a song made from the first three verses, but these two are what speak to me most strongly right now. The Bible speaks many times about witnesses, perhaps most famously in Acts 1:8 and Hebrews 12:1, but this passage deserves to be equally famous. In English we tend to get confused about what a witness is, but that’s a linguistic issue that gets in the way of theological truth. In Biblical usage, and presumably in Hebrew and Greek, a witness isn’t an observer, but rather one who gives testimony. The English word has both those meanings, but it would seem that the Hebrew and Greek words, and certainly the Japanese word used to translate them, are more specific. Thus, in English the majority of people mistake Hebrews 12:1 to mean that a cloud of people are watching us, when it is saying that a cloud of people are proclaiming the faithfulness of God. The Bible isn’t about us, it’s about God! This passage is saying that we are to know God and tell others about Him, and specifically that He is the only Savior. This is not only to counter false religions, it is also to counter the idea so prevalent today that we can save ourselves. The most fundamental requirement for salvation is to know you need it! I personally think the reason God allows the devil to do as much as he does is to confront us with the reality that on our own we are helpless. We don’t like to admit that! When we know and believe God, as this says, we recognize that He is not only omnipotent and omniscient and holy, He is also love and grace, so much so that He sent His Son to take the penalty for our sins. That is Good News indeed, and it is what we are to proclaim to all who will listen.

This of course applies as much to me as it does to anyone. I was struck to notice that “witnesses” is plural, whereas “servant” is singular. (This is a distinction that is lost in the Japanese, because plurals are handled very differently, and often ignored.) Every believer is individually a witness, and the people of God collectively are God’s servant. That fits in with the Church being the Body of Christ, since there is only one Messiah, but we all participate in Him by faith. As a pastor I seek to help believers understand their position and participation in Christ, but at times it feels like very few really grasp it. I am not to give up, but keep speaking the truth in love. After all, God is just as able to use me as He is to use anyone, since He can even use a donkey! (Numbers 22:28-31) I am to proclaim that God not only loves us, He wants to use us for blessing, for His glory. I am not to seek any glory for myself, but I am to keep myself fully available for however God wants to use me, in little things or big.

Father, thank You for this strong reminder. Help me indeed be Your witness, You agent, in everything I say and do, so that many may be brought from darkness to light, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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