Isaiah 45:22-24 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.'”
This is underlined in my Bible, but I honestly don’t have that clear a recollection of it. It is an absolutely clear, unequivocal statement of God’s love for all mankind, His invitation to salvation to everyone. I would imagine that this sort of prophecy didn’t make Isaiah very popular among the Jews of his day! The tradition is that he was eventually martyred by being sawed into pieces, and his insistence that the physical descendants of Abraham weren’t as exclusive as they thought they were was probably one of the reasons for that. I would think that this passage would be dear to the heart of every cross-cultural missionary, but many, like me, are probably not that aware of it. Too many people, and even whole cultures, are focused on I-my-me-mine, and are irritated at the insistence that God’s heart is bigger than that. If we want to understand the heart of God and please Him we’ve got to lift our eyes off of ourselves and our immediate surroundings. We tend to focus on The Great Commission, spoken by Jesus at the time of His ascension into heaven, (Matthew 28:18-20) but we forget that God has not changed from eternity. He chose Abram, transforming him into Abraham, because He had to start somewhere. That part is already history for us, so we need to be focused on what He says here: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth.”
To say that this is a family tradition with me would be an understatement. My maternal grandfather, W. O. Carver, founded what is today the oldest Department of Missions in the world, at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. My parents were appointed as single missionaries and married in Japan before WWII, and one of my mother’s brothers was likewise a missionary to China, teaching in a school in Shanghai until the war forced him out. My parents are buried in Japan, and I’ve been here in ministry since 1981. All of that is a point of gratitude and satisfaction for me, but I must not make it a point of pride. It was only by the grace of God that any of that happened. Now, I am challenged to help Japanese believers understand that they too are part of God’s world-wide plan of salvation. The Japanese sense of ethnic identity is perhaps second only to that of the Jews. That makes it difficult for them to accept that a “foreign religion” has anything to do with them, and if they do open their heart and believe in Christ, that they have anything to do with communicating the Gospel to other people-groups. However, there are some Japanese missionaries in other countries, and society in general is becoming much more globalized. My particular calling is to communicate God’s love to the Japanese, and by His grace they will understand that it is to go through them to others as well.
Father, thank You for this reminder. This isn’t something I’ve preached on very much. Help me communicate Your world vision to the people so that they will understand that Your vision for this church and this city isn’t so huge after all, but just a small part of Your Plan of the Ages. Thank You. Hallelujah!