This morning I had the privilege of preaching for the chapel service of Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida. RBC was founded in 2011 by R.C. Sproul and is committed to teaching Scripture in accordance with “the historic Christian faith and moral vision.” I was impressed with both the faculty and students that I met.
My text was Isaiah 49:6, which comes from the second Servant Song in the book. The Servant quotes Yaweh as saying,
It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
God states that it is not significant enough that Messiah should be given to restore Jacob and Israel. “It is too light a thing.” This is certainly true in light of the tremendous need that exists in this world of brokenness and sin. According to research from the International Mission Board there are currently 6895 unreached people groups in the world, of which 2987 are unengaged. These are people groups that are envisioned as singing to our Savior in heaven in Revelation 5:9, saying,
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.
It is too small a thing for Christ to be given as Savior only for Israel when the need of the nations is so vast and far-reaching. As significant as that is, it is even more so when compared to the greatness of Christ Himself. When His greatness, His glory, His worthiness and beauty are considered, it is not enough that He should be love and trusted and worshiped by only one nation. He deserves to have worshipers from every nation and from the very ends of the earth.
In this declaration God reveals His burden for the world-wide ministry of His Son. He reveals a universal dimension to His Son’s saving work. Christ will be given to save “the nations” and to extend God’s salvation “to the end of the earth.” By making this statement God reveals to us His burden for His Son’s world-wide ministry.
This insight into the heart of God should land on believers as more than mere information. It should strike us as motivation to embrace the mission of making disciples of all nations. That is precisely the way that the first Christian missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, took it. After being rebuffed and having their message rejected by the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia, they declared that they would begin preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.
Pay careful attention to the rationale that they give for this decision. “For so the Lord has commanded us, saying” …. And then they quote Isaiah 49:6, “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” They quote the indicative statement in Isaiah 49:6 but cite it as landing on them as an imperative—a command from the Lord.
When does an indicative statement become an imperative? When a believer recognizes the revelation of God’s heart as stated clearly in Scripture. What God indicates to be His will becomes the believer’s obligation. His desire is our duty.
To see the heart of God revealed in His expressed will for His Son’s ministry is to be called to tune our hearts with His. Because He delights in His Son, He intends for Christ to become light and salvation to the ends of the earth. The more that we, His followers, learn to delight in our Lord, the more we will embrace God’s declaration as our joyful responsibility.
In this way God’s indicative will be gladly owned as our imperative.