Isaiah 42:4 “In his law the islands will put their hope.”
One of the many reasons Isaiah is my favorite book of the Old Testament is its many references to islands. Being born, raised, and called to minister in Japan, that appeals to me! No other book of the Bible pays that much attention to islands, with Acts being the closest competitor, because of Paul’s journeys. It is a genuine mystery why Isaiah would have written like this, except for the fact that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so. In any case, I like it! Japan’s history is inseparable from its geography. Its location off the coast of a continent is in many ways similar to Britain, but it doesn’t have the history of repeated invasions that Britain does. 1945 was the first time in its history that a foreign military force occupied it. It is also unique in having a period of over 200 years of deliberate isolation, internally chosen and not externally imposed. Those things combine with a number of other factors to make Japan what it is today. From a religious standpoint, indigenous animism, called Shinto, was unquestioned until Buddhism came in from China and Korea, but rather than being supplanted, it persisted and is still widespread. We don’t think of Confucianism as a religion very much, since it is more of a philosophy than a religion, but that influence also came over from China and is still very strong. In fact, in a number of ways Japanese Buddhism is really Confucianism with a Buddhist face, emphasizing ancestor worship and a strict social code. With that background, Christian missionaries have had a tough time here. In fact, Japan has often been referred to as “the graveyard of missionaries,” because of the very low rate of return for time and effort invested. In that situation, is it any wonder I’m excited by Isaiah’s statement that “In His law/teaching the islands will put their hope?”
The question then becomes, what do I do about it? Like my parents before me, I have invested my life in this island nation. My father once prostrated himself on the floor and cried out, “God, if I am standing in the way of revival in Japan, then take me out of the way!” I identify completely with that sentiment, as I was sharing with two of the men in this church just yesterday. It is abundantly clear that I can’t force Japanese, or anyone else, for that matter, to open their hearts to repent and believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. However, my love for this nation and its people compels me to keep sharing Christ with them. After 40 years in Omura I have very little that I can point to in terms of achievement, but I can keep speaking the truth in love, sowing the seed and trusting God to bring the harvest in His time. If I focus entirely on the harvest, frankly, I will lose hope. I need to focus on my Lord, and entrust everything to Him.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the time talking with the two men yesterday. I do pray that everyone in this church would catch the vision of being Your agents to communicate the Gospel to this nation. May we be united in our obedience and dedication to You, so that You may do whatever You desire through us, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!