TODAY’S READING: Isaiah 5–8
The indubitable missionary nature of Isaiah 6 is representative of the whole book. “The whole earth is full of His glory… Whom Shall I send, and who will go for us… Here I am send me” (6:3, 8). From beginning to end, Isaiah resounds with God’s missionary heart. Christopher Begg writes:
The theme of the nations’ involvement with the worship of Yahweh has indeed emerged as a significant one throughout the book of Isaiah, with increasing attention being devoted to it as one moves from chs. 1–39 to 40–66. To an overwhelming degree the texts speak in positive terms of the nations’ relation to Yahweh’s worship… In sum, the nations’ worship of Yahweh constitutes a key, insistently underscored component of the future hopes that occupy so large a part of the extant book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 6 may well be one of the most oft-used missionary texts—and the most truncated. Most preachers stop after the “here am I send me” response of Isaiah 6:8. But the rest of the chapter is sobering: Nobody will listen, hearts will be dull and healing forfeited, destruction and desolation will follow, judgment through exile is inevitable, and the whole tree will be cut down (vv. 9–13). The reality of Isaiah 6 is that missionary life means more rejection than acceptance and that despite our willingness to proclaim the gospel, the wills of the majority will be counter to the heart of God. Interestingly, the chapter ends with reference to a tithe and the seed being in the stump. Working off the figure of a tithe, we surmise we’re called to a 90-percent failure rate.
Most missionary references to Isaiah 6 do not culminate with the encouragement that we will fail 90 percent of the time, but the context does indicate that more will refuse the message than will hear it. The missionary spirit is a resilient one. In the classic In His Steps, Charles Sheldon mentions Mazzini was correct when he said that “no appeal is quite so powerful in the end as the call: ‘Come and Suffer.’” The missionary call begins with seeing the Lord and ends with suffering for and with Him in long hours of hard work with frequent rejection.
The other side of suffering a 90-percent failure rate in missions is that we succeed 10 percent of the time. If the tithe is in the stump of the 177,000 Baggara Arabs of Cameroon, that means 17,700 will get saved. We’ll take that. If we see a tithe of the 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide come to Jesus, that means 170,000,000 will be added to the family of God. We’ll take that! Friend of missions, come suffer a 90-percent failure rate with us. It has a glorious upside.
 Christopher T. Begg. “The Peoples and the Worship of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah.” In Worship and the Hebrew Bible. Edited by M.P. Graham, R.R. Marrs and S.L. McKenzie. Sheffield, U.K.: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999. 35–55.
 Charles M. Sheldon. In His Steps. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. 88.