This article is a continuation from the previous issue of The Lampstand and considers Jesus, the response of Gentiles and Isaiah 49.

There are a number of occasions in the ministry of the Lord where Gentiles become involved in his saving work. We shall look at three of them in each of which the words of Isaiah 49 are entwined.

Jesus and the Samaritans (John 4)

 When the Samaritan woman returned to the city she proclaimed him to be the Christ on the basis of his astounding revelations to her. To the men of the city she said, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). Jesus too, was impressed by her convictions and though he had been hungry, the joy of serving his Father had banished his appetite. His disciples implored him to eat, but he told them he had “meat to eat that ye know not of” (v 32). He explained what he really meant by telling them that “my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (v34).

He could see what they could not. The woman’s words were creating a chain reaction. Already flowing forth from the gates of the city was a great multitude anxious to hear him! Jesus sought to elevate their thinking above the mundane. The literal harvest might well have been four months hence, but there was a greater harvest that was ready to be reaped by his disciples. To these Jesus directed their attention in the words, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest”. Jesus was directing the disciples’ attention to the approaching Samaritans, eager to hear his words.

The words that Jesus used are taken from Isaiah 49:18. Here mother Zion is called upon to Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold. What could she see?—multitudes from all nations gathering themselves to her! These are believers from all nations converted to the hope of Israel during the time when Zion was “forsaken”. Her own children, the natural descendants of Abraham, were “lost” (v20), but they had been replaced by others, unrecognized by her, but now at her side pleading for a place to dwell in.

In the conversion of the Samaritans Jesus could see a cameo of a greater day and alluded to the Old Testament prophecy which proclaims it.

Jesus and the Centurion (Matthew 8:5–13)

 Early in his ministry Jesus was sought by a centurion whose servant was grievously ill. Jesus responded, offering to come and heal him. But the centurion was seized with a sense of unworthiness and requested that the Lord should but “speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (v8). Jesus was astounded by his faith and made a comparison between the faith of this Gentile and the faithlessness of Israel: “Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel”.

 The failure of “his own” people did not mean failure of his mission, for he was also to be a light to the Gentiles (Isa 49:6). But his next words allude to Isaiah 49, for he says, “And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven”. This is the exact picture given by the prophet, describing the Gentiles concentring upon Zion, Behold these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim (east)(Isa 49:12).

Jesus and the Coasts of Decapolis (Matthew 15:29–31)

 When Jesus came for the second time into the coasts of Decapolis he went into a high mountain. Previously those who lived in these regions had implored him to depart from them. “Legion” had been sent back and told to declare the wonderful things God had done for him. His work appears to have been well done, for multitudes, hearing of Jesus’ advent, made their way to him. Significantly they climbed the mount where he was, bearing heavily their lame, blind, dumb and maimed. Their new faith was rewarded with healing. The response of the multitudes was astonishment. The healing powers of this servant of the God of Israel had reached out and embraced this quasi-Gentile region on the borders of Israel. With great significance the divine record tells us that they glorified the God of Israel(v31), words taken directly from Isaiah 49:3—God was being glorified in His Son by Gentiles.

It is also notable that this reception by Gentiles, including the woman in the immediately preceding incident, follows rejection and hostility by his own people—the Scribes and Pharisees had pursued him right up to Galilee in an effort to quell his popularity and influence. Again in this we see the same pattern as that portrayed in Acts 13 and Isaiah 49—rejection of him by his own people, followed by a ready reception from “strangers”.

The Apocalypse and Isaiah 49

 The beautiful words of promise in Isaiah 49:10 are cited and applied to the Lamb in Revelation 7:16–17: “They (the saints) shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb… shall lead them unto living fountains of waters…”.

In this chapter those gathered from the harvest of the Gentiles are likened to the twelve tribes of Israel and 12 000 of each tribe are sealed. This number describes “spiritual Israel” and this explanation is given in verse 9 for the “great multitude, which no man could number” was drawn from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues”.

This multitude stood before the throne and the Lamb clothed in white robes and having palms in their hands. Their tribulation now was over and they had been granted salvation. They respond with praises to God and the Lamb. One of the elders seeks confirmation of their identity: “What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?”. The answer is given, These are they which came out of great tribulation…”.

It is intriguing to note that these questions, including the recurrent use of the word These”, echo the queries and language of Mother Zion, “Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children (natural Israel), and am desolate, a captive… and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?” (Isa 49:21).

Conclusion

 Again we have seen amazing linkages between the Old Testament and the New. Remarkably the prophetic words have found fulfilment in the work of Christ and the apostles. We can see again the power of God in His inspiration of the Word of Prophecy, and the awesome way in which these prognostications have been accomplished. Truly we are privileged to comprehend these things which provide us with faith and confidence to face the challenges of our days.

May we live to be partakers of the coming salvation and to be led by the Lamb unto those “living fountains of waters”.