Hope for the Heathen
his ministry Isaiah bore a plain testimony concerning God's purpose for
the heathen. Other prophets had made mention of the divine plan, but their
language was not always understood. To Isaiah it was given to make very
plain to Judah the truth that among the Israel of God were to be numbered
many who were not descendants of Abraham after the flesh. This teaching
was not in harmony with the theology of his age, yet he fearlessly
proclaimed the messages given him of God and brought hope to many a
longing heart reaching out after the spiritual blessings promised to the
seed of Abraham.
to the Gentiles, in his letter to the believers in Rome, calls attention
to this characteristic of Isaiah's teaching. "Isaiah is very
bold," Paul declares, "and saith, I was found of them that
sought Me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after
Me." Romans 10:20.
Israelites seemed unable or unwilling to understand God's purpose for the
heathen. Yet it was this very
had made them a separate people and had established them as an independent
nation among the nations of the earth. Abraham, their father, to whom the
covenant promise was first given, had been called to go forth from his
kindred, to the regions beyond, that he might be a light bearer to the
heathen. Although the promise to him included a posterity as numerous as
the sand by the sea, yet it was for no selfish purpose that he was to
become the founder of a great nation in the land of Canaan. God's covenant
with him embraced all the nations of earth. "I will bless thee,"
Jehovah declared, "and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a
blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that
curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be
blessed." Genesis 12:2, 3.
renewal of the covenant shortly before the birth of Isaac, God's purpose
for mankind was gain made plain. "All the nations of the earth shall
be blessed in him," was the assurance of the Lord concerning the
child of promise. Genesis 18:18. And later the heavenly visitant once more
declared, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be
blessed." Genesis 22:18.
all-embracing terms of this covenant were familiar to Abraham's children
and to his children's children. It was in order that the Israelites might
be a blessing to the nations, and that God's name might be made known
"throughout all the earth" (Exodus 9:16), that they were
delivered from Egyptian bondage. If obedient to His requirements, they
were to be placed far in advance of other peoples in wisdom and
understanding; but this supremacy was to
and maintained only in order that through them the purpose of God for
"all nations of the earth" might be fulfilled.
providences connected with Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage and
with their occupancy of the Promised Land led many of the heathen to
recognize the God of Israel as the Supreme Ruler. "The Egyptians
shall know," had been the promise, "that I am the Lord, when I
stretch forth Mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel
from among them." Exodus 7:5. Even proud Pharaoh was constrained to
acknowledge Jehovah's power. "Go, serve the Lord," he urged
Moses and Aaron, "and bless me also." Exodus 12:31, 32.
hosts of Israel found that knowledge of the mighty workings of the God of
the Hebrews had gone before them, and that some among the heathen were
learning that He alone was the true God. In wicked Jericho the testimony
of a heathen woman was, "The Lord your God, He is God in heaven
above, and in earth beneath." Joshua 2:11. The knowledge of Jehovah
that had thus come to her, proved her salvation. By faith "Rahab
perished not with them that believed not." Hebrews 11:31. And her
conversion was not an isolated case of God's mercy toward idolaters who
acknowledged His divine authority. In the midst of the land a numerous
people--the Gibeonites --renounced their heathenism and united with
Israel, sharing in the blessings of the covenant.
distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by
God. He is the Maker of all mankind.
All men are
of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came
to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of
the temple courts, that every soul may have free access to God. His love
is so broad, so deep, so full, that it penetrates everywhere. It lifts out
of Satan's influence those who have been deluded by his deceptions, and
places them within reach of the throne of God, the throne encircled by the
rainbow of promise. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor
In the years
that followed the occupation of the Promised Land, the beneficent designs
of Jehovah for the salvation of the heathen were almost wholly lost sight
of, and it became necessary for Him to set forth His plan anew. "All
the ends of the world," the psalmist was inspired to sing,
"shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the
nations shall worship before Thee." "Princes shall come out of
Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." "The
heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth
Thy glory." "This shall be written for the generation to come:
and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord. For He hath
looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord
behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those
that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and
His praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the
kingdoms, to serve the Lord." Psalms 22:27; 68:31; 102:15, 18-22.
been true to her trust, all the nations of earth would have shared in her
blessings. But the hearts of those to whom had been entrusted a knowledge
of saving truth, were untouched by the needs of those around them. As
God's purpose was lost sight of, the heathen came to be looked upon as
beyond the pale of His mercy. The light of truth was withheld, and
darkness prevailed. The nations were overspread with a veil of ignorance;
the love of God was little known; error and superstition flourished.
Such was the
prospect that greeted Isaiah when he was called to the prophetic mission;
yet he was not discouraged, for ringing in his ears was the triumphal
chorus of the angels surrounding the throne of God, "The whole earth
is full of His glory." Isaiah 6:3. And his faith was strengthened by
visions of glorious conquests by the church of God, when "the earth
shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the
sea." Isaiah 11:9. "The face of the covering cast over all
people, and the veil that is spread over all nations," was finally to
be destroyed. Isaiah 25:7. The Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all
flesh. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness were to be numbered
among the Israel of God. "They shall spring up as among the grass, as
willows by the watercourses," said the prophet. "One shall say,
I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and
another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself
by the name of Israel." Isaiah 44:4, 5.
prophet was given a revelation of the beneficent design of God in
scattering impenitent Judah among the
earth. "My people shall know My name," the Lord declared;
"they shall know in that day that I am He that doth speak."
Isaiah 52:6. And not only were they themselves to learn the lesson of
obedience and trust; in their places of exile they were also to impart to
others a knowledge of the living God. Many from among the sons of the
strangers were to learn to love Him as their Creator and their Redeemer;
they were to begin the observance of His holy Sabbath day as a memorial of
His creative power; and when He should make "bare His holy arm in the
eyes of all the nations," to deliver His people from captivity,
"all the ends of the earth" should see of the salvation of God.
Verse 10. Many of these converts from heathenism would wish to unite
themselves fully with the Israelites and accompany them on the return
journey to Judea. None of these were to say, "The Lord hath utterly
separated me from His people" (Isaiah 56:3), for the word of God
through His prophet to those who should yield themselves to Him and
observe His law was that they should thenceforth be numbered among
spiritual Israel--His church on earth.
sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and
to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants, everyone that keepeth
the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of My covenant; even them
will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of
prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon
Mine altar; for Mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all
people. The Lord God which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet
others to Him, beside those that are gathered unto Him." Verses 6-8.
was permitted to look down the centuries to the time of the advent of the
promised Messiah. At first he beheld only "trouble and darkness,
dimness of anguish." Isaiah 8:22. Many who were longing for the light
of truth were being led astray by false teachers into the bewildering
mazes of philosophy and spiritism; others were placing their trust in a
form of godliness, but were not bringing true holiness into the life
practice. The outlook seemed hopeless; but soon the scene changed, and
before the eyes of the prophet was spread a wondrous vision. He saw the
Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and, lost in
admiration, he exclaimed: "The dimness shall not be such as was in
her vexation, when at the first He lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun
and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by
the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people
that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the
land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Isaiah
Light of the world was to bring salvation to every nation, kindred,
tongue, and people. Of the work before Him, the prophet heard the eternal
Father declare: "It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My
servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of
Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou
mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth." "In an
acceptable time have I heard Thee, and in a day of
have I helped Thee: and I will preserve Thee, and give Thee for a covenant
of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate
heritages; that Thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that
are in darkness, Show yourselves." "Behold, these shall come
from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from
the land of Sinim." Isaiah 49:6, 8, 9, 12.
still farther through the ages, the prophet beheld the literal fulfillment
of these glorious promises. He saw the bearers of the glad tidings of
salvation going to the ends of the earth, to every kindred and people. He
heard the Lord saying of the gospel church, "Behold, I will extend
peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing
stream;" and he heard the commission, "Enlarge the place of thy
tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare
not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break
forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the
Gentiles." Isaiah 66:12; 54:2, 3.
declared to the prophet that He would send His witnesses "unto the
nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, . . . to Tubal, and Javan, to the
isles afar off." Isaiah 66:19.
beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet
of him that bringeth good tidings,
good tidings of good,
unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!"
heard the voice of God calling His church to her appointed work, that the
way might be prepared for the ushering in of His everlasting kingdom. The
message was unmistakably plain:
shine; for thy light is come,
And the glory
of the Lord is risen upon thee.
behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
darkness the people:
But the Lord
shall arise upon thee,
And His glory
shall be seen upon thee.
Gentiles shall come to thy light,
And kings to
the brightness of thy rising.
thine eyes round about, and see:
gather themselves together, they come to thee:
shall come from far,
daughters shall be nursed at thy side."
sons of strangers shall build up thy walls,
kings shall minister unto thee:
For in My
wrath I smote thee,
But in My
favor have I had mercy on thee.
gates shall be open continually;
not be shut day nor night;
That men may
bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles,
their kings may be brought."
unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth:
For I am God,
and there is none else."
60:1-4, 10, 11;45:22.
prophecies of a great spiritual awakening in a time of gross darkness are
today meeting fulfillment in the advancing lines of mission stations that
are reaching out into the benighted regions of earth. The groups of
missionaries in heathen lands have been likened by the prophet to ensigns
set up for
the guidance of those who are looking for the light of truth.
day," says Isaiah, "there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall
stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his
rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the
Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of
His people. . . . And He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall
assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of
Judah from the four corners of the earth." Isaiah 11:10-12.
The day of
deliverance is at hand. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro
throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them
whose heart is perfect toward Him." 2 Chronicles 16:9. Among all
nations, kindreds, and tongues, He sees men and women who are praying for
light and knowledge. Their souls are unsatisfied; long have they fed on
ashes. See Isaiah 44:20. The enemy of all righteousness has turned them
aside, and they grope as blind men. But they are honest in heart and
desire to learn a better way. Although in the depths of heathenism, with
no knowledge of the written law of God nor of His Son Jesus, they have
revealed in manifold ways the working of a divine power on mind and
those who have no knowledge of God aside from that which they have
received under the operations of divine grace have been kind to His
servants, protecting them at the risk of their own lives. The Holy Spirit
is implanting the grace of Christ in the heart of many a noble
truth, quickening his sympathies contrary to his nature, contrary to his
former education. The "Light, which lighteth every man that cometh
into the world" (John 1:9), is shining in his soul; and this Light,
if heeded, will guide his feet to the kingdom of God. The prophet Micah
said: "When I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. . .
. He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His
righteousness." Micah 7:8, 9.
of salvation is broad enough to embrace the whole world. God longs to
breathe into prostrate humanity the breath of life. And He will not permit
any soul to
disappointed who is sincere in his longing for something higher and nobler
than anything the world can offer. Constantly He is sending His angels to
those who, while surrounded by circumstances the most discouraging, pray
in faith for some power higher than themselves to take possession of them
and bring deliverance and peace. In various ways God will reveal Himself
to them and will place them in touch with providences that will establish
their confidence in the One who has given Himself a ransom for all,
"that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of
God, but keep His commandments." Psalm 78:7.
the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?"
"Thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken
away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered." Isaiah 49:24,
25. "They shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that
say to the molten images, Ye are our gods." Isaiah 42:17.
is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord
his God!" Psalm 146:5. "Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners
of hope!" Zechariah 9:12. Unto all the honest in heart in heathen
lands--"the upright" in the sight of Heaven--"there ariseth
light in the darkness." Psalm 112:4. God hath spoken: "I will
bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths
that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and
crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake
them." Isaiah 42:16.