By David Prairie
(Note: This article is a lightly edited transcript of a brief message given to the mission teams partnering with Graceworks Ministries in Anchorage, AK on June 5, 2018.)
People participate in short-term mission trips for any number of reasons. Maybe you came specifically to Alaska because you wanted to see the beauty of God’s creation. Perhaps you heard of the needs that are in the city and you felt a sense of desire to help make right some of the wrongs that are there. For some, a church leader may have recruited you to come on a trip or a parent even signed you up and made you come. You may have wanted to participate because a friend was going or even that there is an expectation in your church that you go on such a trip. It’s possible that you came to learn about the Lord and be drawn to him. I pray that some of you are here because you are considering a lifetime of missions, and that this trip is an exploration into that possibility.
There is only one motivation that will sustain you in lifelong service to the Lord. Only one reality can help us to endure the cost of these efforts, and here it is: God is the most glorious being in the universe and his glory should be displayed in all the earth. All other motivations for missions will fail while this one will last.
To show you this, I want to start in Isaiah 12 and to work backward in the text. I will only scratch the surface of what can be said from these passages.
Isaiah 12:5 commands, “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.” God’s works are glorious. He is worthy of our praise. His works should be told across the globe.
Isaiah 11:9 declares that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk states more specifically that the planet will be full “of the knowledge of the glory of the LORD” (2:14). The earth will know that Yahweh is glorious.
Isaiah 10 contains the truth that while mighty men may seem glorious for a time, the glory of men is overwhelmed by the glory of God. Of the king of Assyria Isaiah promises that “under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire” (10:16) and “The glory of his forest and of his fruitful land the LORD will destroy, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away” (10:18). That is to say, even the strongest of kings will whither like dead men when they oppose Yahweh, because his glory will fill the earth. “For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth” (10:23).
These statements are built from Isaiah’s original commissioning in chapter 6. In Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on his throne he heard angels crying out that “the whole earth is full of his glory” (6:3). From Isaiah’s response we see that the reality of the glory of God exposes our guilt, atones for our sin, and sends us to the lost (6:4-8).
I skipped a couple of sections that are often quoted around Christmas time. Isaiah 7 urges God’s people to not fear the enemies that surround them because the Lord will give them a sign of a son to be born to them called Immanuel, God with us (7:13-14; 8:5-10). Isaiah 9 proclaims that God “has made glorious the way of the sea” (9:1) by bringing into light those who had been in darkness (9:2) through a child who would be born to inherit David’s throne “with justice and with righteousness” (9:6-7).
C. S. Lewis wrote that in Narnia the white witch had cursed the land such that it was always winter and never Christmas. Because of the oppression from enemies and impending exile for sin, those in Isaiah’s day may have felt the same way. But it’s as if Isaiah is telling them (and us), “Christmas is coming.”
And it came. The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us so that we would see his glory (John 1:14). It is the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:4-6) that fuels us to make him known with our lives. The world wanders in a sort of cursed wintery exile for now. Our task is to say that Christmas is coming. God’s glory will be known in all the earth, and it is the motivation for the task.