The Great Invitation: Call Others Too!
From Gospel Translations
By John Piper
About The Gospel
Part of the series The Great Invitation: A Sermon Series on Isaiah 55
The Amazing Promise Held Out to You Today
We saw last week that God invites thirsty, bankrupt, frustrated people to come to him for water, milk, and wine.
- Spiritual water for refreshment of dry and dead souls.
- Spiritual milk for the nourishment and strengthening of weak souls.
- Spiritual wine for the exhilaration and joy of sad and disheartened souls.
And he says that these life-giving beverages are free. They can be bought, but not by us. There is no price that we could ever pay. Chapter 53 makes it clear that another Person had to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows and pay the price for our forgiveness and our life. That's what Jesus, the Messiah, did for all who trust in him. Now the water and milk and wine of God's grace is free for all who will turn from sin and seek their satisfaction in fellowship with God.
Verse 3 tells us what the reality behind these pictures of water, milk, and wine is, namely, an everlasting covenant that God makes with all who come to him to have their needs met.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant.
Then in the last line of verse 3, this covenant that God promises to make with all who come to him is described as the steadfast, sure love that God has for David. In other words, God promises to share the love that he has for David with any who will come to him for satisfaction.
A Glimpse at What It Could Mean for You
Now this is an amazing promise held out to you this morning. What it could mean for you is glimpsed in Psalm 89. This whole Psalm is written to affirm the covenant that God made with David (2 Samuel 7) and to plead that God would apply it to the people in their misery.
Psalm 89:3–4; 27–29
Thou hast said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: 'I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations.'" And I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth. My steadfast love I will keep for him for ever, and my covenant will stand firm for him. I will establish his line for ever and his throne as the days of the heavens.
David Is Dead When the Psalm Is Written
Now what makes this psalm so relevant for us is that David is long dead when this psalm is written, and what the psalmist is doing is claiming God's covenant love for a later generation. Look at verse 49:
Lord, where is thy steadfast love of old, which by thy faithfulness thou didst swear to David?
So what this psalmist is doing is just what you could do this morning if you come to God for the satisfaction of his forgiveness and fellowship. You could say, "O Lord, you promised to David a throne of triumph over all his foes that would endure forever. You promised to be his Shepherd, to give him green pastures and still waters, to lead him in righteousness and protect him in the valley of the shadow of death. You promised to follow him with goodness and mercy all his days. And now, Lord, in Isaiah 55:3 you promised me that if I come to you, and seek my satisfaction in your presence, you will make me a partner in that covenant with David. And I believe that you will do it. I come. Show me now your steadfast, sure love for David."
Has God Been Faithful to His Covenant?
But you might ask, just like the psalmist did, "Has God been faithful to his covenant? Does the throne of David endure for ever?" And the angel comes to the virgin Mary and gives the answer in Luke 1:31–33.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. (See Isaiah 9:6–7.)
So the covenant made with David, comes to fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the son of David who was raised from the dead and now sits on an everlasting throne until all the world is subdued to him.
So the awesome promise that God holds out to you this morning in verse 3 is that if you will hear his voice and come to him, he will make a covenant with you that is just as sure, and unshakable, and full of never-failing hope as the covenant that brought his Son to earth and raised him from the dead and seated him forever at the right hand of the Majesty on High.
If you are looking for something solid in life, something that doesn't change or let you down, something that will make you happy and be satisfying to your soul forever, God offers you in this verse (3) the unswerving love and unbreakable commitment that he has toward his own Son. When you believe this, the roots of your life go down around the boulders of God's grace and you become a strong tree against the gusts of Satan's indictments and deceptions.
The Crucial Question Facing Christians and Churches
Now just at this point Christians and churches face an utterly important question: will we take this awesome privilege of God's covenant love and sit down with it (to drink our water, milk, and wine), or will we read on to verses 4 and 5 and really understand the new covenant God makes with us? Will we be satisfied that God has made a covenant with us to give us eternal life? Or will be dissatisfied until he has made a covenant of life with disciples from all the nations and peoples of the world?
There are thousands of professing believers and thousands of Christian churches that don't even ask this question about world missions. Will you be like them because you say, "Look, it's all I can do to keep my nose above hometown water?" Or will you read on to verses 4 and 5 and discover that missions is not a kind of burdensome caboose behind the boxcars of God's blessing, but instead is part and parcel of God's covenant mercies FOR YOU?
I know that when I sit down in 30 or 40 years to meditate on the chapters of God's mercy in my life, I will date the beginning of one of the most thrilling chapters from November 1983, when I preached my first missions sermon ever, called "Missions: the Battle Cry of Christian Hedonism." When I see what vistas of hope and joy have broken onto my life in the last five years with a growing vision for world missions, I am tempted to go back to last Sunday's sermon and say that the wine of God—the exhilaration of spiritual life—is none other than the gift of missionary vision and hope and involvement.
The Missionary Purposes of God
Let's look at verses 4 and 5 and see some of the exhilarating missionary purposes of God. I see two purposes of God expressed and two means of achieving those purposes.
1. That Unknown Nations Be Called
The first purpose of God is this: GOD'S PURPOSE IS THAT UNKNOWN NATIONS BE CALLED.
Verse 5: "Behold, you shall call nations that you know not."
God could see a lot farther than they could 2,700 years ago. He could see tribes and peoples of Northern Europe and China and Africa and South America. And his purpose for the world would not be limited by the ignorance of his own people. "You will call nations that you know not."
And what ought to knock the socks off of every Christian alive at the end of the 20th century is that the fulfillment of this purpose is at hand. For the first time in the history of Christian missions the unknown peoples (not places, but peoples!)—the unknown peoples are the center of concern and study and rising missionary effort. We call them "hidden peoples" or "frontier peoples" or "unreached peoples." And there is immense global effort in our day to know the unknown.
What we see happening all around us is the fulfillment of Isaiah 55:5—unknown peoples being identified and called. This is the purpose of God—that unknown nations be called to the banquet of salvation.
2. That the Unknown Peoples Come
The second purpose of God we see in this text is this: GOD'S PURPOSE IS THAT THE UNKNOWN PEOPLE COME.
Verse 5: "Behold, you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you."
God's purpose is not merely world missions, but the SUCCESS of world missions. The nations will respond. They will run to you. Look down at verse 11 to see this stated very boldly.
So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
God's missionary purpose will succeed.
Those are God's two purposes in this text—
1. that unknown peoples be called to the banquet of salvation, and
2. that these unknown peoples come.
How God Intends to Accomplish These Purposes
Now how does God intend to accomplish these two purposes? There are three answers in the text.
1. Jesus Will Bring Them to the Banquet
The first is given in verse 4:
Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples; a leader and commander for the peoples.
Who is this talking about?
It's possible that it simply refers back to the life of king David 300 years earlier. He was a witness with his great poetry and he was a great leader and commander as king of Israel.
But if the connection between verses 4 and 5 is close, it seems to me that verse 4 would have in mind a future work of witnessing and leading and commanding, not a merely past one. What binds verses 4 and 5 close together is the reference to peoples and nations, and the point of the passage is that God aims to call them in. So it seems likely to me that both verses focus on the future and what God aims to do for the peoples of the world who don't know God.
So I take verse 4 to refer not merely to the work of king David in the past but also to the Son of David in the future, namely, the Messiah prophesied in Isaiah 9:6—
Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore.
So the first answer to the question how God aims to accomplish his purposes for the nations is that he has appointed David—the New David, Jesus Christ, the Son of David—to be a witness to the peoples and a leader and commander to the peoples.
Jesus said in John 18:37, "For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth." And in Revelation 1:5 John says, "Jesus is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the leader [same word as the Septuagint of Isaiah 55:4] of the kings of the earth."
Jesus is God's answer to the question how the nations will be included in salvation. He speaks as a witness and he reigns as a leader and commander. So the answer is that the word and the power of Jesus will bring the nations to the banquet.
But how will this happen? Where do you and I fit into God's purpose to gather the nations? That is the second answer to the question how God aims to fulfill his purposes and it is given in verse 5.
2. We Will Be Sent to Call Them
Those of us who have come to the water and the milk and wine of God's promises will be sent to call the nations:
Behold, you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you.
The witness of Jesus (v. 4) is heard in the call of the church (v. 5). And the power of Jesus (v. 4) is seen in the response of the nations running to the salvation of God (v. 5). So God means to bring in the nations by the witness and power of Jesus, yes, but not without you and me as the ones who do the calling. "He who hears you hears me!" (Luke 10:16).
This means, very practically, that we at Bethlehem should be devoted to discovering who the hidden peoples are who are not yet called and bending tremendous prayer and effort to call them in. Nothing has happened in the last 2,700 years to change God's purpose in this matter. He has simply made it more clear than ever in the Great Commission of the New Testament. We are at an amazing point in missions history as the church awakens to this challenge as never before. Don't miss out on it.
3. We Will Invite and Be Inviting
There is one last answer to the question how God means to gather the peoples to his banquet. It's given in second part of verse 5.
. . . and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
In essence this says that not only will the church invite the nations, but the church will be inviting. The missionary thrust of the church will be most successful when the glory of God is most evident in the daily life of the church. When we let our light shine and when people see our good works, they will glorify our Father who is in heaven.
And so the circle closes in harmony between frontier missions and domestic ministries, between evangelism and nurture, between witnessing and worshiping, between heralding and healing, between spiritual foxholes and spiritual hospitals. Competition is excluded. The beautification of the body of Christ is an invitation to a broken world.
In summary, then, what the Lord says to us this morning is this:
I intend that unknown peoples around the world be called to the banquet of salvation. And I intend that when they are called, they will come running. I will accomplish this by sending my church to call them to the banquet, and by beautifying the church with holiness and grace. And I have appointed the Son of David as witness and leader to the peoples—he will go forth in word and power, and his word will not return empty but accomplish that for which I send him. To join him in this great work is not a burdensome caboose behind the boxcars of blessing. If one box car is full of water to give life, if another is full of milk to give growth, this is the boxcar full of wine—the most exhilarating cause to live for in the world.