Isaiah 42:1-7.
God's Missionary Plan

Copyright 2009, American Journal of Biblical Theology    Scripture quotes from KJV

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, "Foreign missions" or "World Missions?"  Why should we care about world missions?  (We, as Christians, should have in us a desire to be part of God's work.)  God is at work in the world on a mission to bring people to himself through His Word and the testimony of the church.  This lesson will look at what God's purpose is in the world:  (to bless, to bring His justice, and to bring his light to all nations.)

God wants to bless all nations  (Genesis 12:1-3)

Genesis 12:1-3  The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.  "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

We see here the call of Abraham.   After the Great Flood, the world began to again deteriorate spiritually illustrating man's inability to be righteous free of God's intervention.  At first, God exposed the pride of the people and scattered them to create a need for them to turn back to him.[1]  Then he called Abram from Ur of the Chaldees to go to Canaan and to set into place His plan to save the world.

What was God asking Abram to do?  He was asked to leave his home to travel to an unknown land.  What was he to leave behind?

(His country.)  What is the effect of this?  (Going to a strange land with unknown language, customs, loss of security)

(His people.)  What is the effect of this?  (Loss of day-to-day acquaintances, relationships)

(His father's household) What was the effect of this?  (Loss of family relationship, loss of his father's blessing:  INHERITANCE)

What promises did God make to Abram?

        He would  become a great nation.  What does this mean?  (He would have many descendants.)

        He would be blessed.  (This refers to his fatherhood.)

        His name would be great.  (Though going to a strange land, he will be known, and known as a leader.)

        He would be a blessing. (berakah)  To whom?  To the world.

        He would bless those who bless him, curse those who curse him.  What kind of a statement is that?

Finally the kicker...

        Through him the whole world would be blessed.

What did Abram have to do to receive this promise?  (Be obedient and do as God said, leave his home.)

Did Abram know where he was going?  (No)  He had to step out in faith.

A key to understanding the promise is wrapped up in the word, "bless."  Two forms of the word are used in these scriptures, and an understanding of these can help us to see God's purpose.

What do you think of as being blessed? (Material possessions, physical beauty....) 

John 10:10b.  "I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly."

Consider how beatitudes describe blessing.   Turn to Matthew 5:3.  Read verses 3 through 9.

3  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

What are the blessings listed here?  (Owning the kingdom of heaven, be comforted, inheriting the earth, be filled, be shown mercy, see God, be sons of God.)  Observation of these verses reveals what the blessing is.  What is it?  (Salvation)  Each of the beatitudes first describes an attribute, or fruit, of a Christian and then describes the blessing received by a Christian.   A blessing, as used in the scripture, comes from only one source.  What is that source?  (God.)  The blessing is given only to one people.  Who are they?  (Christians, or Sons of God.)  We cannot separate the word "blessing" from the word "inheritance" because, as an inheritance is given by a father to his son, the blessing from God is given to his children.

God promised Abram to bless him, and used the illustration of his fatherhood to make Abram understand.  However, there was a problem concerning Abram's fatherhood.  What was it?  (He and Sarai were about 75 years old.)  However, we do know that Sarai did have a son, Isaac.  How old was Sarai when Isaac was born?  (about 100).  Abraham and Sarah went for 25 years and doubted God's promise for a blessing.

Rabbit chase:   Abraham tried to circumvent God's plan by having a son, Ishmael, by his servant, Hagar.  After Isaac's birth, Abraham cast Hagar and Ishmael from his household.  What was the result of this act?  (The sons of Isaac and the sons of Ishmael have been fighting ever since.  Who are they?  The Jews and the Arabs.)  I am convinced that the fighting between them will never stop short of the rapture.

Abraham understood God's blessing as coming through his son.  What would be difficult to understand is that God promised that the whole world would be blessed, or receive the inheritance, through Abram.  How did this blessing actually take place?  (Jesus was born as a descendent of Abraham, and through Jesus, the whole world would be able to receive the inheritance.  Abraham may not have understood this, but many of the prophets did.  

God wants to bring justice to all nations (Isaiah 42:1-4)

Isaiah 42:1-4.  "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope."

This was written by Isaiah about 800 years after God's promise to Abraham.  Except for a small cave and surrounding ground, Abram never received the promised land.  Following a famine, he went to Egypt where his descendants languished for about 400 years before reentering the promised land.  God then brought them out of Egypt in a spectacular demonstration of His presence in the Shekinah Glory, the Holy Fire that led them through the wilderness to the promised land, and remained over the tabernacle for another 400 years.  By this time, the nation had again turned away from God, and God used the Babylonians and Assyrians to conquer and take Isaac's descendants into captivity, and the Shekinah Glory of God left the tabernacle. 

However, God spoke to several prophets during this time in captivity, including Ezekiel, Malachi, and Isaiah.  Look at the servant described in Isaiah 42:1.  Most commentators use the context of the book's other uses of the servant to conclude that this servant is the chosen people, the children of Isaac.  However, I do not agree because the conclusions of verse 1 do not describe Israel.  God did not delight in Israel's disobedience, as a nation, Israel did not accept God's Spirit, and the nation did not bring justice (judgment) upon the nations.  If the servant is not the nation of Israel, who is the servant?  (Jesus, a descendent of Israel.)

God said that it would be through Abraham that the world would be blessed and Jesus came through Abraham.  The next verses describe the servant and His purpose. 

God wants to give light to all nations (Isaiah 42:5-9)

Isaiah 42:5-7  This is what God the LORD says-- he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: "I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

These verses describe the Mission of the Servant:  to give light to all nations.  Let's consider that light for a moment.  What is the purpose of light, as described in these verses?  (To reveal truth.)  Consider again, God's use of light as a metaphor for His presence.  God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, about 400 years after God's promise to Abraham.  He then revealed himself in the pillar of fire that led Israel out of Egypt to the promised land.  The pillar of fire remained over the tabernacle for 400 years (Until David's reign) and over Solomon's temple for 400 years until Israel and Judah were taken into captivity by the Assyrians and Babylonians.  At that point the Shikinah Glory, the pillar of fire left the temple, described by Exekial's prophecy.  Then, for another 400 years, the fire never returned.  This is the dark period in Jewish history.  The pillar of fire never again descended into the Temple on the day of the Holy of Holies and consumed the sacrifice.  The Glory was Gone.

However, the glory returned.  When?

Luke 2:8-11.  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

The Shikinah Glory returned, and lit up the hillside, scaring the sandals off of the shepherds.  I am convinced that all of the would-be scholars who have tried to explain the Christmas star are way off the mark.  They argue that it was an alignment of planets, an atmospheric anomaly that reflected the sun in the upper atmosphere, and other stuff.  The scripture said that the star led the wise men to where the baby lay, just as the pillar of fire led Israel to the promised land.  The Christmas Star was the Shikinah Glory of God:  His presence demonstrated through the supernatural use of natural light; the pillar of fire.

John 8:12  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

So, what is the purpose of the light?  (to provide the light of life.)  Who is the source of that light?  (Jesus.)  How long would Jesus' light shine?  (Until His crucifixion!)  Read:

John 9:5  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

When Christ died, the light was apparently extinguished.  However, it was necessary that Jesus die, not only for the atoning act for our sins, but also that as a physical man, he cannot reach the whole world.  Jesus only reached a few hundred people.  However, the light again returned.  When was that?

Acts 2:1-4.  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

To whom was the light given?  (To those who received the Holy Spirit.)  Consider Jesus command that followed the beatitudes in Matt. 5:14-16

Matt 5:14-16  "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  15  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  16  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

God's mission has always been to save mankind.  Before God created the universe and mankind, He had planned that his truth would spread throughout the world.  What is the way that this is done?  (By empowering the faithful with His Holy Spirit.)  How are we to take the message to all of the corners of the earth?  By letting our light shine.  Where?

Acts 1:8.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem (in your neighborhood), and in all Judea (your region) and Samaria (Neighboring regions), and to the ends of the earth."

Missions starts at home.  It starts with your sharing your love, through the power of the Holy Spirit with those around you.  It culminates with the sharing of God's love around the world.  How do we do this?

(1) pray for missions.

(2) support missions financially.

(3) become directly involved in missions.

Any Christian can travel across this nation or across the world on mission.  You can volunteer for a mission project or trip, or prepare materials and resources for use on the mission field. 

[1] Genesis 11:1-9.