“All my desire was the conversion of the heathen… I declare, now I am dying, I would not have spent my life otherwise for the whole world.”

David Brainerd

TODAY’S READING: Isaiah 40–43

It was 593 B.C. in Babylon and the local population was fed up with their absentee co-regents (Kings Nabonidus and Belshazzar). Cyrus the Persian waltzed into town to shouts of joyful welcome, but just before he did, Isaiah prophesied comfort to Israel’s exiles. It was the aristocratic elite of Israel and Judah that were taken to Babylon, forced into ethnic “camps,” and pressed into forced labor. Almost like being in a refugee camp but having to work for their food by doing menial tasks like digging ditches. “Such social change would have stretched to the limit the exilic community’s conviction that Yahweh had elected the Judeans from all the people from the earth.”[1] Israel’s return home was pictured like a second Exodus, a second chance at covenant, a revival of the promise to Abraham—blessed that all nations of earth be blessed too. Comfort will be spoken over God’s people for the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed and all flesh will see it together (Isa. 40:1, 5).

Some circles see the authorship of Isaiah from chapter 40 on as different from the first 39 chapters because the tone is different. “Second” Isaiah is so full of comfort, hope, and joy over the future. My opinion is there is one author, and my primary reason is the consistent missionary focus of the book, a passion that builds and crescendos in the second half—much like what happens in the Bible itself. The missionary heart of God is evident from Genesis on, building and exploding in the New Testament, culminating in the redeemed of every tongue around the throne in Revelation. The second portion of Isaiah is full of missionary promise, for indeed the Messiah will bring forth justice to the Gentiles and be praised from the ends of the earth; all nations will give glory to Jehovah because God brought His missionary people through water and fire to lift His precious name up; the people of God are to be His witnesses among all nations; and Jehovah will make a way for His people in the wilderness that they may declare His praise (42:1, 10–11, 13, 43:2–3, 9–10, 19).

Hudson Taylor was one such messenger sent to proclaim the praise of Jehovah to the masses in China. After six years in that “wilderness,” Taylor’s health broke down and he spent five years recovering in England learning how to abide in Jesus. Upon returning to China, a colleague testified that Taylor now lived an “exchanged life.” The colleague was referring to Isaiah 40:31: “They that abide in the Lord will exchange their strength.”[2] Now Taylor went to bed early so he could rise early to spend two hours abiding in Jesus in the Word and prayer. His preaching had new power, his teaching authority. The China Inland Mission blossomed and gospel water flowed in Chinese deserts. Taylor’s exile taught him the lesson of Isaiah: Spend time with Jesus, exchange your pitiful strength for His divine power, and see that power transform nations for the glory of the God of Israel. This is the promise of the Bible. This is the missionary message of Isaiah.

[1] The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 872–873.
[2] Author’s translation. “Wait” in the Septuagint is meno, the Greek word “abide” used in John 15 and elsewhere. “Renew” in the Hebrew is literally “exchange.”

Prayer Focus: Japan (23 UPGs)

Today’s Unreached People Group: Burakumin
Population: 892,000
Language: Japanese
Primary Religion: Buddhism
Evangelical: 0.20%
Estimated Workers Needed: 18

[Source: Joshua Project]

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