Most Canadians know about fresh-air-in-the-car day. It is that glorious day in the Spring when you can drive with the car windows open again. It is a relief from months where all the breathable oxygen comes through stale heat vents and your own foggy breath frosts up the windshield.
Our vehicle has a sun roof. So on fresh-air-in-the-car day a few years ago I reached up and hit the button. I listened to the window slide open, expectant of a rush of comfortably crisp air.
I should have thought about this a bit more. I should have thought: “It is a such nice day because although the air is still cool, the sun finally feels nice and hot. And what happens when these warming rays travel at a blistering pace from the edge of the solar inferno to the roof of my car? The left-over accumulation of snow gets mushy and mobile.”
What We See vs. What We Know
I should have followed this trail of logic. It would have led me into the field-of-not-making-instantly-regrettable-decisions. This was not my first winter. I know what happens to snow on metal in the hot sun. I knew there was still some snow left on the roof of my car. But because I was not looking at the roof of my car in the moment, these facts melted away.
As the sunroof slid I did not feel a refreshing air waft its way into my lungs. It was a flood of slush and water pouring onto my lap. The floodgate was open and I sat in astonished silence while it proceeded to cascade onto the top of my head. I sat there in the slushower, resigned to my soggy fate.
I drove on feeling the fullness of my stupidity but trying to enjoy the breeze. But when I came to the next red light the unflinching, icy grip of physics on my immediate situation took hold. The pool of slush that had so recently been ice – frozen and immobile behind the sunroof – was now loosed. The galloping force of momentum propelled the flow forward. It came dashing downhill through the gaping sunroof to the back of my neck, shocking my nervous system and my still whimpering pride.
It now dawned on me that this was not going to stop on its own. I reached up with regret toward the button that I had moments before pushed with anticipation. But as the sunroof window slid forward, the surge started again. Whatever shred of self-dignity I had left blew tattered out the shrinking gap above me. The window finished Zamboni-ing another few litres of ice water onto my lap and I drove on hoping for brighter, drier, and cleverer days ahead.
We tend to make our decisions based on what lies immediately in our field of vision. If a fact is not making noise on our radar screen it is unlikely to enter our calculations. Most of us ‘know’ that the church in the Majority World has been growing at a fantastic pace over the past decades. But we still still tend to think of the church we can immediately see as the Church. We ‘know’ that there are an unacceptable number of people on this planet who are going to die without the opportunity to hear about Jesus unless something changes. But we still tend to think of the needs we can immediately see as all that matters. We forget that our corner is just one small corner of a much bigger picture.
The Servant and the Task
Isaiah 49 is part of a series of messages for the exiles of Israel in Babylon (Is 47:5-77; 48:20; 49:19-21). These messages have been directed to the “house of Jacob” (Is 48:1), but now it shifts. In chapter 49 it is the coastlands and people from afar who are called to listen.
The servant of the Lord is frustrated because his given task stands unfulfilled: “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all” (Is 49:4, NIV). We discover that the task was “to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself” (Is 49:5). This is not an insignificant mission. A quick glance through the rest of Isaiah 49 shows that this restoration is a glorious thing. A lot is at stake in this. From our perspective, we need only to ask how the promised Messiah would have been born without the people in their promised land.
Yet listen carefully to what God says about the task that He had given the servant: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of earth” (Is 49:6). It is too small a thing. It is not enough to restore the tribes of Jacob.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will not loiter in the corner inhabited by the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The covenant given to Abraham had an expansive goal. It was so that as a great, blessed nation, Israel would be a great blessing to all nations (Gen 12:1-3). God’s answer to the servant’s frustration that Israel was not yet restored is a reminder that there was more to come.
Big Enough for God?
What if God did everything that you thought He could or should for your church? What if your church was bursting at the seams? Not because people had problems with other churches but because they realized they had problems that only Jesus could be the answer to. Let yourself picture the scene as people you have known and prayed for come to Christ. Imagine marriages and families restored and powers of darkness dispelled. Broaden the horizon and see it happening all through your town. Allow that vision to spill over to your whole province. Let it find its way from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast and let it fill the vast spaces in between.
What would God say to this? He would be delighted to see the kingdom of his beloved Son come in such measure on Canadian soil. But he would still say: it is too small a thing. It is not enough for salvation to reach the end of my province or my country. God would have it reach the end of the earth.
If you stop and think about it, we are the proof of God’s global vision. We are Canadian followers of Jesus because it was too small a thing for God to give light only to Israel. We get to be part of this ever-expanding movement that made it all the way to us from Jerusalem.
We cannot invest ourselves in everything going on everywhere. But we also must not allow our vision and concern to be cast only within arm’s reach. We cannot be everything for anyone. Nor can we be anything for everyone. But we will not be following close behind Jesus if we assume His work is only as broad as our own horizons.
We are part of a bigger church than we often recognize and we have a bigger task left than we often realize. What we need is a fuller vision of God. We need to be reminded that no one corner of the globe can contain the glory of God.
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
(Isaiah 49:6, NIV)
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