“…It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
This is one of those verses that I’ve done way too much skimming through. I’ve read it before; in fact, I’ve read it many times. I’ve heard it preached. I could probably almost quote it. And yet, it was only a few days ago that it really struck me.
Israel is a pretty small slice of the globe. If you look at an atlas, it can be easy to see why, “Well, of course it’s too small a thing for Him to be a light to them alone. There’s so much more planet to think about.” But have you considered what it takes to “restore the preserved ones of Israel”?
The history of Israel is one marked with wavering. From the days of the judges, it was one big see-saw ride from “the people fell away… but the Lord disciplined them, so they returned for a generation or two… but then they fell away… and then the Lord judged them away, so they came back… and then they fell away again…” Even back in the time of Moses, it took less than forty days for the entire nation to decide to make a golden calf and worship it instead of God (Exodus 32). Seven times in the books of the Law, God calls his own people “stiff-necked”. It’s a good thing God is such an amazing Shepherd, because His people were not giving Him much help or cooperation.
It’s not even that Israel is so shockingly bad compared to the rest of the world. I believe that, in part, God chose them as His people because they are so profoundly representative of the human heart. If it weren’t for their promises, frequent prophetic intervention and long history in God, we would have no way to distinguish them from the rest of fallen humanity. As God deals with them, we see how He treats us, even in the midst of our stubborness.
The fact of the matter is that it’s a miracle God can bring any one people group back to Himself. Because He has endowed us with free will, it is a testimony of His great power and beauty that He can turn the hearts of human beings to Himself. To save one nation, wholesale, like He will with Israel (Rom 11:26), is an unimaginable feat. To snatch an entire people from the flame is an enormous display of His mercy and power. But when the Father speaks to the Son, what does He say? “It is too small a thing…”
Think about that for a second. Salvation going forth to an entire nation is “too small”? Saving and transforming a persistently rebellious people is “too small”? Pulling off the grandest story of the ages, fulfilling ancient covenants, unfolding a drama spanning over six thousand years and millions of souls — that’s “too small”?
But this is not a statement of the magnitude of the task. This is a statement of the dazzling power, wisdom, kindness, and beauty of the Son of God. This is a statement of His worth and glory. The Mediator of a better covenant is so magnificent, so staggering in His mercy and His power to save, that it was unthinkable He should stop with only one nation. It’s not that Israel is all that small. It’s that the Redeemer is very, very big.
No other “god” could even salvage the nation of Israel. Jesus can not only do that, but He can conquer all the kingdoms of the earth with His justice and His love. His name will be great not only in Jerusalem, but even among the Gentiles — those who were strangers, far off from Him, without any promise or revelation of God. Every nation, tribe, and tongue will one day bow before Him and confess that He is Lord. When He sends forth light to the ends of the earth, real lives get saved by the millions. We see it in part even now, and His return will only make final what He has always had in His power to do.
Salvation of Gentiles was never plan B, held in reserve in case plan A, Israel, failed. It’s not that God gave up on Israel and resorted to the filthy uncircumcised pork-eaters. Even as He set apart Israel for Himself, and even as He marked them for His own, He was thinking of an entire planet. His heart is so big, so generous, and His power is so limitless, that He couldn’t just stop with one nation. He wanted them all. He wasn’t about to select one people only to give to His Son as an inheritance. He wanted to give Him the earth. Our God dreams big. And He is able to pull off really, really big things. Surely there is none other so generous, so kind, and so mighty to save.