The Bible Speaks
The United States Supreme Court's ruling on Friday, June 26, 2015, to legalize same-sex marriage exhibited the extent to which the American society has lost its Judeo/Christian moors.
A comparison of American society in 2015 with Judah's society during Isaiah's day is strikingly similar. The prophet Isaiah describes Judah's sinfulness and God's subsequent judgment in Isaiah 5:8-25. He pronounces God's response to Judah's rebellion in the form of six woes.
To you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.
To those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine.
To those who draw sin along with cords of deceit, and wickedness as with cart ropes.
To those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.
To those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
To those who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.
Materialism, bigger houses, privacy a priority and loneliness.
An unquenchable thirst for alcohol, party-crowd, eating, drinking and doing drugs.
Floats in a Macy's parade, gay parades, media promoting transgender lifestyle.
Exchange of values, complete reversal, abnormal has become normal.
Unceasing pride, most conceited culture, all about I—me—my.
Unjust courts, unable to see wrong and preserve constitutional liberties.
Why did Judah and why has America endorsed sin and rebellion against God, forsaking His standard as set forth in Scripture? Isaiah gives the answer in Isaiah 5:24, "They have rejected the law of the Lord Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel." America's removal of the Bible and prayer from schools and the public arena fits this analysis.
Now, the disobedient have a price to pay. Isaiah calls the punishment "woes." A woe is defined as "grievous distress or trouble, doom—an unfavorable judgment or sentence, adverse fate, ruin or death."
God's judgment upon Judah was released from within their country and society. Self-destruction was the order of the day as they reaped what they had sown. The same is true in America whose society is angry, highly distressed and fighting a multiplicity of cultural wars. God's displeasure is quite evident.
One More Thing.
What happened in Judah with the rapid influx of other countries is also happening in America. Judah's society and freedom were greatly disturbed by the invading armies of other countries. Waves of immigrants entering America today in search of a better life are impacting our society and values too. Below, we will compare Isaiah 5:26 with immigrants arriving on the shores of America. The parallels are astounding.
"He lifts up a banner for the distant nations."
God was saying to the distant nations, "I want you, you are needed, you are welcome." America has always put out the welcome mat for immigrants. In the early days, most immigrants came from Europe. However, in 1965 the Immigration and Nationality Act amendments opened immigration to all regions of the world.
"He whistles for those at the ends of the earth."
A whistle is used to get a person's attention. America's strong economy needs immigrants to fill gaps in an aging workforce and supply personnel ranging from domestic workers to high-tech employees. The Pew Research Center projects that about 90% of the increase in America's working-age population between now and 2050 will be accounted for by immigrants and their US-born children. America's job opportunities and high standard of living is a whistle being heard around the world.
"Here they come, swiftly and speedily!"
The immigrants are coming. They are on the move, running, racing toward America! America's population is currently pegged at 320 million and will reach 438 million by 2050. If current birthrates and immigration flows continue, by midcentury an estimated 162 million Americans, or 37% of the population, will be immigrants and their US-born children.
Immigrants Racing Toward America.
Judah was judged and punished, but God's wrath had not been satisfied. "Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised" (Isaiah 5:25). God said, "There is one more thing" to take place before I completely destroy Judah, but for a remnant that will remain. Isaiah wrote, "He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily" (Isaiah 5:26).
The banner that God lifted up was His banner. The nations, the countries, He called came from near and far to execute judgment on Judah. The countries were under His control to fulfill His purpose. God also has a purpose for directing the immigrants to America. He has allowed them to come.
Love All, Serve All
As believers in Jesus recognize the parallels between Isaiah 5:26 and American immigration, it becomes apparent that attention must be given to this growing segment of our population. How should we respond? "Love all, serve all" is a good place to begin. Jesus' explanation of the second most important command is clear, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31).
The peoples of the world are coming to our cities, towns and communities. We recognize the sovereign hand of the Lord has brought them and allowed our lives to be intertwined with theirs. It is a grand opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ.
Opportunity knocks! Are we prepared to seize it for God’s glory and the immigrants’ good?
The words of Isaiah.
The prophet Isaiah begins chapter 25 by reminding us of God's sovereignty. He is the Supreme Ruler and has everything under control. God is perfectly faithful to His word—His promises and plans. The complete fulfillment of His plans, both present and future, brings great joy to those who trust in Him.
The Lord gives a wonderful and insightful promise in Isaiah 25:6-8, "On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples (language groups)...On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples (language groups), the sheet that covers all nations (ethnic groups)...."
The principal thoughts in this promise are:
- God will bring all language groups (peoples, nations, tribes) to a central location,
- It will be a time of victorious celebration,
- Spiritual darkness and bondage will be destroyed.
God's promise given through Isaiah is relevant today for believers in Christ living in the United States. The language groups of the world are immigrating to the United States in unprecedented numbers.
"In 2013, approximately 41.3 million immigrants lived in the United States, an all-time high for a nation historically built on immigration. The United States remains a popular destination attracting about 20 percent of the world's international migrants...Immigrants accounted for 13 percent of the total 316 million U.S. residents; adding the U.S.-born children (of all ages) of immigrants means that approximately 80 million people, or one-quarter of the overall U.S. population, is either of the first or second generation" (Migration Policy Institute).
The Sovereign Lord has a purpose in this massive migration to the United States, in His well-thought-out plan. He is bringing them to this location so believers may introduce them to Jesus.
The immigrants, the language groups of the world, are seizing an opportunity for a better life; United States believers view immigrants as an opportunity to actively participate in fulfilling the Great Commission to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). It is a win/win opportunity!
Isaiah's expectation was that the truth of God would reach to all the people groups of the world. He saw these groups coming to worship the true God. He concludes his prophetic promise with a statement of assurance, "The Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 25:8). He will surely do it. Yes! God says so!
The words of Isaiah.
Bursting forth upon the US society is an unprecedented surge of immigrants from around the world. Most of them are fleeing their homeland where trouble and violence abounds. The foundation of their cultures and governments has been shaken.
Millions of immigrants seeking peace and prosperity are filtering into the US. Many are dissatisfied and disillusioned with their religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Animism.
The loss of their homes, material possessions, businesses and friends due to the upheaval within their countries has shaken their confidence in their religious faith. Many are now open to considering the Christian faith as an alternative. It is a unique opportunity the Lord has set before US believers in Christ.
Now the US Church has unrestricted access to the language groups of the world. Every believer has the potential and privilege to introduce immigrants to Jesus. It is an unparalleled opportunity to personally be involved in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Genesis 11 tells how God created various languages and scattered the language groups over all the earth according to His sovereign plan. He has been in charge of their movement throughout history. The book of Isaiah discusses God's dealing with the nations—the language groups. It gives a sense of direction and expectation for US believers as it relates to immigrants entering our country.
UNDER GOD'S CONTROL
- "He lifts up a banner for the distant nations" (Isaiah 5:26). Notice that it is "His" banner, His authority that directs their movement.
- "And I...am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages" (Isaiah 66:18). God is very intentional and instrumental in gathering the language groups.
FULFILLING GOD'S PURPOSE
- "In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him...." (Isaiah 11:10). The nations, immigrants speaking various languages, will come to Christ in overwhelming numbers.
- "They (language groups) will come and see my glory" (Isaiah 66:18). A revival among the immigrants; thousands accepting Jesus as their personal Savior and new, reproducing churches springing up among the immigrants' language groups.
BLESSING THE CHURCH
- "See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips" (Isaiah 49:22). The US Church will be awakened and revitalized as immigrant believers lead the way in reaching the nations, including unbelieving citizens of the US.
- "And they (language groups) will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem...." (Isaiah 66:20). This prophecy is a repeat of the Sovereign Lord's purpose to use immigrants to bless His people with spiritual renewal.
BUILDING THE KINGDOM OF GOD
"David gave orders to assemble the foreigners...for building the house of God" (1 Chronicles 22:2). Immigrants have a significant contribution to make in reviving the US Church. We have already watched this happen with the non-white language groups’ impact on the US Assemblies of God (AG). Non-white made up 31.4% of the AG constituency in 2003, but in 2013 they accounted for 41.3% of all AG adherents.
Immigrants are coming to the US. We US believers will want to walk across the cul-de-sac to welcome them, sit with them at a school function, help them with their English, assist them with legal matters, help them find employment and invite them to our homes for a meal. Their welcome should also include an introduction to Jesus and an invitation to attend church.
After Hiroshima and Japan's surrender, General Douglas MacArthur recognized that a spiritual vacuum existed and called for 1,000 missionaries to come and present the Christian faith. Missionaries responded and were highly favored by MacArthur. The need to fill the spiritual vacuum, orchestrated from the top down, met with limited success. Consequently, the vacuum was filled with other political ideologies and the Japanese returned to their former religious faiths.
The Lord desires something better for the US immigrants. He wants all to hear a clear proclamation of the gospel. This will happen when every believer recognizes the divine placement of immigrants in their community and, prompted by the Holy Spirit, walks across the street to share the love of Jesus with them.
An African proverb says, "The right hand cannot wash the left hand without the left hand washing the right hand." Jesus put it this way in Matthew 7:12, "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Immigrants coming to Christ will breed spiritual vitality into the life of the believer and the church.
The ingathering of new immigrant believers has the potential of sparking a spiritual renewal across the United States. So be it, Lord!
The book of Isaiah closes with three significant thoughts in regard to God's Messianic promise and His dealing with the language groups of the world:
- Gathering people from all language groups,
- Sending messengers to all language groups,
- Bringing believers from all language groups (Isaiah 66:18–21).
God declares, "I will set a sign among them" (Isaiah 66:19). He is the Sovereign One bringing about the gathering, the sending and the converting. Thus, we are confident it will happen and we know it will be miraculous. It is a "God-thing!"
Jesus is the sign. "They will come and see my glory...not heard of my fame or seen my glory...They will proclaim my glory" (Isaiah 66:18–19).
"In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples" Isaiah 11:10), "This child (Jesus) is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign..." (Luke 2:34).
Nations (language groups) will come to Christ. "The nations will rally to him" (Isaiah 11:10), "I will beckon to the nations" (Isaiah 49:22), "And they will come" (Isaiah 66:18), "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations..." (Matthew 24:14).
These verses anticipate and predict the language groups' positive response to the gospel with many coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
The word "sign" is defined as a conventional mark, figure or symbol used instead of the word or words it represents. This suggests an identity in a central location that can be viewed by everyone. The Message paraphrase of Isaiah 66:19 points toward the same idea, "I'll set up a station at the center."
The word "set" is defined as putting something in a particular place, position or posture; to place or plant firmly; to establish for others to follow. The following verses imply that God's sign is highly visible at a specific location: "Here they come swiftly and speedily" (Isaiah 5:26), "Rally to him" (Isaiah 11:10), "I will beckon to the nations...they will bring" (Isaiah 49:22), "I will send some...to the nations...and they will bring" (Isaiah 66:19–20).
God's sign elevated at a given location will:
- Exalt Jesus—the revelation of God's glory,
- Send out messengers proclaiming God's glory,
- Disciple new believers from all language groups.
YOU, AS A BELIEVER in the Lord Jesus Christ, are God's sign to the immigrants—the new Americans. Jesus lives in you and reveals Himself through you. Lift Him up. Introduce Him. You are God's messenger!
YOUR HOME is a location too. God wants to set a sign there—lifting up Jesus, sharing the love of Jesus and folding new American believers into His Kingdom. This is pleasing to the Lord as He makes clear in Deuteronomy 10:18–19, "He...loves the foreigner residing among you...And you are to love those who are foreigners." .
THE US ASSEMBLIES OF GOD BELIEVERS have been positioned too by the Sovereign Lord to welcome these new Americans and proclaim His glory among them. Fulfilling the Great Commission by sharing the gospel with those who speak a different language and have different cultural values is an opportunity that knocks at the door of every US believer.
THE WWW.YOURNEIGHBOR.US WEBSITE is serving too as a beacon to focus attention on immigrants coming to and living in our neighborhoods. The informational site encourages every believer to be intentional in welcoming and becoming friends with immigrants. YOUR NEIGHBOR website functions in a supportive role to Assemblies of God leadership and the constituency."
God's Heart for the Foreigner
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”