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"They will declare My glory
'God’s Plan to Use His Church to Glorify His Name Among the Nations' (Isaiah 66:20-22) is part 3 of a 4 part series on Isaiah 66:18-22. God shows His great power by using a unwilling people to willinging complete His great will, to bring His light to the nations!
20 “Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21 “I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,” says the LORD. “For just as the new heavens and the new earth Which I make will endure before Me,” declares the LORD, “So your offspring and your name will endure.”
In this section we pay closer attention to how God will spread His glory to the nations. This is important for we see it happening right in our midst. We will focus on two aspects.
God will make sure the Gentiles from every nation come and worship Him. The word ‘Jerusalem’ here does not mean the literal Jerusalem. Perhaps, when Paul was in the temple and some non-Jewish believers were outside the temple (but in Jerusalem) fulfills this (Acts 21:27-30)1, but chiefly we see the kingdom of God as the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22).2 The word for ‘the nations’ is the same as what we see in the New Testament ‘the Gentiles.’
Not only this, they will be called brethren to affirm their common identity and privileges with the Jewish believers. They are one family with the Jewish believers. They no longer have to become Jews first. A person from any nation can become a first-class family member. They are from one blood of faith.
￼The New Testament used the word ‘mystery’ to explain what we are here looking at. What God did here went so far beyond the Jewish mind that they just couldn’t comprehend it. It looked like a new faith, but it really was the same promise, only on a special path. We are wrong to see a disconnect between the Old Testament and New Testament.
The same God of wrath and grace establishes both covenants, but His purpose ultimately is the same. We spoke about this already: He will bring His glory to all the nations, i.e. the non-Jewish crowd. But here He emphasizes another important aspect: God will use the Gentiles that come to know God’s glory to spread the Good News of Christ through them.
God will use some of these Gentile believers in a special way to serve Him. Once they are part of His family, they are likewise privileged to serve the Lord. We notice here the verse, ““I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites.” This is a remarkable statement. The Jews held these positions as very holy. The priests were only from the Levitical tribe. You have to be born a Levite to be able to get close to God and serve Him. But now, we see God is taking non-Jewish people to serve Him in the most holy way possible.
What does it mean? There are two aspects. We know that all the believers are “a holy priesthood” set apart to serve God.
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
But the text here speaks in a special way He sets some of them (i.e. the Gentile brethren) for a special work. The Hebrew (original language) says “from out of them” which seems to clearly indicate that from the many Gentile believers will come some who will serve God in a special way. The Levites were set apart in a full way to serve the Lord. The best interpretation concludes that this refers to those who serve the Lord as full-time ministers. We have many examples of them in the New Testament. People like Timothy and Titus coming out to serve the Lord.
Ephesians 4:11-12 shows how this works out in what we today call the church, the gathering of God’s people, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” We see a clear picture of this in Acts.
“Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3).
|“And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able also to admonish one another. But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:14-16).|
Notice, first of all, those who were serving together as prophets and teachers. The list certainly included a number of Gentiles along with Jews (eg. Saul). What were they doing? They were ministering. This word ‘ministering’ actually was also used of the priests serving. These men set their lives before the Lord to serve Him. This is no doubt a picture of what is prophesied in Isaiah here.
We even see this picture of Isaiah 66:18-22 painted into Paul’s very words in Romans 15:14-16. “My brethren” were the Gentile believers from Rome. “Be a minister of Christ Jesus” refers to Paul who was Saul, who later was called to minister to the Gentiles–a survivor. Paul served as a priest. “Offering of the Gentiles” refers to Paul bringing the Gentiles to the Lord. It is remarkable to study these passages together.
Now I would like to share with you a more personal story. There are many threads to it, but I will try to limit it to our theme. I share it with hope that you will see that God is not limited in the way that He works. He takes those with little and does much. I was pastoring at the time and I wondered how I could be used around the world to help accelerate His cause.
I was excited about what He was doing around the world. I could see Him working, opening up the last frontiers to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I asked Him to use me in reaching these last frontiers. I wanted to be part of His great work. I was pastoring at that time, but I wanted to be part of His work. I didn’t know how that might happen.
But a number of years later, I found God flying me to India. In 2000 He led me out of the pastorate to retool me and develop free graphical-oriented Biblical training materials. I realized that unless I made the material available and free, the people that needed them the most would never receive them. Mission was above personal concern. But the Lord has provided for us, even though we have no guarantee what might come in for ministry or our own family needs. That is another whole story.
God has enabled us to develop effective Biblical training tools for all levels of discipleship learning and leadership training. He has done that all through His magnificent grace, not through my planning or strategy. God began answering my prayers through working through BFF materials all around the world. But God was doing more through my desire to participate in the last battles to be fought. It was through these materials that had me flying to India and by God’s grace to numerous other countries where serious invitations have been given to me like Malawi, Ghana and the Latin America world.
It started when I looked at what he was doing. I saw I would like to play a bigger role in what He was doing. I paddled my boat into His current (at that time the boat was big enough for my 7 children too). He just took me where I couldn’t believe. If you know me, I am retiring and quite shy. I like the ordinary and regular and shun the fancy and elaborate. But what God did in these last six years has again convinced me that God is willing to use anyone who makes him or herself available to God.
I remember flying for the first time into India. I prayed, “Lord, I don’t know these people. Help me to love and minister to them.” Certainly, I am out of my familiar context. Eating with my hands. Living days with hardly any sleep. Going into insecure places. Enduring heat only fit for the oven. Touching and praying for people with unknown diseases. Being driven about in a hazardous manner.
This time, as we were driving into north India, I was introduced to this brother. They started talking about security issues where we were going. They were very concerned because we were meeting in a hall rather than a church. This brother came along because he had some connections with security officials. They then continued talking about this Australian missionary that was killed with his two boys. I was entering the very state where that happened about six years ago. The Hindus can be quite fanatical.
“On January 23rd of 1999, Graham and his two sons, Phillip (11 yrs.) and Timothy (6 yrs.) were murdered by a large mob of militant Hindus. They had gone to a Christian camp in the jungle, where Graham was ministering. At midnight the mob attacked, setting fire to the jeep in which Graham and his sons were sleeping. They were burned alive. When the fire finally cooled, they found the charred body of Graham Staines with his arms around the bodies of his sons.” EPM Resource - The World Was Not Worthy of Them: Martyrs for Christ
￼But despite these fears, what a privilege it was to be able to minister to these brothers. Most of them are either pastors or evangelists or somewhere in between. Once a person establishes, a church, often he becomes the pastor. But these brothers are super committed. Some have traveled 8 hours to attend the pastor training seminars. Many of them have no support. The evangelists do just as the scriptures teach. They trust the Lord of the Harvest to care for them and their families. These are the leaders who have committed their all to the Lord.
We find that there are two applications. Actually, none of them are a shock to us. We are, after all, these ‘brethren.’ We are those rescued from the nations. We are responsible to continue to call others into God’s family. This is what we call evangelism. We all are His ambassadors.
God certainly calls some to come out from the world, like the Levites, and serve Him full-time. I am not discussing here whether those who cleverly serve the Lord in different places fit more into the role of full-time ministers or not. The point is that we recognize that God is now calling from among us some to come out to full-time service. He wants you to stop what you are doing and serve him much like Lucius, Barnabus and Niger. You will have no peace until you live for what God has called you.
There is a general call to join God in proclaiming His glory among the nations but also a specialized one in which one depends upon Him and His people to support you as you serve the Lord in a full-time capacity.
God is mobilizing the people around the world. Each nation has a special opportunity to reach their own people and more. I am involved in leadership training and astonished at the awesome work among the peoples of the world whether it be Africa, Asia or far strung nations.
1) God’s determination to glorify His Name among the nations (66:18)
God is determined to get His job done with or without us. He can, in many cases, finding others. Can you say, “I am here, Lord, use me.”?
2) God’s ability to glorify His Name among the nations (66:19)
God can work with anyone in any circumstances. The great walls of communism, religion have come crumbling down because of concentrated prayers. Will you ask the Lord to use even you, your house, your student group, your church to be part of the very last frontiers?
3) God’s plan to use His church to glorify His Name among the nations (66:20-22)
God wants to take some people in a very special way. He burdens, gifts and uses them to accomplish His will. God wants to use ‘they’ to mean you. Will you now dedicate your life to accomplish what God wants to do through your life?
One of the thoughts that kept coming back to me from this last trip to India was, “Blessed are the poor.” This is not what you hear today. We want to make them rich. But in fact, they are more blessed. Many more are coming to the Lord because of their desperate situations. Compare this to those who sit on their sofas watching a football game. They are dedicating their lives to the Lord and going forth into the field to find the harvest. They don’t have mortgages to worry about. Yes, some of them might not have money to marry. Others who are married, will need to trust the Lord to care for their needs. They are not counting whether they will have enough to retire on. They are living for the Lord.
Do we want wealth? Really? Why? Why do we want all that education? Really, why? When I see that weak faith of the brothers and sisters here, I begin to fear. It so easily contaminates us all. Do I really wish that the poor are rich? I am not so sure. They have things far better than us. Materialism has stolen the best from us. May we paddle ourselves back into the stream of God’s love that shines to the nations and not be like the self-contented Israelites. The choice is ours.