Isaiah’s Missionary Mandate

People from many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem.”                                  Isaiah 2:3 NLT

All humanity will come to worship me from week to week and from month to month.     Isaiah 66:23 NLT

More than any other Old Testament book, and more than many New Testament books, the book of Isaiah makes it clear that God’s heart is for the world. As the passages quoted above show, this thought is at both the beginning and the end of the book, and it is also found at many places in between. God will save the Israelite people in order that the world might be saved.

To be sure, God, and Christ with him, is sharply focused on the saving work on the Cross to be carried out in the context of Israel. Jesus will not allow anything to distract him from that goal, as his encounter with the Sidonian woman made clear (Matt 15:21-28). He was not going to be sidetracked into attempting to heal the world’s illnesses before he dealt with the world’s sins. But the final goal of the Father through Christ and the Holy Spirit is to reconcile the world to himself and Isaiah knew that.

This must be the case for us too. A salvation which is focused on “me and mine” and getting “us all” to heaven is both short-sighted and wrong. God is doing his work in “us” for “them.” Just as the heart of God is turned away from himself and toward his creatures, so our hearts must be turned toward those around us who have not heard.  Moreover, we must pay attention to the evidence of our lives. The nations ought to be saying, as they observe us, “We want to know their God. We want to walk like that.” God forbid that they say, “Boy, I don’t want to have anything to do with those people.”

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